Gazing Balls

Gazing balls originated in Venice, Italy, in the 13th century, where the famous Italian glass blowers would blow glass of all sizes and colors. Most of these gazing balls were created for the affluent homes of kings and queens. 

Because gazing balls were thought to attract fairies and magical beings, King Ludwig II of Bavaria insisted that gazing balls be hung from trees, floated on the surrounding ponds, and placed on stands in the garden. Considered wildly eccentric, he longed to rule over a fairytale kingdom and built fairytale castles that today rate among Germany’s leading tourist attractions..

Gazing balls were also used to spy on couples as they walked around the garden (you could watch them unseen). They were also used in dining rooms of wealthy homes, so the maids and butlers could watch unobserved to see who needed their tea refilled.

Do you have a gazing ball in your home, yard, or garden?

© lauriebuchanan.com

49 thoughts on “Gazing Balls

  1. Fascinating history. The belief in fairies and magical beings goes back to the beginning of time. I’ve seen them around my home and yard while “gazing” glassy-eyed, kind of meditating. But a gazing ball would help even more! Do you have one in your yard, Laurie? The closest one I have is a Christmas ornament that looks just like a small glazing ball that my daughter bought during her year in Italy. xo

    • Pam — We don’t have a gazing ball in our yard. I took this photo across the street in the side yard of one of the home there. I love that you’ve got a Christmas ornament that looks like a gazing ball — and from Italy! 🙂

  2. Early religions in Europe (perhaps elsewhere) were goddess-based. There were also stories of Avalon and women with mystical powers and beliefs. King Ludwig II was not alone among early Kings in wanting power over goddess religions, the fairy people, etc. Fortunately, something beautiful remains from that time in the form of gazing balls. The one pictured here is quite lovely.

    Although the gazing balls were used for some negative reasons by Ludwig II,(and others) I like the positive notion of simply taking time for gazing. Reflection of numerous types is often an over looked and valued practice.

  3. One of our neighbors had a glass ball in his front lawn. It has since been relegated to the back yard along with a flamingo. I don’t believe our HOA is too keen on the fairy story – ha!

    We have visited Murano, Italy, a boat ride from Venice, where we saw expert glass blowers produce exquisite work. Enchanting and elegant, but very expensive too.

    • Marian — There are usually no gray areas with homeowners associations, no stepping outside the bounds. I love that you got to see glass blowers at work in Murano, Italy! 🙂

  4. We had one in our back yard when we lived in WA. We brought it with us when we returned to Canada but, unfortunately it hasn’t survived. Enjoyed reading about the history. Now I want another!

  5. I used to have a gazing ball in my backyard, but no more. I am sure I came home from an estate sale and promptly told my husband, “We need to get rid of stuff!” Out went the gazing ball……

  6. We do not have a gazing ball at our house. At the old house we were on a wooded bluff overlooking a Lake, downtown, across from the Capital Building, and in the distance Mt. Rainier. When the lake was smooth we could see trees and the capital and houses reflected in the lake. River Otters were common playing in the side areas and then in the early days we could see hundreds of salmon swimming up stream. New house has a hand blown glass bird bath in the round inner courtyard, which is a deep royal blue color. I am sure I spent hours gazing at the lake and now into the courtyard. We also have a Frank Lloyd Wright garden sprite in the courtyard which is very calming and elegant. My cousin taught at Findhorn in Scotland for many, many years and she has wonderful stories of the faeries and spirits located within a garden Fun post and enjoy all the delights in your environs – because we benefit from your sharings

    • Patricia — The lake at your previous home was like a giant gazing ball! The hand-blown glass bird bath at your new home sounds exquisite. I love anything and everything to do with Findhorn. How darned cool that your cousin taught there! 🙂

  7. I haven’t seen one in a very long time. However, I use to see one on occasion and wondered about their purpose. Now I know, and thanks Laurie. I love it. A great idea. Maybe one day I will get one.

  8. I love the story behind these gazing balls… you should check out Jeff Koons’ gazing balls, BTW… he introduces them in classic artworks, such as sculptures and paintings. Quite an interesting twist. Sending love, dear Laurie 😘🤗🧡

  9. Thank you for the history lesson on Gazing Balls! Interesting facts and myths…
    I recently purchase a small quartz crystal ball for gazing and energy work… I see who and what I can conjure !

  10. Laurie, thank you for those fascinating facts! I had no idea about them being used for spy-globes but I can seeing it as a semi-practical application in times gone by, they had no technology to speak of and you never know who’s lurking around the corners at the ol’ Castle. I can certainly see the Fairies clustering around the gazing ball as they are silly, vain little things but love to party all night and want to look their best. Gnomes could care less, fool’s gold. It’s early to bed, early to rise for these somber guys. Elves, of course, are simply above it all, having never given gazing globes a passing thought. Their thoughts are more ethereal than ours and deal more in ambience than material objects. I love lawn art and it’s only with great restraint that I don’t have a fleet of pink flamingos, flocks of painted cement chickens and ducks and God only knows what else. The one you show is beautiful, serene colors and lovely placement and I would love to have one just like it!

  11. I haven’t seen them no but they are rather beautiful aren’t they . It’s an education following your blog Laurie…thank you 😊
    Cherryx

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