Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Venice

If there’s a building in Venice that is worth calling royal and lavish, the Doge’s Palace definitely wins the title.

Doge’s Palace

Once the home of the Doge (ruler of Venice) and the seat of power for the Venetian Republic, Doge’s Palace serves as one of Venice’s must-see museums today!

From its striking exterior, adorned with a Gothic style open portico and a second-floor balcony, to its marvellous interior complemented by gilded ceilings, grand staircases, and frescoed walls, the Palazzo Ducale is a sight to behold inside and out. So, let’s take a sneak peek inside the palace’s most fascinating paintings, statues, and artefacts.

History of the Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace was once the ruling centre of Venice and a symbol of the power of the Republic. Funded by the vast wealth accumulated from Venice’s mighty trading empire, the building is grand and beautifully designed. Being the elected king of Venice, the Doge resided in the opulent surroundings of the palace and conducted much of his business there. As well as being home to the Doge, the palace was the place where nobles met to discuss and set new laws. The paintings on the walls attested to the importance of the lawmakers inside and reminded them that the heavens were watching over them. Some of the paintings even implied that those who made good laws would sit alongside the saints.

Things to See at Doge’s Palace

  • Porta Della Carta

    Porta Della Carta

    Dating back to 1438, Porta Della Carta or “The Paper Gate” works as the palace’s main entrance and serves as the link between the Doge’s Palace and the St. Marc’s Basilica. Master-crafted by the brothers Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon, the gate is enriched with a generosity of splendid spires, carved trefoils, and striking statues, including the most celebrated– winged lion (the symbol of Venice and of St Mark). The entrance is called the ‘paper gate’ due to the people who waited in front of it to hand their petitions to the council.

  • Foscari Arch

    Lying just beyond the Paper Gate, Foscari Arch is a lovely triumphal arch adorned with Gothic statues, including those of Adam and Eve by the sculptor Antonio Rizzo. He also designed the renaissance style Scala dei Giganti or Staircase of the Giant, which is a magnificent example of the gothic style architecture. What’s more; the staircase is widely acclaimed for the two larger-than-life figures of Mars and Neptune, symbolizing the power of Venice on both land and sea.

  • Scala d’ Oro

    Scala d’ Oro

    The Giants Staircase in the courtyard may impress you for its sheer size, but nothing here can match the absolute magnificence of the staircases of the Scala d’Oro or the ‘Stairs of Gold’. Named after the upscale gold decoration of its ceiling, it provides a grand entrance from the Loggia on the first floor to the offices and staterooms on the third floor.

  • The Doge’s Apartments

    Located between Rio della Canonica, the Golden Staircase, and the apse of the Basilica of St Mark are the Doge’s private rooms. Whilst most of the rooms within the palace had both a public and private function, the rooms within the Doge’s Apartments were entirely private. They provided him with a hideaway and would have been furnished with the Doge’s own furnishings brought from his previous home.

    Following a fire in 1483, these rooms were destroyed and subsequently rebuilt in a Renaissance style. They are glorious to behold with their frescoes, marble chimneys, stuccoes, and engraved wooden ceilings. The rooms themselves are not large considering the Doge would have been a nobleman and likely came from a sizeable, grand home. The smaller size could have been to emphasise that although he was important, the Doge was a servant of the state.

  • The Paradise

    While the Doge’s palace is packed with splendid works of art, none rival the scale and grandeur of the oil painting that is exhibited in the main hall; Tintoretto’s divine masterwork, Paradise. Measuring a massive 74 feet in length and 30 feet in breadth, it is roughly the size of a tennis court and is one of the largest oil paintings ever created. Occupying the entire wall behind the Doge’s throne, the painting reminded the lawmakers that good decisions would make god look upon them favourably. The Paradise is found within the great council chamber, a room that features a great many more paintings across its walls and ceiling, including a painting of each Doge in a panel around the top of the walls. As you look at each of the portraits lining the walls you may notice that the corner panels are blank. This is because the lighting in the corners of the room is dimmer and they didn’t want any Doge to feel as though they were less important or hidden in shadow.

  • The Bridge of Sighs

    Leading from the Doge’s Palace to the Prigioni prisons on the other side of the canal is the Bridge of Sighs, one of the most famous bridges in the world. Built by Antonio Contino in 1600, the bridge is enclosed with an elaborately decorated exterior featuring two windows covered with latticed stonework. The purpose of the bridge was to lead prisoners from the examination rooms to the prison cells. Legend has it they named the bridge after the prisoners who crossed it and upon seeing the beauty of Venice for the last time, sighed. Another theory is that it was named after the sighs of the prisoners as they realised their fate, since the windows didn’t allow much of a view over Venice. The interior of the bridge can be seen by booking onto a tour or you can view the bridge as you pass underneath it whilst enjoying a gondola ride.

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