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View from a bridge on Murano, overlooking the Canal Grande di Murano






Murano is usually described as an island in the Venetian Lagoonmarker, although like Venicemarker itself it is actually an archipelago of islands linked by bridges. It lies about a mile north of Venice and is famous for its glass making, particularly lampworking. It was once an independent comune, but is now a località of the comune of Venice.

History

Murano was settled by the Romans, then from the sixth century by people from Altino and Oderzomarker. At first, the island prospered as a fishing port and through production of salt. It was also a centre for trade, through the port it controlled on Sant'Erasmomarker. From the eleventh century, it began to decline as islanders moved to Dorsoduromarker. It had a Grand Council, like that of Venice, but from the thirteenth century Murano was ultimately governed by a podestà from Venice. Unlike the other islands in the Lagoon, Murano minted its own coins.

In 1291, all the glassmakers in Venice were forced to move to Murano due to the risk of fires exports began, and the island became famous, initially for glass bead 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.

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), the Church of San Pietro Martire with its splendid chapel of the Ballarin family built in 1506, and the Palazzo da Mula. Glass-related attractions include the many glassworks, some Mediaeval and most open to the public, and the Glass Museum, housed in the large Palazzo Giustinian.

History of Murano glassmaking

Murano’s reputation as a center for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republicmarker, fearing fire and destruction to the city’s mostly wood buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. Murano glass is still interwoven with Venetian glass.

Murano's glassmakers were soon the island’s most prominent citizens. By the 14th century, glass makers were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state and found their daughters married into Venice’s most affluent families. Of course there was a catch: glassmakers weren't allowed to leave the Republic. However, many craftsmen took this risk and set up glass furnaces in surrounding cities and as far afield as England and the Netherlands.

Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewelry to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.

Today, Murano is home to the Museo Vetrario or 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 historical glass factories in Murano are now among the most important brands of glass in the world. These companies include: Venini, Barovier & toso, and Seguso.

The oldest Murano glass factory that is still active today is that of Pauly & C. - Compagnia Venezia Murano, founded in 1866.

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