Craftsmanship in simple things: chimneys

Let’s pause to give some thought to the mureri who built these chimneys, and to those whose job it was to keep them clean, the scoacamini. (If you walk down the Calle dei Scoacamini in San Marco, you are in the area where the chimney sweeps used to live.)

The confraternity (scuola) which  controlled these trades, I Mureri was established by 1200, making it one of the oldest of the scuole . There is a bas-relief on the facade of the building at Salizada S. Samuele, 3216 showing the tools of their trade: the hammer, trowel and “archipendolo”, which I take to be a plumb-bob.

For the apprentices in these trades, the final exam, in order to become a master, was for the the murer to build a fireplace, and for the scoacamin to show he was capable of the proper maintenance of fireplaces, which would have included cleaning the chimneys.

Many of the chimneys we see in Venice are still functional, but most are in need of restoration and maintenance. Due to the fact that building materials in Venice tend to be re-used  (often many times), it is hard to date any particular chimney. However, the chimney we can see emerging from the roof of the Biblioteca Marciana  is ascribed to Sansovino, who died in 1570.






Filed under Venice

14 responses to “Craftsmanship in simple things: chimneys

  1. Bert

    And what about Calle dei Assassini? You wouldn’t want to live there! Perhaps not for long, at all events.


  2. Caroline

    What a lot of interesting info, Yvonne – thanks!

    I guess there’s little incentive for people here to have their chimneys restored or even maintained when they are not actually allowed to have a fire 🙂


  3. Jan Graham

    Some of those chimneys always look top heavy to me, but love the ones which look like little Dove cotes


  4. The chimneys were one of the first things to catch my fancy on my very first visit to Venice.
    ? Female santas? With beards and all? What is this world coming to? Of course I haven’t been to the local mall yet this season so they may be in my area too. But probably won’t make it there at all since you know where I’ll be for Christmas.
    Says she who only has 14 days till Venice!


  5. At least the chimneys are convincingly large enough for Santa to be able to climb into and then lower him/herself to fill stockings for children that have behaved themselves during the year. A big task now-a-days.
    The latest insult to Santas in Australia is that shopping malls now only employ female Santas. The mums feel their sprouts are in better laps. It doesn’t do much for the ‘real’ Santa’s self esteem. I bet no female Santa ever climb into chimneys!
    It is a sad world!
    Lovely chimneys, ytaba36.


    • Hi, Gerard. I had just read your post about the female Santas, yesterday. It’s a sad commentary on modern society, isn’t it? I wonder if other countries are following this trend? Cheers.



  6. I think this post will make Linda very happy!


  7. Bert

    I have a problem believing the origin of some of the street names in Venice. They try to tell us that there were so many chimney sweeps living in the same street that the street was worth calling The Street of the Chimney Sweeps. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the sweeps to spread themselves out so they wouldn’t have so far to go? In an age before telephones – and when letter writing was not for all – it would also make sense for customers to be able to go to their local sweep, rather than traipsing halfway across town. I suppose there could have been sweeps in other places – they just didn’t get their street named after them. Other names, like Forno and Pestrin, I can believe, and it accounts for why so many streets have the same name even in the same sestiere.


    • Oh, Bert, I do worry about you! Just go with the flow with all the lovely tales we collect about Venice. Maybe, for example, the scoacamini all came from one town in the Piedmont, and wanted to stay close together!

      So, how was your first day back in Venice? Do you like the B&B?


    • Caroline

      That’s a very good point, Bert – I’d never thought of that. Maybe this calle was just inhabited by one particularly famous/notorious family of chimney-sweeps?


  8. JoanneH

    Its impossible to get a sweep around here much less someone to fix yours.
    I have stopped using my fireplace because I can’t get it cleaned and I don’t have any other heat in my house. Of course I am in Central Ca. where I can get by most days without heat like those 110F days but now and then in the winter it gets damm cold. I always point out the stacks to people in my group they make for some interesting photos


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