History of the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara Murano
Origins of the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara on Murano:
Timeline of our history
800 Years of History at Chiesa di Santa Chiara
13th Century: The monastery, then known as Saint Nicholas of the Tower, located at the southern end of the island of Saint Steven was one of the first religious settlements on Murano. The first document attesting to it's presence dates from the year 1225.
14th Century: It is known that the monks of San Nicolo del Torre swore allegiance and obedience to the Augustinian Bishop of Torcello in the year 1311. However, for unknown reasons, the Augustinians abandoned the monastery at San Nicolo del Torre later in the century. The complex was later assigned to a group of Benedictine nuns.
1439: Pope Eugene IV, following an investigation, had the Benedictines expelled from the convent for “immoral conduct”. (Pope Eugene IV, of Venetian heritage, intervened in the operations of other religious complexes within the lagoon.) The monastery of San Nicolo del Torre was then transferred to the nuns of the order of Santa Chiara di Treviso.
1455: Miracles occurred at Santa Chiara. It is claimed that an antique crucifix housed in the monastery performed miracles.
1496 to 1498: Painter Cima da Conegliano painted the famous Madonna dell'Arancio – now on display in the Accademia Gallery - which originally adorned the alter of the Chiesa di Santa Chiara.
1519: The Patriarch of Aquileia Marino Grimani reconsecrated the church, confirming its dedication to Santa Chiara. (This followed renovations done during the tenure of the Franciscan Nuns of Santa Chiara.)
1619: Doge Nicolo Dona, who passed away at the age of 81 after only 34 days of leadership, was buried in the Church of Santa Chiara. (In addition to the Donà family, the patriarchs of the Trevisan family, and the Muranese family Barbini, were buried at Santa Chiara.)
1798: The knight, Peter Dona, who is said to have died of a broken heart over the fall of the Republic of Venice, was buried at Santa Chiara.
1810: Following the Napoleonic decree on the dissolution of the monasteries, the convent of Santa Chiara was closed and the entire complex annexed to the State. The same fate came to many other religious settlements in Murano, including Santa Maria degli Angeli and the nearby Santo Stefano. The many art works present in the Church - by Andrea da Murano, Vivarini, Cima da Conegliano, Palma the Younger, Polidoro, Bonifacio Veneziano, Novelli, Litterini – were either sent other churches to other churches or to in the Gallerie dell'Accademia.
1826: The now Ex Chiesa of Santa Chiara was sold to the Milanese firm Marietti Brothers, and subsequently became a factory producing sheets, blankets and glass bottles. It is said to have had ten furnaces and 150 employees.
1853: An eight horse-power, steam powered machine for the grinding glass was installed in the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara and came to be used by used by many Murano glass producers.
1882: The factory at Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara was acquired by Limited Company Venetian Glass in Murano, of which the baron Raimondo Franchetti was the majority shareholder and it's production reorganized. The former sancturary was then used as a warehouse. (The horizontal division of the church, with the construction of six pairs of pillars along the nave of the church exterior probably date from this period.)
1905: Following the death of Franchetti, the factory was merged with the company Anonima Cristallerie Riunite. (Later, in 1915, it became a part of the Society Anonima Glassware Murano.)
1919: The factory was purchased by Giuseppe Toso and Anacleto Gerosa. During this period, the medieval cloister of the monastery was demolished; the columns, arches etc... sold to an antiques dealer and later recovered by the Superintendent of Monuments and used to rebuild the cloister at the Church of Saint Peter the Martyr.
1925: An office and retail building was constructed at the edge of the courtyard of the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara, obstructing the view of her monumental facade from the rio dei Vetrai. During this period, the former church was used as a factory for ceramic works, warehousing and mechanics.
1967: Manufacturing within the complex ceased and the space was divided and sold to various owners.
1990's: A fire within the church caused part of the roof of the former sanctuary to collapse, leading to the decree that the structure was unsafe for use.
2007: Luciano Mazzucato purchased the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara and began a restoration project.
2012: The Belluardo family purchased the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara and has since completed the restoration and reopening to the public of the former sanctuary.
The Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara is one of the most ancient structures on the Island of Murano in Venice. It was built even before the Doge's decree of 1291 ordered all of the glass masters to locate their furnaces on Murano. Originally known as San Nicolo della Torre, Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara was inhabited a group of Augustinian Monks from as early as the year 1231. In the mid-fourteenth century it passed into the hands of a group of Benedictine nuns who were, shortly thereafter, expelled from the place due to their scandalous conduct. They were replaced by the Franciscan Nuns of Santa Chiara, from whom the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara also took its name.
Later Uses and Decline of The Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara on Murano:
Suppressed by Napoleon in 1810, the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara was put to various industrial uses from the early 1800's through the mid 1900's. Its strategic location, on the harbor very near to Venice and the mainland, made the deconsecrated church quite attractive to developers. In 1826 it was acquired by a glass manufacturer, Fratelli Marietti Milan, and used as a factory for the production of wine bottles, window panes and mirrors. In the decades that followed, the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara was occupied by various other glass manufacturing firms and administrative offices. During that time, the former religious complex suffered numerous divisions, additions and restructuring to accommodate a series of owners. Yet, by the late 1900's it had fallen into such a state of disrepair as to be deemed unsuitable for any use.
Restoration of The Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara on Murano:
The Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara was little more than an edifice concealing a pile of bricks when the Belluardo family acquired it in 2012. Nevertheless, they determined to return the structure to its former glory and reopen it to the public as a gallery, event space, demonstration venue celebrating the history and artistry of Murano glass. The Belluardo family have poured all of themselves, and nearly four years of their lives into the restoration of the Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara. They have sought the advice of history and architectural experts, and, whenever possible, have reconstructed the building using the original materials. It is not unusual to find them throwing their own backs into the work still going on there.