By Toh Yong Chuan, Senior Correspondent
St Joseph’s Church in Victoria Street is justifiably proud of its century-old stained glass windows.
Made in 1912 by Italian craftsmen, they form the largest collection of such ornamentation in any church in Singapore, says its rector, or priest-in-charge, Father Michael Teo.
Over the years, however, the windows have fallen into a state of disrepair. Now the church needs $1.2 million to restore the windows and it hopes to raise the amount through donations from its 1,700-strong congregation, well- wishers and a government grant.
According to a 2009 report commissioned by the Preservation of Monuments Board that the church showed The Sunday Times, most of the windows are in a vulnerable or poor state.
Venetian glass is a type of glass object made in Venice, Italy, primarily on the island of Murano. It is world-renowned for being colourful, elaborate, and skillfully made.
Many of the important characteristics of these objects had been developed by the thirteenth century. Toward the end of that century, the centre of the Venetian glass industry moved to Murano.
Byzantine craftsmen played an important role in the development of Venetian glass, an art form for which the city is well-known. When Constantinople was sacked by the Fourth Crusade in 1204, some fleeing artisans came to Venice. This happened again when the Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453, supplying Venice with still more glassworkers. By the sixteenth century, Venetian artisans had gained even greater control over the colour and transparency of their glass, and had mastered a variety of decorative techniques.
Despite efforts to keep Venetian glassmaking techniques within Venice, they became known elsewhere, and Venetian-style glassware was produced in other Italian cities and other countries of Europe.
Some of the most important brands of glass in the world today, including Venini, Barovier & Toso, Pauly and Seguso., are still produced in the historical glass factories on Murano. Barovier & Toso is considered to be one of the 100 oldest companies in continuous operation in the world, having been founded in 1295.[3Murano glass is a famous product of the Venetian island of Murano. Located off the shore of Venice, Italy, Murano has been a commercial port as far back as the 7th century. By the 10th century, the city had become well known for its glassmakers, who created unique Murano glass. While Murano glassmakers have settled and operate elsewhere, some say authentic Murano glass is fabricated only in Murano.
It is believed that glassmaking in Murano originated in 9th century Rome, with significant Asian and Muslim influences, as Venice was a major trading port. Murano’s reputation as a center for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction of the city’s mostly wooden buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. Murano glass is still interwoven with Venetian glass.
Murano’s glassmakers were soon the island’s most prominent citizens. By the 14th century, glassmakers were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state, and found their daughters married into Venice’s most affluent families. However glassmakers were not allowed to leave the Republic. Many craftsmen took this risk and set up glass furnaces in surrounding cities and as far afield as England and the Netherlands.
By the end of the 16th century, three thousand of Murano island’s seven thousand inhabitants were involved in some way in the glassmaking industry.
Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enamelled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicoloured glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these century-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass figurines to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.
Today, Murano is home to a vast number of factories and a few individual artists’ studios making all manner of glass objects from mass marketed stemware to original sculpture. The Museo Vetrario (Glass Museum) in the Palazzo Giustinian, which holds displays on the history of glassmaking as well as glass samples ranging from Egyptian times through the present day.
was produced in great quantities in the 1950s and 1960s for export and for tourists.
This should be classified as a National Monument that should qualify for a government grant for the conservation of old buildings that has a national history, it’s stained glass is a classic art made in 1912 by Italian craftsmen and should be carefully preserved, should the church be raising it’s own funds from it’s congregation? Even if it does, the amount of S$1.2 million will not be enough.
– Contributed by Oogle.