Murano, Venice, Veneto, Italy

Murano is a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It is famous for its glass making. The center is known all over the world for the centuries-old artisan activity that produces Murano glass.

There is a adopted conservation measures for the glass industry, strengthened brand certification, and introduced the local glass industry to tourists through the thriving tourism industry in the area. Visitors to the Murano island have the opportunity to witness the artisans demonstrate the whole process of hand-made glass products. Hand-made Murano glass can be found in boutiques in the city.

Murano is located 1.5 km from Venice and is the largest of the islands in the lagoon. The area was already colonized in Roman times. Starting from the 10th century, Murano was an important commercial center; Saline production, water mills and fishing contributed to the growing economic importance. The demographic density was so high that already in the 9th century a Doge had to move the inhabitants of the island to Venice, in the Dorsoduro district.

From the 13th century onwards, the island was under the jurisdiction of a Podestà, who was chosen by the Venetian nobility. However, Murano had its own large and small council, and followed its own rules and laws. To these institutions were added offices such as a Camerlengo, the head of the treasurer and the Nuncio, the ambassador to Venice, who took care of the shops around the city of the island. Murano, like Venice, had the privilege of producing its own silver and gold coins.

At the end of the 13th century, the island specializes in the production of glass. In 1291 all the glassblowers of Venice were invited to leave the city and set up the furnaces in Murano, it was a precautionary measure against the danger of fires for the wooden houses in Venice. The glass trade has now undergone such a development that Murano from the 15th to the end of the 17th century has gained the primacy of Europe. In this heyday the island was also a summer vacation spot. Venetian nobles settled here their country houses, built magnificent palaces in the midst of wonderful gardens.

Murano was initially settled by the Romans and from the sixth century by people from Altinum and Oderzo. According to a widespread hypothesis, the origins of Murano would be similar to those of the many centers founded by the refugees of Altino during the barbarian invasions.

At first, the island prospered as a fishing port and through its production of salt. It was also a centre for trade through the port it controlled on Sant’Erasmo. The place is mentioned for the first time only in 840, when Amorianas is also mentioned in the Pactum Lotharii. It is mentioned shortly afterwards in Costantino Porfirogenito and Giovanni Diacono, while at least ten Murano inhabitants are listed in the list of tithes of Pietro II Orseolo ( X – XI century ).

Early in the second millennium hermits of the Camaldolese Order occupied one of the islands, seeking a place of solitude for their way of life. There they founded the Monastery of St. Michael. This monastery became a great center of learning and printing. The famous cartographer, Fra Mauro, whose maps were crucial to the European exploration of the world, was a monk of this community.

From the eleventh century, it began to decline as islanders moved to Dorsoduro. Documents from the 11th and 12th centuries describe it as a place of transit for the migratory flow coming from Torcello and Equilio and directed towards the nascent Venice.

From a civil point of view the city was governed by a ducal steward, while at the religious level it was headed by the mother church of Santi Maria e Donato (mid- 10th century ), in turn subject to the diocese of Torcello. Later the churches of San Salvatore, San Martino and Santo Stefano were added.

The city, which has always been part of the maritime Venice, had a certain autonomy until 1171, when it was united with the district of Santa Croce. From 1275 it was instead governed by its own podestà; it also had the privilege of being able to give itself laws, guaranteed by a Major Council formed by a fair number of Murano nobles (about five hundred) and presided over by a Podestà, and to mint its own currency (the Osella).

It soon became very important for the artistic processing of glass, thanks to a decree of the Serenissima Republic of 1295 which sanctioned the transfer of the furnaces from Venice: more than once, in fact, they had caused serious fires, aggravated by the fact that at the time the buildings in Venice they were mainly made of wood.

In the following century, exports began, and the island became famous, initially for glass beads and mirrors. Aventurine glass was invented on the island, and for a while Murano was the main producer of glass in Europe. The island later became known for chandeliers. Although decline set in during the eighteenth century, glassmaking is still the island’s main industry.

In the fifteenth century, the island became popular as a resort for Venetians, and palaces were built, but this later declined. The countryside of the island was known for its orchards and vegetable gardens until the nineteenth century, when more housing was built.

The autonomy of Murano was confirmed under Napoleon, when it was recognized as an autonomous municipality including Sant’Erasmo and the Vignole. In the same period, many monasteries and churches were closed and demolished (today there are only three). The institution was abolished in 1923 together with Burano and Pellestrina to merge into the municipality of Venice.

Murano glass
It seems that glass production in the lagoon began very early: during the excavations they found remains from the Roman era. At the end of the 10th century glass manufacturing began in Venice. The glassblowers soon got together in an association.

Murano glass is associated with Venetian glass. The history of Murano glass began in 1291 when it was decreed that the glassworks of Venice, probably already active before the year 1000, were transferred to Murano since the furnaces of the workshops were often responsible for disastrous fires, which became particularly serious because at the the buildings were mainly made of wood. However, ancient documents and artifacts testify that the industry had been rooted in the island for some time.

