April 28, 2021 5 min read
Murano is an enchanting island and one of the most populous in the Venice lagoon. It is actually a collection of seven minor islands interconnected by bridges and divided by small watercourses and canals. A repository of precious secrets and inimitable artisanal traditions, the center of Murano is world-famous for its century-old legacy of glass blowing.
Glass changed the course of this town's history, shaping its destiny with the same consummate skill as the deft hands of glassblowers fashioning their works of art. Learning about the history of the art of glassblowing at Murano will give you some insight into just how unique every single creation is.
One ramification of Venice’s trading activities with the East was that it discovered some of the secrets of the finest arts in existence, such as silk weaving, precious metal working and, above all, the art of blowing glass - a skill that brought the island of Murano a glass craft which continues to be developed today. Venice studied and mastered the Oriental glassblowing techniques and took them to the next level, adding its own innovative slant and bringing into being glassware that is unique in the world. Venice astutely realized that glass is a malleable substance to be molded and hot-blown into the most fascinating forms and captivating colors.
During the thirteenth century, Venetian glassware was already vividly colored with an aesthetic flair and artistic value that knew no rivals. Glassmaking activities moved across to the island of Murano in 1219 because the furnaces often caused ravaging fires. But this wasn’t the only reason for leaving the city of Venice: The Republic of Venice was fiercely protective of an art that had brought it worldwide fame. Confining glassmakers to an island meant greater control. The glass craftsmen were not allowed to leave Murano unless they had special permission to do so. Obviously, not everyone abided by the rules and some artisans managed to escape, leaking the secrets of the closely-guarded glassmaking techniques to other countries.
Murano glass enjoyed three centuries of immense prosperity and prestige. During this golden age, glassmaking methods evolved and superlative glassware of outstanding purity was produced.
During the fifteenth century, orders came in from all over Europe for Murano glass which was used to adorn royal courts and decorate churches. In 1450, crystal was created for the first time and this further enhanced Murano’s excellent reputation. Crystal glass was first blown and then colored by painters who had to be extremely adept because of its fragile nature.
The glassworkers began to “scratch” or etch the glass with diamond point or flint-tipped tools, creating a series of set patterns. Another invention was ice glass which had a characteristic “wrinkled cracked shell” with a shiny but not transparent surface. They also began to make precious glass gems in glass and pearls in real blown glass - the same ones that embellish our Rosaries today.
No particularly innovative objects were produced during the seventeenth century, but the popularity of products à la façon de Venise (Venice-style), as they were called, spread; they were made by non-Italian local artisans or very frequently by expatriated glassmakers from Murano. Anxious to please their host nations, these former Murano citizens accentuated Baroque motifs as this was a style that was particularly sought for home decor at the time.
At the end of the seventeenth century, the popularity of the art of Venetian glassmaking began to dwindle, giving ground to Bohemia glass which was heavier and easier to work with. The plight of the glassmaking industry was compounded by the fall of the Republic of Venice one century later. It only started to recover around the middle of the nineteenth century. But, luckily for us, it never looked back again after that.
Working with glass is as fascinating as it is complex.
Glass is made from silica, that part of sand that becomes glass when it melts. So, at high temperatures, molten silica turns into liquid glass. The glassblower exploits that moment of transition between a liquid and solid state to forge the glass into superb works of art.
Venetian glass is sodic, and the sodium oxide it contains slows the solidification process down, giving the glassmaker a greater length of time to mold the glass.
Other materials can be added to the mixture, such as sodium, which will make the glass surface opaque, or nitrate or arsenic which will get rid of bubbles.
The colors, techniques and materials will depend on the end result that the glassmith wants to achieve.
The stone beads of Murano glass on our rosaries are created by a blowing procedure only - a sure mark of top-tier glassmaking. Glassmakers from Murano have been honing their extraordinary ability to mold molten glass ever since Medieval times. When the glass reaches the melting point, the artisan models it by blowing into an iron blowpipe and giving it the desired shape. He then goes on to decorate, etch and grind it.
You will see from our online store that each Ghirelli rosary in Murano glass is made up of beads in real blown Murano glass combined with exquisite Bohemia glass - a triumph of beauty and emotion for one of the most unique and original rosary collections ever made. We strive for aesthetic perfection while curating the details of every single creation in homage to the mystery they represent.
The sublime beauty of the Murano glass used for our rosary beads makes our rosaries even more unique. We strive to create an indissoluble link between the message and the rosary so that it ceases to be just an object, and rises to the status of an act of creation; a priceless gem and an invaluable instrument for meditation and prayer.
We take pride in the thought that the quality, authenticity and beauty of our rosaries in Murano glass may reach individuals and families everywhere. They are not meant to be eye-catching trinkets or pretty ornaments, but rather a new and essential aspect of your routine. They were designed to become part of you, your spiritual nature and your daily life, no matter where you are or what you are doing. As you slip them on and touch the beads, gliding the rosary between your fingers in deep prayer, you will realize that these simple, yet sublime rosaries are to be cherished forever and be lovingly protected.
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