The Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale is located in mainland Italy, in the city of Venice, on St. Mark’s Square. Its rich interior and exterior, extensive collection of antiquities, and centuries of history have made this amazing structure one of the most popular and visited museums in the city on the water. Recognizable Gothic arches, exquisite crenellated walls, and sculpted colonnades, the Doge’s Palace seems to float above the sidewalk. Its history does not leave anyone indifferent – Palazzo Ducale was used as the residence of rulers, Parliament building, while criminals served prison sentences and conducted their secret affairs of the Inquisition.
Today, tourists are offered many fascinating excursions to see the building in its entirety, from the rich halls to the deep prison casemates.
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The history of the Doge’s Palace in Venice dates back to the beginning of the ninth century. Over the years, the building has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, it has survived several fires, been rebuilt and expanded with new elements.
Diagram of the Doge’s Palace
The first buildings in Piazza San Marco date back to 810. Originally, the building was conceived and built as a residence for the head of the Venetian Republic, the Doge. This position was elective, it was usually held by rich and noble citizens, who had power, money and influence. In most cases the title was granted for life.
In the Middle Ages the Venetian Republic was subordinated to Byzantium, so the Doges were, in fact, representatives of the emperor. The man who received the title of the head of the city had a solid power, participated in the government of the state, made military, political and ecclesiastical decisions. Over time, the Doge’s influence diminished and his role was reduced to representative tasks and participation in ceremonies. This luxurious residence had different functions at different times, but it never lost its importance in the life of the city.
The first building of the Doge’s Palace was a fortress with observation towers and water surrounding it on all sides. The building lasted more than a century and a half and was burned in 976 during a rebellion against the Doge P. Candiani IV, which was raised by the nobility. In the following centuries the residence was rebuilt, but the new building perished in a fire in 1106.
Doge’s Palace in a mid-18th century drawing by Canaletto
From the beginning of XII century begins a new page of history of Palazzo Ducale. The Republic of Venice significantly expanded its zones of influence, its possessions included the Ionian Islands, Crete, Cyprus, and other lands. With a powerful navy, it could reliably protect the main residence of the state, so the Doge’s Palace was no longer built as a fortress with protective moats, but as a majestic fine building filled with luxury and wealth.
The structure, which is admired by thousands of tourists every year, was built between 1309 and 1424. The Palazzo Ducale was built in the Gothic style; historians suggest that the masters who had a hand in creating the architectural masterpiece were Pietro Bazeio, Filippo Calendario and Enrico.
The building housed, besides the ruler, the various state structures. The legislative body was the Great Council, the executive and judicial services of medieval Venice were called the Council of Forty. The walls of the Doge’s Palace also housed the city’s secret police, the so-called Council of Ten.
Fire in 1577 caused irreparable damage to this architectural masterpiece: the southern wing was badly damaged, Giorgione’s works were irrevocably lost. Subsequent reconstruction almost completely restored the first architectural project, and such masters as Tintoretto and Veronese were involved in painting the interior rooms.
The center of political life of the Palazzo Ducale remained until the end of the 18th century. Today the Doge’s Palace in Venice is a famous monument of Venetian architecture, inside there is a museum.
Doge’s Palace against the backdrop of Venice
Architecture and style
The lengthy construction and subsequent numerous reconstructions have enriched the building with different stylistic solutions. The recognizable façade of the Doge’s Palace – the silhouette of a ship turned upside down and looking out over the lagoon – made the building one of the symbols of Venice.
The first floor of Palazzo Ducale is represented by a luxurious arched gallery, where even in the merciless heat of the afternoon guests can enjoy the cool shade. On the second floor there are openwork balconies. This part of the building has a fresh Renaissance breath, and so here predominate soft rounded forms, displacing and replacing the austere asceticism of the Gothic. The solemnity and smartness of the monumental building is given by the white marble, which lined the facade – the huge Doge’s Palace does not look like a massive block, it looks more like a fine lace shawl, dropped on the ancient sidewalk.
Statues over the Porta della Carta, the front gate of the Doge’s Palace
Several portals lead into the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale. Once inside, one can admire the elaborate arched galleries that make up several floors of the palace. You can get here through one of the museum’s landmarks, the “Paper Door” or “Porta dela Carta”, a tall lancet arch decorated with bas-reliefs and sculptures. There are various versions of the origin of the name of the gate; for example, it is said that it was called Paper Door because of its proximity to the archives and workrooms of the scribes. Another version claims that they were used to display the texts of decrees and ordinances.
In the center of the courtyard there are two old bronze wells, which were a source of water for the whole city in the past centuries. The water in them was so delicious, that every day traders from all over the city used to come here and wheel around with full barrels through the Venetian streets until the evening.
