Glassblowing is an ancient art that was practiced by a number of civilizations, including the Egyptians and Romans. In the Middle Ages it was taken to a new level by the artisans of Venice. Even before the year 1000 there were glass factories operating in Venice. But in the year 1295, the Doge, the main political figure in Venice at the time, decreed that all glass artisans must take up residence in and move their factories to the island of Murano, just off of Venice. The frequent fires caused by the furnaces used for making glass in Venice would sometimes burn down an entire row of houses. The fear was that large parts of the city would catch fire. In Murano, the factories would be self-contained. In addition, the artisans there would guard the secrets of their glass making techniques. The glass was in great demand in other parts of the world, and being cut off from other people, there was little chance that the artisans' work secrets on the island would leak out. Some even say that the giving away of glass making techniques to foreigners was punishable by death. The glass artisans became highly regarded, and their daughters were allowed to marry into the aristocracy. They were even allowed to carry swords. All of these years later in the 21st century, the glass artisans of Murano are still using the same techniques from the beginning. A mixture of sand and fire; a constant cycle of heating and cooling; pulling and shaping with small iron tools and with the hands. 1,000 years of illustrious history. Murano continues to be associated with the highest levels of elegance and craftsmanship in glass. "Murano" is a household name the world over, and its glass adorns museums, art galleries, exhibitions, cafes, and people's homes. As the saying goes, "Murano is the art of glass, and the art of glass is Murano."
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