The Doge’s Palace, commonly known as Palazzo Ducale in Italian is located in the floating city of Venice, Italy. This historical building has been around for centuries and was the government center for the Venetian Republic. The palace served as the official residence for the Doge or the Chief Magistrate of Venice.
This article will enrich you with some astounding Doge’s Palace facts that will make you want to visit this palace. As for anything that has been around for over a hundred years, this palace is full of interesting and unbelievable facts. Let’s have a look at some of the most intriguing facts about this stunning palace that attracts tourists from all over the world.
The Doge Palace has gone through severe tragedies throughout its lifetime. The first raging fire of 1483 destroyed the canal side of the palace including the Doge’s apartments. The palace was then renovated in Renaissance style by an Italian architect, Antonio Rizzo. Even after the renovation, many new features were added to the palace like giant staircases and marble statues when another fire broke out in 1574.
This fire did not cause any serious damage but ruined the wooden furnishings. Believe it or not, there was another fire in 1577 and it undoubtedly caused the most damage. The fire damaged the Sala dello Scrutinio and the Grand Council Chamber which had masterpieces by Pordenone, Carpaccio, Gentile da Fabriano, Bellini and Titian. The Palace was finally restored in 1580 and was given its original appearance.
While talking about Venice, it is hard to miss the beautiful bridges of this city. The Doge Palace is home to the stunning Bridge of Sighs that connects the palace to the prison. Completed in 1602, this bridge was designed by the Italian architect Antonio Contino and embellished with ornate decorations, making it one of the most photographed landmarks in Venice.
Being in the city of water with your partner, in a gondola and crossing under this stunning bridge will turn out to be an unforgettable romantic experience. Although, the name originates from a distressing fact that the prisoners, knowing that this would be their final glimpse of the outside world, would sigh while crossing the bridge and proceed for their death sentence.
The Doge Palace became part of unified Italy in 1866 after the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. Unfortunately, the Palace that used to be the heart of political and public administration lost its relevance after losing its independence. The palace fell into disrepair and was in dire need of repair work. During the restoration process, many of the original 14th-century capitals were relocated to Museo dell’ Opera. Except for the State Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments, all the other public offices were moved elsewhere as well. The Doge’ Palace was finally converted into a museum in 1923 and became a part of the Civic Museums of Venice network in 1996.
The Chamber of Torment inside the Doge’s Palace was a terrifying place for the prisoners. As the name suggests, this chamber was used to torment the prisoners to get their confession. Before the questioning process, a prisoner used to wait in a completely dark room from where he could hear the painful screams of other prisoners. In truth, these were imitated cries performed by hired actors, a deliberate effort to heighten the prisoners' sense of terror. Inside the interrogation room, the criminals were tied up with their arms being pulled behind their backs, causing extreme pain. This continued, till the criminals gave up and confessed. The visitors can have a look at the Chamber of Torment which informs them about the cruel justice system of the past.
The council of the Doge’s Palace consisted of male members of the patrician Venetian families only. All these men were over 25 years of age and became a part of the council irrespective of their merit, wealth or personal status. The concept of democracy was not really popular during that time but even then the council had a unique checks and balances system. The system did not allow any one person, including the Doge, to acquire too much power, instead divided the power equally. Existing over 1,000 years, this system has played a significant role in the history of the Doge’s Palace as well as the Venetian Republic.
The Doge’s Palace holds a grim reality, contradicting the stunning beauty and luxury of the palace. The palace had a prison that was divided into two parts, ‘Pozzi’ and ‘Piombi’. The term ‘Pozzi’ translates to ‘wells’ in Italian and it was the worst of the kinds. These were wet little cells that were reeked and poorly ventilated which made it extremely difficult and miserable for the prisoners. These prisons are undoubtedly one of the most terrifying places one could find themselves in. The beautiful Bridge of Sigh connects two different realities, with the dreading prisons on one end and the gorgeous palace on the other.