Doge’s Palace View of Piazza San Marco
In the exterior decoration of the Doge’s Palace, the attentive tourist will see many bas-reliefs and sculptures depicting lions and books – these are the main symbols of the city on the water, the attributes of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice. Along the wall along the gallery, the predators are sculpted with their mouths open in a grin, and this is not just an artistic decision. The open mouths of lions served as a kind of mailbox: here one could throw a denunciation, which then went to the secret office.
The northern wing of the Venetian Doge’s Palace, which housed the apartments of the Venetian rulers, is decorated with sculptures of eminent philosophers and statues of archangels. The majestic Gothic figures symbolize trade, war and peace.
The Giants’ Staircase, a massive structure carved out of Carrara marble, leads to the second floor. At its top are huge statues of the patrons of war and sea: the Roman gods Mars and Neptune. On the grand stone steps the most solemn and important events for the city took place: the coronation of the Doge, the reception of important guests.
Only members of the council could enter the inner rooms of the palace by climbing the Golden Staircase. Permission to enter was written in a book that was kept nearby in a room under the steps.
Halls of the Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace in Venice from the inside is even more interesting than from the outside: it has a large number of halls, which amaze not only the luxurious interiors, but also the abundance of artistic and historical sites. The building has a total of three floors and a separate level with loggias.
Hall of the Great Council at the Doge’s Palace
The Purple Room is one of the first places that tours visit. It was where prosecutors and officials waited to be received by the Doge. All of them wore dark red robes, indicating their high position in society. The rich decoration of the walls and ceiling with bas-reliefs and sculptures attracts the attention of all the guests, but as in all the other rooms no photographs are allowed.
The Great Council Hall is considered the most significant room in terms of size and decorations. Its area is 1350 square meters, the ceiling is 15 meters high, and it is located in the south wing of the Doge’s Palace. It is one of the largest rooms in the world that has no internal ceilings or support columns.
A monumental painting by Tintoretto adorns the hall. The painting, entitled Paradise, is of impressive dimensions: 22 meters long and 7 meters wide. On the ceiling you can see the masterpiece of fine art “Triumph of Venice”. This oval canvas, painted by Paolo Veronese, looks chic in the frame of heavy gilded patterns. Near the eastern wall, a pedestal has been preserved where the throne of the Doge and the seats of the six notable members of the Council are set up. In the same room are portraits of all the rulers of the city on the water, with the exception of Marino Faliero, the Doge, who was executed for treason. Instead of a picture of him, a black scroll with the ruler’s name and guilt was placed on the wall.
Interiors of the Doge’s Palace
You can admire the symbol of Venice in all its glory in the Grimani Hall and the Hall of Lions – the winged predator with a book in sculptural and pictorial embodiments looks at guests literally from all surfaces. Fans of geographical rarities will love the Cards room. There are ancient manuscript maritime documents and two huge globes, dating back to the XVII century. Of particular interest are copies of Marco Polo’s maps, as well as ancient topographic sketches of Tartary (land stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific coast).
The Doge’s Palace in Venice can rightly be proud of its vast collection of masters of fine art, there are works by famous artists of the world. Paintings by Hieronymus Bosch are on display in the hall of the Magistrate, as are masterpieces by other Dutch painters. Veronese panels and works by Tintoretto hang in the Collegium Hall, and frescoes by Titian adorn the Philosophers’ Hall.
In addition to the stately apartments where the ruling ranks sat, the Palazzo Ducale houses two prisons. These rooms, like the torture chamber, the scaffold and the hall of the Inquisition, are classified as secret. The standard guided tour does not include a tour of these sights; to see the medieval cells for prisoners, the rooms of the Council of Three and the Council of Ten, a separate ticket must be purchased.
Prison of the Doge’s Palace [pic|s=15]
One of the prisons is located in the attic of the building, during the Doge’s reign it was called the Piombi. The second is in the cellars below the water level and is called Pozzi or The Wells. The lead roof got very hot in the midday heat, so it was unbearably hot in the chambers of the Piombi; in winter, on the other hand, it was unheated. The semi-basement Pozzi, because of its location close to the water, was notorious for its cold and dankness. The constant excess moisture created inhuman conditions, but the horrors of the secret rooms of the Doge’s Palace did not end there; torture was actively used on the prisoners. Among the prisoners were famous people, for example, Giordano Bruno was kept in the upper prison. Also under investigation here was the famous diver and lover of women, Giacomo Casanova, who later managed to escape.
Excursions to the Doge’s Palace
The museum works all year round, the exceptions are two public holidays: Christmas and New Year. In winter (from November 1 to March 31) tour time is shortened, the shows are from 8:30 to 17:30. In summer (from April 1 to October 31), the Doge’s Palace opens its doors from 8:30 to 19:00. Visitors stop being allowed in one hour before the museum closes.
