Glass-making Gentlemen

The family of Solages did not create a glass factory ex—nihilo. There was in the Tarn a long tradition of glass since the 15th century in particular what we name la Verrerie Forestière tarnaise with two main production sites: the Grésigne and the Black Mountain.

It was during the 13th century that appeared the organization of the glass-making Gentlemen of Languedoc as the presence of the forest glass factories. The tradition placed the "privilege to exercise the art and the science of glass-making without breaking" granted by Louis IX, from return of the 7th Crusade in 1254, to the noble persons having served the King.

Placed under the protection of the King, they were under the authority of the lieutenant of the King’s armies, captain Viguier of the city and of the Viguerie de Sommières (Hérault), who was a judge and a conservative of their titles of nobilities and their privileges.
The noble art of the glass factory was regulated by numerous royal acts. First in 1312 Philip le Bel, authorized the "glassworkers of Champagne to blow the Glass without breaking”. Then in 1727 the letters of patent of August, then the letters of Louis XV, about ten kings codified the activities of the glass-making gentlemen over the centuries.

The first Charter of the Glassworkers of Languedoc of Sommière was established by letters license of Charles VII in 1445. It regulated in 17 paragraphs their duties and their rights.
Three centuries later, from 7 till 11th October 1753, in the term of the general assembly of the glass-making Gentlemen gathered to Sommières under the authority of Lieutenant-general of the King’s armies, captain Viguier and governor of the city and the Viguerie de Sommières, were drafted the last Statuses which regulated their activities.

7 departments, under the jurisdiction of captain Viguier, situated from East to West by the right bank of the Rhône in the region of Bordeaux and from North to South the first Southern foothills of Cantal in Pyrenees were also enumerated there.

On a territory so vast, the Gentlemen named some Syndics agents in every department as well as three general Syndic agents. "Sindics who both generaux and private individuals will be recognized in said qualities in all the department of the aforementioned Lord Viguier and Gouverneur, by all other Gentlemen exercising the aforementioned Art and Science of Glass-making".

In 1789 the abolition of the privileges of the Nobility act the end of the Body of the glass-making Gentlemen.

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Why glass factories are settled in the heart of forests ?

At the end of the Middle Ages, glassworkers’ workshops were settled in forest massifs. Two major reasons seemed to determine these localizations:

  • The risks of distribution of fires in cities,
  • The difficulties of wooden supply of heating.

The glass is a transparent, breakable and hard material elaborated from silica. It would have been discovered on the third millennium BC, in Mesopotamia or in Egypt.
The essential component of the glass is sand (silica) from 60 % to 75 %. We add a fondant in the form of lime or of soda (carbonate of soda), from 15 to 20 %, which allows to lower the melting point of the silica. We also add a binder in the form of potassium hydroxide consisted of calcium oxides or magnesium from 10 to 20 %, which allows to stabilize the composition of the glass when it become cold.
To produce of the glass, the main difficulty consists in obtaining a high temperature: approximately 1200°C and even 1750°C if we use no fondant.

In Mediterranean forest, they were settled in the heart of the wooded massifs, bound with the communications by simple paths or mule tracks borrowed for the supply in silica, in vegetable soda salicor from the littoral ponds by the glass traders who took deliveries of their orders of glass objects.
In forests mountain dwellers it was necessary to be close to a stream necessary for the washes of ashes stemming from the combustion of the firewood to obtain the potassium hydroxide, a fondant which replaced the salicor from which the places of production were too much taken away and the too high cost.

Glass-making Gentlemen

The family of Solages did not create a glass factory ex—nihilo. There was in the Tarn a long tradition of glass since the 15th century in particular what we name la Verrerie Forestière tarnaise with two main production sites: the Grésigne and the Black Mountain.

It was during the 13th century that appeared the organization of the glass-making Gentlemen of Languedoc as the presence of the forest glass factories. The tradition placed the "privilege to exercise the art and the science of glass-making without breaking" granted by Louis IX, from return of the 7th Crusade in 1254, to the noble persons having served the King.

Placed under the protection of the King, they were under the authority of the lieutenant of the King’s armies, captain Viguier of the city and of the Viguerie de Sommières (Hérault), who was a judge and a conservative of their titles of nobilities and their privileges.
The noble art of the glass factory was regulated by numerous royal acts. First in 1312 Philip le Bel, authorized the "glassworkers of Champagne to blow the Glass without breaking”. Then in 1727 the letters of patent of August, then the letters of Louis XV, about ten kings codified the activities of the glass-making gentlemen over the centuries.

The first Charter of the Glassworkers of Languedoc of Sommière was established by letters license of Charles VII in 1445. It regulated in 17 paragraphs their duties and their rights.
Three centuries later, from 7 till 11th October 1753, in the term of the general assembly of the glass-making Gentlemen gathered to Sommières under the authority of Lieutenant-general of the King’s armies, captain Viguier and governor of the city and the Viguerie de Sommières, were drafted the last Statuses which regulated their activities.

7 departments, under the jurisdiction of captain Viguier, situated from East to West by the right bank of the Rhône in the region of Bordeaux and from North to South the first Southern foothills of Cantal in Pyrenees were also enumerated there.

On a territory so vast, the Gentlemen named some Syndics agents in every department as well as three general Syndic agents. "Sindics who both generaux and private individuals will be recognized in said qualities in all the department of the aforementioned Lord Viguier and Gouverneur, by all other Gentlemen exercising the aforementioned Art and Science of Glass-making".

In 1789 the abolition of the privileges of the Nobility act the end of the Body of the glass-making Gentlemen.

> Download Article Alain Riols

Why glass factories are settled in the heart of forests ?

At the end of the Middle Ages, glassworkers’ workshops were settled in forest massifs. Two major reasons seemed to determine these localizations:

  • The risks of distribution of fires in cities,
  • The difficulties of wooden supply of heating.

The glass is a transparent, breakable and hard material elaborated from silica. It would have been discovered on the third millennium BC, in Mesopotamia or in Egypt.
The essential component of the glass is sand (silica) from 60 % to 75 %. We add a fondant in the form of lime or of soda (carbonate of soda), from 15 to 20 %, which allows to lower the melting point of the silica. We also add a binder in the form of potassium hydroxide consisted of calcium oxides or magnesium from 10 to 20 %, which allows to stabilize the composition of the glass when it become cold.
To produce of the glass, the main difficulty consists in obtaining a high temperature: approximately 1200°C and even 1750°C if we use no fondant.

In Mediterranean forest, they were settled in the heart of the wooded massifs, bound with the communications by simple paths or mule tracks borrowed for the supply in silica, in vegetable soda salicor from the littoral ponds by the glass traders who took deliveries of their orders of glass objects.
In forests mountain dwellers it was necessary to be close to a stream necessary for the washes of ashes stemming from the combustion of the firewood to obtain the potassium hydroxide, a fondant which replaced the salicor from which the places of production were too much taken away and the too high cost.