One of the many surprising Doge’s Palace facts is that in this lavish and grand facility, the Doge himself lived in a pretty small room. The Doge was intentionally assigned a modest room to remind him that his duty was to serve the Republic of Venice and not his personal comfort. Every time a new Doge was elected, he would bring his personal items and furniture from his home to the palace. After his demise, his family members would take away his belongings to make space for the next doge. This highlights the unique system of the Venetian Republic and the role that the Doge’s Palace played in it.
The Doge’s Palace has an individual armory room, Room 1 where visitors can see a special collection of armors that belonged to the renowned mercenary, Erasmo da Narni. The museum has a separate room dedicated to him that displays his significance and the role he played in the history of Venice. Although he was the son of a poor farmer, he led Venice through several victories and gained popularity throughout Italy. Here visitors will also get to see a miniature suit of armor that is pretty interesting. It was found on the battlefield of Marignano in 1515 and believed that it either belonged to a dwarf or a child.
The Doge’s Palace was once adorned with capitals and columns that depicted stories that were better understood by the people of that era. These depictions were like epic poems that featured men, women, animals, zodiac signs, plants, symbols, virtues, vices and myths. Since education was considered a right of the upper cast, art was the only medium to convey a message or story to the general public. Visitors can admire and witness the beautiful artwork that adds to the beauty of the Doge’s Palace.
Another interesting fact is that the Doge’s Palace was once administered by a blind Doge, Enrico Dandolo. Even though historians could not figure out his exact age, he seemed to be around the late 70s or 80s. Dandolo was the Doge who was known for his longevity and shrewdness. During his governing period, he passed an extremely odd order. The order was to evict any foreigner who has been living in Venice for less than 2 years. But as for the people who were living there for more than 2 years, it was somehow okay to continue residing in Venice.
Out of all the interesting Doge’s Palace facts, the most popular fact is that the palace has one of the biggest rooms in Europe, the Great Council Chamber. The chamber spreads over an impressive area of 173 ft x 82 ft. It served as a place where financial decisions and public concerns were taken care of. The chamber is open for visitors and decorated with astonishing art pieces. Tourists also get to witness Tintoretto’s Paradise which is one of the largest oil paintings on canvas in history. The painting represents heaven on earth and it is said that its purpose was to look over the council if a right decision was made.
The blind Doge, Enrico Dandolo, was also popular and known for his role in the 4th Crusade. Like any other crusade, the original plan was to take back the holy land, however, the plan got deviated. The 4th Crusade involved conquering Constantinople, which was a Christian Empire. Since Constantinople favored Venice’s enemies, Genoa and Pisa, the Doge planned to take over Constantinople. The mission to conquer Constantinople was an extremely easy mission for them that did not require much planning. Later, after the demise of the Blind Doge, he was buried in Constantinople in the Hagia Sophia.
This beautiful government structure in Venice used to be the heart of the public and political life of the Venetian Republic. The palace is a paradise for the art lovers as it has a stunning collection of art, including one of the world’s largest oil paintings on canvas. This luxury palace also houses a prison and displays two contradictory realities of life.
The original structure can be traced back to the 10th or 11th centuries, however the structure that we see today was built around the 14th century. The Doge Palace has been around for many centuries and has gone through several renovations due to fire. After all the destruction and then renovation, the Palace is still standing tall and adding to the beauty of Venice.
The Doge’s Palace took approximately a century and a half to complete mainly because it went under a lot of renovations as fires were a constant threat in the city. The construction of the palace initially started around the 10th or 11th centuries and the final renovations after the fire were done in the 14th century.
The term ‘Doge’ loosely translates to ‘Duke’ in English. The Doge was the highest official and a symbol of the sovereignty of the Venetian Republic for thousands of years.
During the 14th century, the architect Filippo Calendario designed the structure of the Doge Palace. However, in 1355, Calendario was executed for treason which interrupted the construction of the palace. The construction was then resumed and completed by Giovanni Bon and his son Bartolomeo Bon.
Filippo Calendario and Giovanni Bon were the two main architects of the Doge’s Palace. These architects perfectly blended Eastern Byzantine architecture with Western elements and prepared a stunning piece of architecture that is one of the most prominent landmarks in Venice.