1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Murano

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MURANO (anc. Ammariuno), an island in the Venetian lagoon about 1 m. north of Venice. It is 5 m. in circumference, and a large part of it is occupied by gardens. It contained 5436 inhabitants in 1901, but was once much more populous than it is at present, its inhabitants numbering 30,000. It was a favourite resort of the Venetian nobility before they began to build their villas on the mainland; and in the 15th and 16th centuries its gardens and casinos, of which some traces remain, were famous. It was here that the literary clubs of the Vigilanti, the Studiosi and the Occulti, used to meet. The town is built upon one broad main canal, where the tidal current runs with great force, and upon several smaller ones. The cathedral, S. Donato, is a fine basilica, of the 12th century. The pavement (of 1111) is as richly inlaid as that of St Mark's, and the mosaics of the tribune are remarkable. The exterior of the tribune is beautiful, and has been successfully restored. The church of St Peter the Martyr (1509) contains a fine picture by Gentile Bellini and other works, and S. Maria degli Angeli also contains several interesting pictures. Murano has from ancient times been celebrated for its glass manufactories. When and how the art was introduced is obscure, but there are notices of it as early as the 11th century; and in 1250 Christoforo Briani attempted the imitation of agate and Chalcedony. From the labours of his pupil Miotto sprang that branch of the glass trade which is concerned with the imitation of gems. In the 15th century the first crystals were made, and in the 17th the various gradations of coloured and iridescent glass were invented, together with the composition called “ aventurine ”; the manufacture of beads is now a main branch of the trade. The art of the glass-workers was taken under the protection of the Government in 1275, and regulated by a special code of laws and privileges; two fairs were held annually, and the export of all materials, such as alum and sand, which enter into the composition of glass was absolutely forbidden. With the decay of Venice the importance of the Murano glass-works declined; but A. Salviati (1816–1890) rediscovered many of the old processes, and eight firms are engaged in the trade, the most renowned being the Venezia Murano Company and Salviati. The municipal museum contains a collection of glass illustrating the history and progress of the art.

The island of Murano was first peopled by the inhabitants of Altino. It originally enjoyed independence under the rule of its tribunes and judges, and was one of the twelve confederate islands of the lagoons. In the 12th century the doge Vital Micheli II. incorporated Murano in Venice and attached it to the Sestiere of S. Croce. From that date it was governed by a Venetian nobleman with the title of podestà whose office lasted sixteen months. Murano, however, retained its original constitution of a greater and a lesser council for the transaction of municipal business, and also the right to coin gold and silver as well as its judicial powers. The interests of the town were watched at the ducal palace by a nuncio and a solicitor; and this constitution remained in force till the fall of the republic.

See Venezia e le sue Lagune; Paoletti, Il Fiore di Venezia; Bussolin, Guida alle fabbriche vetrarie di Murano; Romanin, Storia documentata di Venezia, i. 41.