Already in the mid-14th century, Murano glass blowers began to sell their products abroad. They were known for their highly coveted glass beads and since the fifteenth century for mirrors, which were exported in large quantities. Half a century later they no longer only produced utilitarian objects, but created independent art.

Murano’s glassmakers were soon numbered among the island’s most prominent citizens. By the fourteenth century, glassmakers were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state and marry with noble daughters of Venice’s most affluent families. While benefiting from certain statutory privileges, glassmakers were forbidden to leave the Republic.

Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on high-quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including optically clear glass, enamelled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, glassblowers mainly studied functionality with different materials. They export dark colored amalgam even if it was out of fashion in Venice. Then they develop crystal production, no real crystal, but a particularly clear and transparent glass. Aventurine-glass was invented and glasses with gold motifs, chalcedony glass that was hard as stones. The ancient technique of millefiori was discovered, worked with colored glass sticks in transparent glass. More and more items were produced: lattimo, an opaque frosted glass, and dairy, a skillful connection made of lattimo and clear glass. At that time the Venetians achieved a prized quality that made it famous.

Today, the artisans of Murano still employ these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewellery to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.

Venice kept protecting the secret of the production of glass and of crystal but, notwithstanding it, the Republic partially lost its monopoly at the end of the sixteenth century, because of some glass makers who let the secret be known in many European countries.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, glass blowers focused their attention entirely on forms. Mirrors and chandeliers from Venice were so in demand that Louis XIV tried to set up a competing factory to avoid import costs. Also in Bruges and Bohemia, innovative factories were created. They developed the glass engraving technology, they have since invented the crystal. In 1730, Giuseppe Briati founded a factory in Venice to imitate Bohemian crystal. The results were disappointing because the Venetian crystal amalgam was not suitable for engraving and could not be sliced into facets.

The change in taste and competition from abroad has decided the decline of glass. During the fall of the Venetian Republic it was almost completely sunk. Only in the mid-nineteenth century did it flourish again thanks to the enterprises of some old families of glass masters (Barovier, Toso, Seguso, Salviati) and to the development of the Glass Museum.

Today, Murano is home to the Museo del Vetro or Murano Glass Museum in the Palazzo Giustinian, which holds displays on the history of glassmaking as well as glass samples ranging from Egyptian times through the present day.

Some of the companies that own historical glass factories in Murano are among the most important brands of glass in the world. These companies include Venini, Alessandro Mandruzzato Ferro Murano, Barovier & Toso, Simone Cenedese and Seguso. To protect the original Murano Glass art from foreign markets, the most famous Glass Factories of this island have a trademark that certifies glass made products on the island of Murano.

The oldest Murano glass factory that is still active today is that of Pauly & C. – Compagnia Venezia Murano, founded in 1866. As part of a broader view of protection and enhancement of typical and traditional Veneto product manufacturing and marketing, the Veneto Region protects and promotes the designation of origin of artistic glassworks created on the island of Murano, since glasswork is an inherent part of Venetian historical and cultural heritage.

Main Attractions
Attractions on the island include the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato (known for its twelfth-century Byzantine mosaic pavement and said to house the bones of the dragon slain by Saint Donatus in the 4th century), the church of San Pietro Martire with the chapel of the Ballarin family built in 1506 and artworks by Giovanni Bellini, and the Palazzo da Mula. Glass-related attractions include the many glassworks, some Mediaeval and most open to the public, and the Murano Glass Museum, housed in the large Palazzo Giustinian.

Before the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte, there were eighteen parishes, monasteries and convents on the island. Today only three functioning churches remain (Santa Maria and Donato, San Pietro Martire, Santa Maria Degli Angeli), while the remains of some other churches such as Santa Chiara, San Maffio and Santo Stefano are visible. To these is added the oratory of Santi Giuseppe and Teresa, adjoining Briati hospice.

Religious architectures

Cathedral of Saints Maria and Donato
The church was probably born in the seventh century, originally dedicated to Mary. In 1125, after the conquest of Kefalonia, the remains of San Donato were placed there; thus assumed its present name. Subsequent restorations have significantly transformed it, it has three naves that converge in the apsecentral, strictly facing east. And it is precisely the apse that represents one of the most important parts of the entire building, facing the foundations as it is, while the facade is architecturally less revolutionary, tending as it is to respect the Ravenna modules. The apsidal basin houses a remarkable mosaic praying Madonna, the work of a Venetian master of Byzantine culture of the second half of the century. XII. The apse half cylinder is decorated in the spaces between the windows with frescoes from the Giotto area. Of considerable importance is the mosaic floor, presumably contemporary to that of the basilica of San Marco.

Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli
The part of the building renovated in 1870 was not converted into a lazaret, but into a hospital that was to treat the sick of Murano. The operation was financed by Natale Ongaro, a Murano emigrant who made his fortune in Trieste. For economic reasons, the hospital never went into operation. In the last years of the century it was used as a shelter for single and destitute women. Around 1910 it was used as a hospital (cholera epidemic). Several years later it housed poor families. Overlooking the canal of the same name (once called Canale di Santo Stefano ), it stands on one of the extreme edges of the island. Founded in 1188, thanks to Ginevra Gradenigo, daughter of the patrician Marino, who donated a land with adjacent watersto the Abadessa Giacomina Boncio in order to build a church and a monastery in honor of the Virgin.

