The Doge’s Palace is one of the most important landmarks of the Italian city of Venice. The palace is built in ‘Venetian Gothic’ style of architecture & used to serve as the residential place of the ‘Doge of Venice’ who was the highest authority of the ‘Republic of Venice’. Today, this exceptionally beautiful palace stands as a museum & proudly boasts the glory & the prowess the ‘Venetian dynasty’ had when they were ruling the ‘Republic of Venice’ from this palace!
The Doge’s Palace is located in the ‘Piazza San Marco’, adjacent & connected to the ‘Basilica of Saint Mark’. The entire campus of the Palace that include ‘Piazza San Marco’ & the basilica forms the most influential & remarkable icon of the great Venice culture.
HISTORY IN BRIEF:
The original Palace was built in 810 when Doge Angelo Partecipazio established the ‘Seat of Government’ on the current location after shifting it from the island of ‘Malamocco’. Nothing of the first palace can be found now as it was destroyed in the 10th century fire. The repairing work undertaken by Doge Sabastiano Ziani dramatically changed the face of the St. Mark’s square. The new palace built on the same location also met with the same fate as it was too, destroyed by fire & other accidents.
The political changes in Venice during the 13th century underlined the need of a new royal palace that would fit the Republic’s reputation. Construction of the new palace thus, undertook in 1340, & it was further extended in 1424 by Doge Francesco Foscari. The new palace, however, fell prey to the devastating fire on three occasions & on every occasion; it was refurbished with the addition of the new constructions. The western wing of the palace was revamped in 1450, whereas, it’s eastern façade was completed much before- between 1301 & 1340.
Since 1923, the palace has been serving as the museum, which, in 1996, became the part of the ‘Venetian museum network’. Currently, it is one of the museums managed by the ‘Fondazione Musei Civic di Venezia’.
The façade overlooking the canal is the oldest part of the palace. Various artists such as ‘Filippo Calendario’, ‘Matteo Raverti’ & ‘Antonio Bregno’ had its corners decorated with many sculptures. The colonnades at the ground level make up the lower part of the façade & an open ‘loggia’ occupies the floor above the colonnades. The floors above the loggia are enclosed with solid walls.
The elegant looking ‘loggia’ is the central attraction of this spectacular monument as it gives a ‘lighter’ look to its massive appearance, which is believed to be a feature of Venetian architecture. It also demonstrates the prowess of the Republic as it wasn’t required the fortification around the most important building in the city!
The façade also features the ceremonial central door of the palace called as, ‘Porta della Carta’ which was built & decorated by ‘Giovanni Bon’ &’ Bartolomeo Bon’. Two Gothic pinnacles with two carved figures of the ‘Cardinal Virtues’ on either sides, flanks the door. The ledge above the door hosts a sculpture depicting the ‘Doge Francesco Foscari kneeling before the St. Mark’s Lion’. A bust of ‘St Mark’ is located above the lunette & the whole decoration is topped by a sculpture of ‘Justice’. The gate directs towards the courtyard inside the palace. The exterior of the palace is adorned with myriad statues.
- The Interior:
The inner courtyard features a wide ceremonial staircase known as ‘Scala dei Giganti’ (Giant stairs) constructed in 1485 upon commission of the ‘Great Council’. The staircase is flanked by the ‘Sansovino’s’ colossal statues of ‘Mars’ & ‘Neptune’, which symbolizes the Venice’s prowess on land & water. The façade facing the courtyard is ornamented using the ornate arches bearing the bas relief of a ‘Winged Lion’, an insignia of Venice, above the central arch. The walls of the chambers inside the Doge’s Palace are adorned with stuccos while, the ceilings are decorated using rich artwork.
The Doge’s Apartment, where the Doge used to live, is situated between the water entrance known as the ‘Rio della Canonica’, featuring Golden Staircase & the apse of ‘St. Mark’s Basilica’. The ‘Chancellery offices’ were located on the first floor, while the ‘Doge’s Apartment’ was on the second level. The third floor was occupied by the ‘Sala del Collegio’, which was the Doge’s chamber to meet the foreign ambassadors & delegates. Today, this place is converted into a gallery showcasing the portraits of all the former Doges of Venice.
The ‘Grand Chamber Council’ is the largest & probably the most stunning room inside the palace & is located on the second floor. The chamber was the place from where the Doge used to address a large gathering of people. The wall inside the chamber features an astounding artwork called ‘Paradise’, which was created by ‘Tintoretto’ in 1577. The ceiling of the chamber is decorated using an incredibly beautiful gilded artwork. The mesmerizing portrays & gilded cornices inside the chamber are truly amazing & the words may fall short to describe the beauty of these Venetian artworks.
The basement of this majestic palace used to serve as a prison or ‘Piombi’, which housed several convicts waiting for their trails. Later on, new prison was constructed on the other side of ‘Rio di Palazzo’ which was connected to the palace via the eminent viaduct called ‘Bridge of Sighs’!
The Doge’s palace is truly a gem studded in the rich crown of picturesque city of Venice. Labeling this amazing palace as just a residence of Venetian Doge would be a great sin that can never be forgiven. This splendid palace is worth visiting at least once in a lifetime in order to explore its opulent treasury of the greatest of the Renaissance period artworks!