From the Middle Ages to the Modern Age and up to the threshold of the industrial revolution, the working of glass "à la façon d'Altare" is a story of unforgettable style that has conquered Europe and that skilled craftsmen still have in their hearts and hands.
It was the Benedictines from Normandy and Brittany who
introduced the art of glassmaking to Liguria in the 12th century. It was the
glass masters from Altare, an ancient village in western Liguria, who spread a
unique style of glass making which, from the 14th century onwards, in a sort of
historical restitution, became famous in France and beyond: the history of
glass and its makers in Liguria has very ancient roots. In the hinterland alone
between Genoa and Savona, the two main Ligurian cities, rich in beech woods and
ferns useful for glassmaking, archaeologists have discovered more than thirty
medieval glassworks. But it was in Altare, 70 km from Savona, that a technique
and a school were established that would make the history of glassmaking. From
the 15th century, utilitarian objects and artistic creations "à la façon
d'Altare", made using the hand-blowing technique, became increasingly
popular and in demand, and for centuries the glass masters of the small
Ligurian village, like the Benedictines in the Middle Ages, were distributed
throughout Europe under the aegis of their guild, the 'University of Glass',
which controlled and passed on the secrets of glassmaking, severely punished
those who did not respect the rules and gave permission to set up workshops in
the rest of Italy and Europe. The first communities of Ligurian glass artisans
abroad were established in Provence in the 15th century, the most famous being
in Goult, on the Vaucluse Mountains. In the following centuries, glass masters
established centres of art in Nevers, Orleans, Lyon, Paris and the Netherlands.
Historical accounts tell us that the communities of glassworkers from Liguria
were very close and connected to their University and that it was a tradition,
every Thursday, to dine together by putting an extra dish on the table, which
was called the "souls' bowl", into which the offerings of those
present flowed and were donated to charity and to the Corporation's public
benefit initiatives. Those who visit the town of Altare, in the Glass Museum
located in the beautiful Art Nouveau building of Villa Rosa, can admire
masterpieces and works in glass by masters from the 17th century to the present
day and of course meet at least two of our craftsmen.
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