To get to the Palazzo Ducale you can take a special waterborne vehicle (Vaporetti). From the Santa Lucia or Piazzale Roma railway station, take bus numbers 1, 5.1, 4.1 (get off at the Vallaresso and San Zaccaria stops) and 2 (Giardinetti stop). The cost of tickets to the museum varies from 16 to 20 euros, for children 6-14 years the price is 8 euros, kids under 6 years can enter for free. The official website of the museum palazzoducale.visitmuve.it provides detailed information on the tours.
You should buy tickets in advance, because high demand, especially during the tourist season, can prevent you from seeing all the wonders of the Venetian Doge’s Palace. Most tours include a general sightseeing tour, which consists of sightseeing in the main halls. If there is a desire to see the secret rooms, they are devoted to a separate route, which lasts 75 minutes. Without prior purchase of tickets to get there hard enough, these excursions held no more than 3 per day.
The Doge’s Palace in Venice is one of the most beautiful sites of the Venetian Republic
The palace is located in Italy, in Venice. Palazzo Ducale as it is called by the inhabitants of the city is rich in beautiful decoration, a huge collection of antiques, interesting history. That’s why this stunning building is considered the most famous and most visited museum in the city, located on the water. Elegant arches in the Gothic style, walls decorated with diamond-shaped patterns, massive columns – the Doge’s Palace as if it hangs over the water. Its history is no less interesting – the palace was a mansion of different rulers, parliament, prison and seat of the Inquisition, where it solved its mysteries. Today, there are many interesting excursions and the entire palace can be viewed, from the halls of wealthy officials to shabby prison cells.
The Palazzo Doge: One of the most beautiful sites of the Venetian Republic
The palace halls
The palace was built on the site of an old fortress by famous Venetian architects. Construction began in the twenties, in the 15th century. Then, in the history of the building, there was a serious fire that caused serious damage to the building, so it had to be rebuilt. This was undertaken by an architect named Antonio de Ponti, and the palace has been preserved as designed by the architect.
The palace halls
He used several styles – Renaissance, Gothic and Moorish . But despite this, the building is pleasing to the eye, and looks very harmonious. Palazzo Ducale in Venice is even more interesting inside: inside it is very many halls, they amaze visitors not only with the luxury of the interiors, but also with paintings by famous artists, which are located in the museum. The palace has three floors, and beautiful loggias on a separate level.
The first place to visit for tours is the Purple Room . This is the waiting room for officials who came to receive the Doge, the head of state. All rich people wore dark red clothes, it showed their status in the society. The whole hall was hung with paintings – they were even on the ceilings, sculptures and elegant bas-reliefs.
The palace halls
More significant in size and interior decoration is the hall, which once belonged to the Great Council. Here is a huge painting. It is called “Paradise”, surprising by its size: 20 m – length, 7 m – width. On top is the painting “The Triumph of Venice”. On top there is a painting called “The Triumph of Venice”, framed with gilded ornaments. In a corner of the room there is a pedestal on which sits the throne of the Doge and several armchairs for the influential men of the assembly. In this room are preserved representations of the Doges of Venice, except that of Faliero, who was executed for treason. The winged lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice, can be seen in the Grimani and Lions’ halls.
The palace halls
Geographical rarities, old maritime documents and two very large globes and more can be found in the Map Room .
The palace halls
There are secret rooms in the Doge’s Palace: these are the Inquisition Hall and the two prisons, which contain the torture chamber and the scaffold . The normal tour does not go through these rooms, you have to buy another ticket to see the prison in the attic , which is called the Piombi , the prison that is below the water level , called the Pozzi . They had inhuman conditions – the lower prison was high humidity and damp, the attic had a lead roof, it was unbearably hot in summer and very cold in winter – the room was not heated, on top of which the prisoners were tortured. Among the people who stayed there were Giordano Bruno and Casanova, the only one who managed to escape.
The palace halls
The Palazzo Ducale these days
The museum is open all year round, except for winter holidays. In winter (from 01.11 to 31.03) the opening hours are shortened: from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm. In summer (from 01.04 to 31.10) from 8.30 to 19.00. Visitors are no longer allowed into the museum for an hour before closing time. Ticket prices range from 16 euros to 20. For children 6-14 years old there is a discount – the price will be 8 euros, kids under 6 – admission is free.
About the purchase of tickets should be taken care of in advance – as in the tourist season is high demand. In most tourist excursions in the program includes a general overview, it consists of an overview of all the main rooms of the palace. To see the secret rooms, there is another route, lasting 1 hour and 15 minutes.
It is difficult to get into the palace without buying tickets, due to the fact that tours are only three times a day. Both adults and children will like it here. The halls of the palace fascinate by their beauty and smartness. When you come to Venice, visit this place is a must.