Thursday, 27 May 2010 Glass-blowing in Murano and the Jewish Ghetto

Glass jewelry on display in Venice. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.

“I challenge you to try to resist the temptation to purchase a piece of glass while in Venice.” Dr. Lazar posed this particular challenge four months ago at an information session. At the time of the challenge, I smirked. Now on Murano, an island famous for centuries for its glass making, the smirk was gone. I was experiencing serious temptation. Did glass beads or jewelry tempt me? No. A glass figurine of Bart Simpson on a gondola did. Eventually, I did overcome temptation and decided that a photograph would suffice.

Bart Simpson riding a gondola, on display in Murano. Photograph by Matthew Brennan.

The day had begun with an early visit to the Church of San Giovanni e Paolo. The largest church in Venice, the word ‘stark’ best described San Giovanni e Paolo, even more when compared to the similarly designed Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.

Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.

Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.

Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.

While we spent time admiring the statuary of the Doge’s tombs, our visit was short because we were to be the guests of a glass company that was bringing us to the island of Murano by water taxi.

The water taxi trip to Murano. Photo by Matthew Brennan.

The water taxi trip to Murano. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.

Once on Murano, the company invited us to attend a glass blowing demonstration and browse their store, both of which were illuminating. After viewing the labyrinth of the store (that included among its inventory a folded dress shirt made of entirely out of glass), I walked away convinced that if it could be imagined, the Venetians could make it in glass.

A glass blowing demonstration and a gallery of glass works, including elaborate chandeliers, in Murano. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.

A glass blowing demonstration and a gallery of glass works, including elaborate chandeliers, in Murano. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.

Once all made their purchases, we went to the Museo del Vetro in the Palazzo Giustiniani for an abbreviated visit (one of the few museums that was experiencing partial restoration). We broke for lunch, where I had a delicious plate of Pasta Arrabiata.

Group lunch in Murano.

We then visited the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato and the Church of San Pietro Martire, home to paintings by Giovanni Bellini and Tintoretto, as well as a fine Romanesque apse exterior and a stunning inlaid marble pavement.

The Church of Santa Maria e San Donato. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana

Returning to Venice by vaporetto, we made a brief visit to the Church of the Madonna dell’Orto, Tintoretto’s home parish and his final resting place. The Madonna dell’Orto had a grand and unusual depiction of the Last Judgment, painted by Tintoretto.

Tintoretto's The Last Judgment, inside the Church of Madonna dell'Orto. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana

We then walked to the Jewish Ghetto, where we received a tour that brought us into three beautifully preserved Early Modern Jewish synagogues, the first three that I had ever entered.

The Jewish Ghetto in Venice. Photo by Matthew Brennan.

Following a rainy afternoon, a clear evening ensued, allowing us to celebrate the birthday of a classmate during another group dinner in an outdoor café restaurant along a quiet canal in the district of Canareggio. The dinner of whole fresh fish, Pasta Carbonara and Veal was an incredibly satisfying way to wrap up the day, along with a Venetian cheesecake birthday desert.

The fish appetizer at dinner. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.

A 21st birthday celebration. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana.