Our World

Murano Glass

Travel & Experiences

I first visited Murano years ago during a trip to the magnificent floating city of Venice. After spending a few days in Venice, I decided that it was the perfect occasion to also see the surrounding island of Murano.
Glassmaking was already well established in Constantinople, now known as Istanbul, when the art form was brought across the Mediterranean to Venice. The Venetian glassmakers took the ancient techniques used in the Byzantine Empire and adapted them to create their own unique style of glass such as avventurina, millefiori, and murina to name a few.

Glass furnace, showing the upper annealing chamber. Vannoccio Biringuccio (Italian, 1480–1539). In De la pirotechnia, [Venice], 1540. Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass (93699). Photo: The Corning Museum of Glass.

The glass production of Venice has a very old history that dates back between the fifth and seventh centuries AD. The year of 1291 brought a shift when the furnaces used to make glass were moved from Venice to Murano and the concept of glassmaking as an art form took hold. The livelihood of this relatively small island was transformed from being primarily a fishing port and salt producer to becoming the world centre for glass production at that time.

The ornamented and gilded style of Murano glass began to evolve in the late 15th century to a more refined style leading into the 16th Century. The 17th century brought a decline in glass production in Murano due to new competitors establishing themselves in other parts of Europe such as The Empire of Bohemia, now known as The Czech Republic. Fast forward to the 19th century, Murano glass made a comeback to the forefront of glassmaking when they started developing artful household products such as beautifully crafted every day dinnerware.

Glass is made using mineral sand, soda ash and limestone. Those ingredients are then placed in a furnace and melted at temperatures between 1200°C to 1400°C. At this temperature, the minerals mix to form liquid glass. The glass can then be gathered at the end of a blowpipe and shaped into a specific design by its artist. Murano glassmakers will add gold leaf, colour pastes or silver to the glass to create a unique work. The glass can be reheated, pulled, lengthened, and cut as many times as needed to create the final piece. It will then be placed in a device known as an annealer which gradually lowers the temperature to ambient which is when the glass will take its solid form.

The world-famous city of Murano boasts around 100 glass factories. Everywhere you look on the island you see blown glass, from art galleries to outdoor sculptures. Some glass foundries open their doors to the public, so I was able to see a demonstration from an artisan making a handcrafted glass sculpture. It was fascinating to see the process of going from a liquid glass ball to a piece of art.

Photo by Chloe Azara

Wandering around the city, I found myself in front of the Church di San Pietro Martire and decided to step inside. At first glance I thought it looked like a modest basilica of a renaissance style, but then I noticed the multiples of glass chandeliers hanging in the nave above the pews. The careful pairing between the 15th century paintings and the white monochromatic glass chandeliers was an interesting contrast making such a small church so unique compared to what I had experienced before.