Cover photo full
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Doge's Palace, or ‘Palazzo Ducale’ in Italian, located on Saint Mark's Square, is the former home of Venice’s rulers. Palazzo Ducale, a magnificent combination of Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture, is one the most iconic and historically significant buildings in Venice.
The palace is made up of three main parts: the southern wing; where the Room of the Major Council is situated, the wing overlooking the Piazzeta, the former palace of justice; which houses the Room of Polls, and the Renaissance wings; which was the residence of the Doge.
With its rich history, its ornate exteriors and lavish interiors, it is one of the top museums in Venice.
State offices, court rooms, ballrooms, and majestic staircases meant to impress foreign ambassadors with the power, wealth, and splendor of Venice were likewise richly decorated, and to this day, they continue to awe and inspire the visitors.
There are two major highlights of the Palazzo Ducale. One is the truly massive painting of “Paradise” by Tintoretto which covers the wall in Council Hall, the largest room of the palace. The“Paradise” by Tintoretto with its 22 x 7 m is said to be the largest oil painting in the world. The other highlight is walking across the famous, tiny Bridge of Sighs which connects the palace with the prison.
HistoryThe first palace of the Doges, a wooden fortress with massive defensive towers, was built in 814. It was surrounded by the lagoon on the south side, and by canals on the other sides. The castle was entered by a drawbridge on the north side. After frequent destruction by fire and subsequent rebuilding, the castle was converted in the 12th century into a palace in the Byzantine style. The present palace was built in two phases. The eastern wing, which faces the Rio di Palazzo, was built between 1301 and 1340. The western wing, facing the Piazza San Marco , took an additional 110 years to build and was completed in 1450. After the mid-19th century, the palace seemed to be in such a state of decay that its very survival was in question; thus from 1876 a major restoration plan was launched. Today, the Doge's Palace is open as a museum, which not only boasts some of the world's best decorated ceilings and glorious paintings, but also takes the visitor across the Bridge of Sighs and into the ruthless underworld of Venetian prisons.
Who was the DogeThe Doge was the oldest and highest political position in the Venetian Republic. The word comes from the Latin ‘dux’, which means “leader” and was the title given to the governors of provinces in the Byzantine Empire, of which the Venice lagoon was a part in the 7th and 8th centuries, when documentation of the first Doges was to be found. The system of elected Doges lasted for 1,000 years, from the election of Paolo Lucio Anafesto in 697 AD to the deposing of Ludovico Nanin in 1789. The Doge, usually elected from the oldest and most deserving Venetian nobility, was the only Venetian authority to hold office for life, and had various very important symbolic functions regarding both the authority and splendor of the Republic.
What to See
Chamber of the Great CouncilChamber of the Great Council, with impressive artwork covering the walls and ceilings, was built between 1340 and 1355. It is 53 meters long and 25 meters wide, and this is the largest and most majestic chamber in the palace. It was used as a meeting palace for the Great Council and for grand state banquets. The painting entitled “Paradise”, which takes up the full width of the back wall of the Council Chamber is reputedly the world’s largest canvas painting. It was painted by Tintoretto in 16th century.
Museo dell’ OperaThe Museo dell' Opera on the ground floor of the Doges' Palace exhibits original items of the decoration of the building which have had to be replaced by copies. Of particular interest are the Gothic columns and capitals, which formed part of the facade.
Doge's ApartmentsYou can reach the Doge’s apartments from the Golden Staircase. The former residence of the Doge takes up almost a dozen rooms on the second floor of the palace. These rooms consist of the Sala delle Scudo (the map room decorated with geographical maps and two giant globes representing the Earth and the sky), the adjoining Sala dei Filosofi (Philosopher’s Hall), and the Sale del Doge (private rooms of the Doge). The rooms contain especially ornate ceiling, fireplaces, and the Doge's Palace picture collection, which includes spectacular paintings of the iconic lion of St. Mark and paintings by Titian and Giovanni Bellini .
Bridge of SighsBridge of Sighs, Venice's beautiful and legendary bridge, was built in 1614 to link the Doge’s Palace to the structure intended to house the new prisons. The famous name of the bridge dates from the Romantic period and was supposed to refer to the sighs of prisoners, who passing from the courtroom to the prison, took a last look at freedom as they glimpsed at the lagoon and San Giorgio through the small windows.
VisitingThe Doge's Palace is open daily 8.30 AM – 19.00 PM from April 1st to October 31st and 8.30 AM – 17.30 PM from November 1st to March 31st, last admission is one hour before closing. Admission is quite steep at €16 and €5 for the audio guide but you'll regret it if you don't do it.
You can also take the Secret Itineraries Tour, a special tour designed by the museum that will give you access to the most secret parts of the palace, into areas that were considered private by the ruling officials of the Republic of Venice. It is available only via advanced booking, and requires a guide.
Getting ThereDoge’s Palace is quickly and easily reached by taking the vaporetto to Piazza San Marco. The entrance is through the Porta del Frument, on the southern side of the building opposite the waterfront.
Do you see any omissions, errors or want to add information to this page? Sign up.
Author: Ayda. Last updated: Jan 12, 2015