Czech glass wins UNESCO distinction, crystalizing a fine cultural legacy

The custom of handcrafting glass dates back to the 13th century in Bohemia, and today there are over 5,000 expert glassmakers nationwide. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 07.12.2023 11:16:00 (updated on 09.12.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The UNESCO intergovernmental committee approved the joint nomination of the Czech Republic and five other European countries, officially designating hand-made glass manufacturing as an intangible cultural heritage on Wednesday.

This recognition adds to the Czech Republic's growing list, now totaling nine traditions, customs, and, with the inclusion of timber rafting just last year, craft techniques on the prestigious UNESCO inventory.

The nomination for handmade glass-making was a collaborative effort submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by France, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic, with France acting as the coordinator.

The submission process was overseen by the Ministry of Culture, the Museum of Glass and Jewellery in Jablonec nad Nisou, north Bohemia, as well as representatives from individual glassworks, schools, and professional organizations.

Czechia boasts a glassmaking legacy

"Traditional glass production has been associated with the Czech Republic for a very long time and has brought fame to our country; Czech glass is known for its high-quality craftsmanship and is still perceived as a symbol of our nation's skill," said Czech Minister of Culture Martin Baxa. 

Baxa also used the occasion to highlight the need to continue to support the popularization and promotion of the glass-making arts in Czechia. 

Previous entries on the UNESCO intangible culture list

  • Verbuňk dance (2005)
  • Shrovetide processions (2010)
  • Falconry (2010)
  • Ride of the Kings (2011)
  • Puppetry (2016)
  • Blueprint textile technique listed with Slovakia, Germany, Austria, and Hungary (2018)
  • Czech blown-glass and beaded Christmas decorations manufacturing (2020)
  • The ancient tradition of timber raft construction and river floating (2022)

This accolade shines a light on over 5,000 skilled artisans nationwide, including glassblowers, engravers, painters, jewelry manufacturers, artists, and designers working across hundreds of glass factories in Czechia, the Culture Ministry said in a press release.

Crystal Valley: The heart of glassmaking

Glassmaking holds particular significance in the regions of Liberec in north Bohemia and Zlin in south Moravia. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in Vysočina, located in South Bohemia and Moravia. The glass-producing areas are mainly located in what is known as Crystal Valley.

The industry's craftsmanship previously garnered UNESCO recognition in 2020 for production of Czech Christmas decorations crafted from blown glass beads.

All aspects of Czechia’s handmade glass artistry have received acclaim, including cutting, painting, and winding beads. It is the only country among the others applying for UNESCO inclusion to demonstrably specialize in all of these glassmaking techniques.

Czechia has a longstanding heritage of crafting glass by hand, dating back to the 13th century. The country also witnessed the birth of sculpting crystal glass in the late 17th century, which quickly gained global acclaim, along with the emergence of glass jewelry.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, various technological advancements, innovations, and enhancements further solidified the esteemed position of Czech handmade glass on the world stage.

Today Czech glass has received acclaim around the world, with pieces from Czech craftsmakers regularly appearing in Hollywood films, including this summer's megahit Barbie and earlier in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

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