Wrought iron handicraft

While the wood arts and crafts reached its climax at the end of the Renaissance, especially in Val Gardena, the iron manufacturing found its origins in the Medieval period. In fact, the ground was very rich in iron minerals all over the Dolomitic area, which were easy to mine thanks to the particular rocky composition and widely favoured the first urban settlements and played an important role in the early economy.

Life in the pastures became interwoven to that of in the mines.

Furnaces were present in Cadore, Caprile, Alleghe, Rocca Pietore, Cencenighe, in the Agordino, in the Valle di Zoldo, near the Marmolada massif, in S. Candido, in Val Pusteria, Val di Fiemme, Valle del Boite, Val d'Isarco and in the Sciliar table-land.

In the 15th and 16th century mining activities and consequently iron production reached their peak. After that period a slow decline began, because of the exhaustion of the local deposits.

Nevertheless the traditional arts and crafts of metals, and particularly of wrought iron, continued unchanged through the centuries and nowadays live again in the several workshops in the Dolomitic valleys.

  • In Feltre, at the "Carlo Rizzarda" Modern Art Gallery, a museum of wrought iron and decorative art of the early 20th century was mentioned in Carlo Rizzarda's will at the end of the '20s and eventually realized by Alberto Alpago-Novello in 1938.
  • At the foot of the Marmolada massif, in Sottoguda, wrought iron is still an art, handed down from father to son since the Medieval period and jealously kept.
    The few smiths still here offer firedogs, lanterns, candlesticks and several fantasy objects, as well as iron cups and other furnishing objects.
    In Malga Ciapèla the protagonists are original creations on fantastic subjects, such as spectacular dragons and many other legendary elements.
  • In Cortina and in all the Ampezzo Valley iron is curled, twisted, tied, modelled, engraved and finished off with a great passion, inserting also brass applications, in order to obtain wonderful flower compositions - filigree - chandeliers - appliques - gates -gratings - handles and several ornaments, which are exported all over the world.
  • In Sappada too, wrought iron is well-known: the wide product range carefully forged by the smiths of the area is really worth discovering.
  • The manufacturing of iron, digged out of mines and "buse" (holes), is testified by the presence of several furnaces, which widely covered the Val di Zoldo, and served the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia too, characterizing the economy of this area for a long period, from Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
    In Forno di Zoldo, in the Capitaniato Palace, you can visit a Nail Museum.
    There are several shops specialized in this art, which exhibit a vast range of art and craft products.
  • In Val di Sole, in the hamlet of Pondasio an old furnace with a water mallet still works.
    The smiths of this valley obtain a realistic reproduction of vegetal figures, such as sunflowers and apples.
  • In Val Pusteria, in Brunico you can find precious artistic wrought iron, brass, steel and bronze objects.
  • In the Siusi - Sciliar table-land, in Castelrotto and Fiè, the artistic iron signs are the specialty of the area.
  • In Val Badìa, in S. Martino, the wrought iron shaped by hand takes the form of gratings and banisters in the nineteenth-century style.
    In Pederoa, besides iron, also brass and bronze are worked to realize tools and ornamental objects.