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The Murano Glass Makers' Assassins

Venetian beads and glass made on Murano Island are famous and much sought after today.

The glass artisans have been on the island for centuries ever since 1291, when the city of Venice ordered them to relocate to the island for safety reasons -the glass furnaces were fire hazards.

The glass industry was so important to Venice that glassmakers were singled out as the only craftsmen that could hold the rank of burgher (businessman) with special privileges such as impunity from prosecution by the Venetian State. Their daughters were also allowed to marry into the local nobility.


View from a Murano Island Bridge

Another reason for keeping the artisans island bound was to keep a close eye on them so that Venetian glassmaking techniques remained secret. Any glassmaker who was even suspected of breaking this secrecy were never questioned. They were sentenced to death and hired assassins would simply dispose of them. "He was eaten by a salamander" was the term used to describe what happened to these hapless individuals found stabbed and floating in the canals. Salamanders have long been associated with fire (like those in the glassmaking furnaces) - the alchemists believed the salamander was able to live through fire.

This draconian action did not last. Like the ancient Chinese who fiercely protected their silk industry by imposing the death penalty on anyone smuggling the silkworm eggs or the caterpillars out of the country, the secret eventually got out.

References
Chris and Janie Filstrup (1982). Bedazzled : The Story of Beads. Frederick Warne & Co.
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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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3 comments:

  1. I had the privilege of working in Italy for three years. Venice and murano were frequent excursions for my husband and I. I spent much euro on the beads there. Can't wait to go back!

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  2. My husband and I had the privilege of working in Italy. Venice and mutant were frequent excursions in our free time. Can't wait to go back and buy more beads!

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  3. Lucky you! One day I hope to visit Venice too.

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