The lagoon brought a number of benefits to Venice. One of the great advantages of isolation was that it helped Venice to protect its greatest secrets and discouraged spies from sea who had many difficulties to access – without being noticed – the small island of Murano where one of the the world’s most famous product was (and is) created: Venetian glass.
Murano has been the world capital of glass since 1291 Murano when glass-masters were obliged by law to work on the island. The reason for this, was the will to concentrate all of the glass-works in a single location in order to better protect the secrets behind Venetian glass making. Master glassblowers were constantly and scrupulously monitored. The important secrets did not relate to production only, but also to how glass was colored; it’s important to remember that in the 1500 was made from soda ash that was made from the lagoon seaweed. Those who found guilty of divulging the secrets behind Venetian glass-making were were sentenced to death. To further protect their monopoly, glass could only be sold in Murano.
The Venetians were very concerned to protect their copy rights and master glass-makers were treated with the utmost respect, unless of course, they divulged their secrets. Hours and conditions of work were regulated by law and included benefits suck as sick-leave, and could also marry the daughter of the Doge and become noblemen. Furthermore, they had the privilege to march in regattas in the balconies of buildings when there were parties.
Today, the secrets that the Venetians guarded so carefully are of public domain, but the traditional craft is still active in Murano where, there is glass and crystal of superb quality is still manufactured.
The Venetian style is legendary and silk is the fabric that distinguishes it, worked fine in color and brocade made to beautify the buildings and the clothes of the most fashionable citizens. The wealthiest families in all of Europe ordered the brocade from Venice. Of the thousands of frames used at that time to meet the demands of the market, today there are
only twenty-five left. Fashion has changed but Tesseria Bevilacqua are still made using the brocade and process used during medieval time. Yarns often use gold and silver to create some of the most expensive fabrics in the world. And the noise of the looms along with the charm production becomes music and wonder.
The end of the Sixteenth Century was for Venice the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new one. Venice’s decline occurred slowly and was characterized by opulence and luxury; the time during which the Republic had absolute dominance in the maritime trade routes had ended, yet Venice continued to remain active in the production of luxury goods. Due to its extraordinary craftsmen it manages to create objects of great value such as lace jewels and precious glass.
Venice has always been jealous of its manufacturing secrets. Between 1664 and 1667, for example, there was a real war of mirrors between Venice and Kolbert, Minister of Louis XVI. Because of the skill and know-how of the blowers, the French Ambassador in Venice secretly convinced -paying extremely high wages – some Murano glass masters to France. Venice reacted by unleashing its inquisitors to recover the fugitives and also used spies, wrote false letters to the fugitive glass-makers wives and even poisoned one; in the end, the remaining survivors returned to Venice driven by terror.
By then however, the French, however, had discovered some of the trade secrets. Regardless, Venice, remained to be the center of excellence for glass and a great center of attraction for merchant sailors, artists and artisans. To become a Venetian citizens was not easy but many could find here the possibility of being received albeit under certain conditions.
Even today you can be fascinated by these workshops, small shops in which one can barely move in between the hundreds of tools, jars, and machines and be lost in a long lost era. Entering such realities is like talking a trip into the past and to be projected to the Venice that existed 500 years ago, which I had read so much about.
The idea of transmitting to others this aspect of Venetian history is what gave me the idea to plan this route with the desire to live this experience with you.
Places of Interest
Metal work www.valese.it
Glass sculpting and engraving www.luigicamozzo.com
Artistic Marble www.dallera.it
Hand-embroidered laces www.dallalidia.com