Rebuilt in the sixteenth century, it was rich in paintings and precious items, especially following the papal bull that sanctioned its union with the monastery of Santa Maria del Piave in Lovadina, in the current province of Treviso. The church was visited in 1574 by Henry III, king of France and Poland, and the remains of the doge Sebastiano Venier, hero of Lepanto, were preserved, which were transported, with solemn pomp, to the basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, on 30 June 1907. After a period of neglect, during which many of the works were transferred to the church of San Pietro Martire, a part of the building was converted into a hospital, suitable for housing the poorest families. The bell tower, thirty-one meters high, dates back to the mid-sixteenth century.

Church of San Pietro Martire
Located in the Rio dei Vetrai, and founded in 1348 in honor of St. John the Baptist, it was totally demolished due to a fire from which nothing could be saved. It was then rebuilt in 1511 and dedicated to St. Peter Martyr. Divided into three naves with a marble colonnade, the paintings by Giovanni Bellini Assumption of the Virgin and Saints and Doge Barbarigo presented to the Virgin and Putto are of great interest. Characteristic and of inestimable value are the glass chandeliers with the famous mandolas. Many other works contained in the church are what was saved from the raid of Napoleon Bonapartefrom the other churches on the island.

In the right wing you can admire the splendid chapel of the Ballarin family, dedicated to St. Joseph and Mary, which the famous glassmaker Giorgio Ballarin had built for himself (he has rested there since 1506), for his family and for his descendants. In the same chapel there is also the funeral monument dedicated to the Grand Chancellor of the Republic of Venice, Giovanni Battista Ballarin, who died on 29 September 1666 in Isdin in Macedonia and the tomb of his son, Domenico Ballarin, also the Grand Chancellor of the Republic of Venice. died November 2, 1698.

Former church of Santa Chiara
It is located at the southern end of the island of Murano. Its origins date back to 1231 and initially this religious complex was named after San Nicolò and was called “della Torre” because a watchtower was placed in the middle. Initially documented as an Augustinian convent, in the 12th century the monastery was one of the religious settlements of the patriarchate of Aquileia. The Augustinian monks were first succeeded by the Benedictine nuns who, due to their conduct judged scandalous, were replaced by the Franciscan nuns of Santa Chiara, who not only gave the church its name but started the restoration of the church at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Doge Nicolò Donà was buried in the church, who died of apoplexy just thirty-four days after election and whose tomb and relative tombstone were lost when the church passed to the state property.

With the Napoleonic provisions the church and the convent were suppressed. In 1826, the Fratelli Marietti company of Milan bought the church and the adjoining convent from the state property to set up their production of black bottles for wine and glass plates. After various vicissitudes and changes of ownership, at the end of the twentieth century the building suffered a partial collapse, remaining practically abandoned. In 2012 a renovation and reconversion project of the ancient place of worship was undertaken with the intention of creating a space for the presentation of glass processing.

Civil architectures

Glass Museum
The museum is located in Palazzo Giustinian. Of great historical and artistic interest, founded by the abbot Vincenzo Zanetti, it is located in Fondamenta Marco Giustinian, inside a Gothic- style building, the ancient residence of the bishops of Torcello. After one of the darkest periods that Murano glass has ever passed, coinciding with the fall of the Republic and the foreign invasion, in 1805 with the suppression of the diocese of Torcello, the palace became the property of the patriarchate of Venice.

It preserves historic chandeliers, of which the most imposing, with sixty arms, was made by the masters Lorenzo Santi and Giovanni Fuga. For a short time, a school for the design and production of blown glass was also established which explained the evolution of the technique over the centuries. The museum has been part of the Venice Museums since 1923, the year of the annexation of the island to the Municipality of Venice. It was also the seat of the Municipality of Murano, later transferred to Palazzo da Mula. The latest restoration has given space to the collections of the twentieth century and to temporary exhibitions.

Palazzo da Mula
The Gothic style of its facade is partly modified according to the Venetian-Byzantine style of the 12th century. It was built on one of the foundations of the Grand Canal of Murano, a few meters from the Vivarini bridge. Built in the vicinity of the abbey of San Cipriano, a former patriarchal seminary, destroyed in 1817, it was completely restored at the beginning of the 21st century and houses the seat of the Municipality of Murano which organizes exhibitions and meetings on various themes, predominating the one concerning the glass.

Murano lighthouse
The lighthouse is a cylindrical construction in Istrian marble that is very important despite its rather internal position with respect to the sea: the beam of light, in fact, enhanced by an ingenious game of mirrors, points directly to the center of the Bocca di Porto of the Lido, facilitating return of the ships during the night. During the Early Middle Ages, the lighthouse stood in the form of a wooden tower, not too high, at the top of which fires were lit; the light produced by the fire was reflected by means of a game of mirrors, so according to a technique adopted even by the Romans the lagoon was illuminated. It is located at the end of viale Garibaldi (Bressagio), precisely in Fondamenta Francesco Maria Piave.