Murano glass has been a famous product of the Venetian island of Murano for centuries. Located off the shore of Venice, Italy, it was a commercial port as far back as the seventh century. By the 10th century it had become a well-known city of trade. Today Murano remains a destination for tourists and art and jewelry lovers alike, and for those of us who love hand blown glass Christmas ornaments.
It is believed that glass making in Murano originated from 9th century Rome with significant Asian and Muslim influences, as Venice was a major trading port. Murano’s reputation as a center for glass making was born in the Venetian Republic. City officials were concerned about the many fires and destruction to the city’s mostly wooden buildings from foundry fires and ordered the artisans to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. (More about that in “… a craft seen in our glass Christmas Ornaments“).
Murano’s glass makers were soon the island’s most prominent citizens. By the 14th century, they were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed in immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state and found their daughters married into Venice’s most affluent family’s. However, they were not allowed to leave the Republic. Many craftsmen took the risk of leaving and set up furnaces in surrounding cities as far away as England and the Netherlands. By the end of the 16th century, three thousand of the island’s seven thousand inhabitants were involved in some way in the glass making industry.
Today, Murano is home to a vast number of factories and a few individual artist studios making all manner of objects from mass marketed stemware and fine crafted glass beads to original sculptures and beautiful blown glass Christmas ornaments (learn more in “Christmas ornaments: My trip to Venice”). The Museo Vetrario or Glass Museum in the Palazzo Giustinian, holds displays on the history of glass making as well as samples ranging from Egyptian times through the present day. Truly one of Murano’s Miracles!