The Glass Pavilion - Eretz Israel Museum

The Glass Pavilion

Photo: Leonid Padrul
Photo: Leonid Padrul
Photo: Leonid Padrul
Photo: Leonid Padrul
Photo: Leonid Padrul
Photo: Leonid Padrul

The Glass Pavilion takes visitors on a unique journey through time, traveling back thousands of years to the earliest days of glassmaking in this region. Donated from the rich private collection of Dr. Walter Moses, who founded the Eretz Israel Museum in 1958, this rare and beautiful assemblage of glass has been enhanced over the years by exciting new acquisitions and significant donations.

Visitors to the Glass Pavilion are drawn not only by the enchanting ancient glass artifacts, but also by the presentation of the history, range and intricate art of glassmaking. Among the unique exhibits are fragile relics of glass vessels dating from biblical times, as well as some of the earliest blown glass discovered from the Roman period. Contributing greatly to the study of the origins of glassmaking, and especially the important invention of glass blowing, the Pavilion highlights the crucial role played by this region in the discovery of glass and its production.

Pre-Blown Glass, Late Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period
(15th -1st centuries BCE)

The most ancient method of manufacturing glass vessels is core-forming. Using this technique, glass artisans created vessels, as seen in this section, with a characteristic colorful opaque appearance, emulating such semi-precious stones as turquoise, lapis lazuli and alabaster. During the Hellenistic period (3rd – 1st centuries BCE), casting or mold-forming became an established technique, particularly in the production of large and small bowls.

Blown Glass I, Roman and Byzantine periods
(1st- 7th centuries CE)

The world of glass was transformed with the introduction of glass-blowing, a revolutionary technological development. With the greater ease of production came lowered costs that led to a jump in their popularity. View an array of exquisite perfume bottles, created by blowing glass into a mold, adorned with decorations in relief.

Two rare and significant vessels are notable in this section: Ennion’s Blue Jug, bearing the signature of its maker, and which represents one of his finest creations; and a rare drinking horn with two openings, known by its Greek name, rhyton (meaning, pouring vessel).

The display showcases an exceptional 1,400-year-old glass panel believed to be part of a ceremonial table that was discovered at the so-called Birds Mosaic Mansion in Caesarea Maritima (on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority). The intricate craftsmanship displayed in the use of small gold-glass and mosaic glass tiles, adorned with eight-petalled rosettes and crosses, not only attests to the artistic skills of the panel’s creators, but also provides valuable insights into the faith and cultural context of the mansion’s residents. The fact that it is the sole example of its kind, elevates its importance as an extraordinary archaeological discovery. One of Israel’s national treasures, the Caesarea glass panel is considered not only a masterpiece of Byzantine glass, but also a masterpiece of Byzantine art as a whole.

Blown Glass II, Islamic period
(7th-15th centuries CE)

Glass vessels made in Eastern Mediterranean countries after the Arab conquest in the 7th century are displayed in this section. A highlight among the cosmetic containers with applied trail decorations, which typified the beginning of the Islamic period, is an anthropomorphic cultic rhyton. One of the most magnificent creations of Islamic art, a 14th-century CE Mameluke mosque lamp painted with enamel colors and gold is the centerpiece of this section.

Glass Furnace from a Crusader Glass Workshop

The permanent display concludes with a remarkable find that sheds light on the medieval glassmaking industry in the Levant, a furnace from a 13th century CE glass workshop unearthed near the Crusader fortress at Somelaria/Sumeiriya (Giv’at Yasaf), five kilometers north of Acre. Still discernible is the furnace’s tank for remelting broken glass vessels and raw glass chunks that were brought to the site in clay bowls. Alongside these intriguing artifacts, which offer an insight into the manufacturing processes, are fragments of glass bottles and beakers characteristic of the workshop’s output.