Cafi and Santa Chiara, the Murano Glass Gallery

The artistic history of Santa Chiara, the famous Murano Glass Gallery, is closely linked to ‘Cafi’ (Ion Cafadaru) who spent four years designing and executing its fine reconstruction.

The former church of Santa Chiara has just been restored and already has become a meeting place of famous glass artisans and an important gallery of Murano glass where tourists and travellers can understand the art and technology of glass and buy some of the best examples of creators’ art.

Four years ago, when the Belluardo family has purchased the church, its reconstruction to create this Murano glass gallery seemed an impossible task. The roof had collapsed in a fire and the site being near the center of the island of Murano made it almost impossible to organise the restoration work.

The large trusses of Santa Chiara had to be replaced and there was no equipment (such as cranes) that could help in their installation. As always, the difference is made by man and his love, and Cafi was able to coordinate a group and personally carry out the work using a daring system of pulleys.

The story of Cafi is of a man destined to become an artist. He says he is not so yet but we can see his achievements and judge for ourselves.

In Romania, I studied at technical schools and and then took finance at University. The policies of the communist regime meant that I had no trouble having to look for work: ‘the regime took care of our future’.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall he found himself free but with the commitment of having to ‘invent’ a future. Fate had led him to work in stained glass and he opened a company in Bucharest with his friend. The economic boom and the life in the city give him some splendid years and then he met and married his Italian wife and the question arose of where to live. Women always win and they arrived in Venice.

The Italian style is new to him, the architects have other styles and demands than Cafi’s experience so he resumed his studies and this time, at last, he attended an art school: the course for “Restoring the cultural heritage” in Padova.

When the project to create this Murano glass gallery in Santa Chiara arrived, Cafi was ready with sufficient professional experience and artistic preparation for what is a challenge for which all artists would compete. To work in a historic setting respecting the past but meeting modern requirements. To live in the past and the future, to penetrate the stratified signs of aging over the centuries, to create a unique and unmistakable style.

Cafi immediately started to collect photographs and material for his blog on the work and for a future book that will tell the story of the reconstruction of the former church and the technical and artistic challenges that his group had to overcome.

To enter the Murano glass gallery in Santa Chiara today is to be in a unique environment, with its own unmistakable personality, recalling Venice and its history but having a modern discourse with visitors. Where beautiful classic chandeliers are in contraposition with modern furnishings and where today’s artists create works of tomorrow. Santa Chiara was founded around 1200 as a church, then transformed into a glass factory and now completely restored into a glass art gallery.

A modern ‘Temple of Glass’, a gallery where you can see different craftsmen at at their benches working on different techniques: from blown glass to the candlelight techniques, from engraving to guilding. Each visitor can then come into direct contact with those who create the glass master works, and learn to recognize the quality of the glass works of Murano.

It is a place to meet the protagonists of the art of glass and a chat in a comfortable environment in spaces designed for educational entertainment. A place to meet Cafi and wonder at the story of the rebuilding of Santa Chiara and creation of this Murano glass gallery.