Doge’s Palace – Venice
The Doge’s Palace in Venice (Italian: Palazzo Ducale di Venezia) is one of the most popular museums and cultural attractions in Italy, with over 1.3 million visitors per year.
History and architecture
The palace is an outstanding example of Venetian Gothic and Renaissance architecture, built from the 14th century over preexisting medieval palaces and defensive structures, and modified and enlarged repeatedly in the following centuries.
While a Doge’s Palace (which actually was, along with the official residence of the Doges, also the seat of the Venetian Republic government and its courthouse) probably still existed in the 9th century, the building we see today was mostly shaped during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The Doge Palace complex comprises three main structures. The most ancient wing, which includes the imposing Sala del Maggior Consiglio hall, overlooks the Grand Canal and was built from 1340 onwards. The wing on St Mark’s square dates back to 1424. The wing which houses the Doge’s apartment was built between 1483 and 1565, in the same period also the monumental courtyard was completely renovated.
Until the beginning of the 17th century, the palace also contained a prison, known as Piombi (usually translated The Leads in English) from the roofing material once covering it, which was then moved in the adjacent Prigioni Nove building and connected since 1614 to the Doge’s Palace by the famous Bridge of Sighs (whose Italian name, Ponte dei Sospiri, alludes to the “sighing” of the prisoners passing though it).
Along with being a monumental architecture, the Doge’s Palace of Venice is also an art museum; pieces on view in the palace’s rooms include paintings and frescoes by Gentile da Fabriano, Carpaccio, Titian, Andrea Palladio, Tintoretto, Giambattista Tiepolo, and Veronese, among others, together with pieces of decorative arts and furniture.
On the ground floor, in the former kitchen spaces of the building, the palace houses the Museo dell’Opera which presents the long history of the building and its historical development through a number of original architectural elements, capitals, friezes, and other sculptural decorations.
The Doge’s Palace also host temporary exhibitions of fine art, history, and applied arts, along with special events, talks, conferences, and educational programs for schools, families, children, and adults.
The museum complex also accommodates a bookshop, and a cafe. The core exhibition is accessible to physically impaired people, while the visits to the former prison, the armory, and to some of the medieval rooms are not.
Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal), Bucentaur’s return to the pier by the Palazzo Ducale, 1727-1729, oil on canvas; photo courtesy of Pushkin Museum, Moscow
The monumental courtyard of the Doge’s Palace; photo courtesy of MuVE
The Doge’s Palace (right) and the St Mark’s Basilica (left) ground floor plan in a 20th century print
The main entrance of the Doge’s Palace, known as “Porta della Carta” (1439-1442); photo courtesy of MuVE
Doge’s Palace, the Sala del Maggior Consiglio hall; photo courtesy of MuVE
Veronese (Paolo Caliari), The Rape of Europa, 1576 – 1580, oil on canvas, Doge’s Palace, Venice; photo courtesy of MuVE
Interior view of the Museo dell’Opera with medieval capitals on display in the permanent exhibition; photo courtesy of MuVE
Doge’s Palace, the “Piombi” prison; photo courtesy of MuVE
The Bridge of Sighs; photo courtesy of MuVE
Cover Image, Doge’s Palace, Venice, west facade on St. Mark’s Square; photo courtesy of MuVE
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