The Palazzo Ducale (“Doge’s Palace”) is located in the famous Piazza San Marco in Venice. It is one of the most important buildings in the city, as it was from this palace that the Venetian Republic was ruled. In one of the rooms, an entire wall is taken up by Tintoretto‘s painting “Paradise”.
Palazzo Ducale Venice
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Piazza San Marco, 1 – 30124 Venice. Phone: +39 041 271 5911. Opening hours: From 08.30 to 19.00. Entrance fee: 19 Euro; children 6 to 15 and students 15 to 25 years old: 12 Euro; children 0-5 years old: Free. This ticket is valid for three months for the Palazzo Ducale and the Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Sale Monumentali della Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. However, it can only be used once at each attraction. Museum Passes: Museum Pass valid.
Before the Doge’s Palace was built, a wooden palisade with watchtowers and a moat was located in the same spot. This was destroyed by fire, as was a fortress that was built after that.
By the 14th century, the rulers of Venice decided that the city needed a building showcasing its power and wealth. Filippo Calendario came up with a design for what was to become the Palazzo Ducale. Due to the death of Calendario (who would be executed for treason in 1355), only the east wing was completed (1301-1340). It then took 110 years to complete the west wing, which overlooks Piazzetta San Marco.
The style in which the palace was built is usually called Venetian Gothic. This means that the Gothic structure had undergone Byzantine influences.
Two of the columns on the west side are painted red to indicate that public executions used to be announced here. Above one of the columns sits an allegorical figure personifying “Justice.”
The lower part of the façade is characterized by an arcade surmounte by an open loggia. This was quite unusual in the Middle Ages as the loggia was usually located higher, above the wall section. The building was deliberately given an “open” appearance, to show that the city was so powerful that there was no need for a castle.
The capitals of the lower arcade are decorated with images of Biblical and historical events.
Entrance (“Porta della Carta”)
The main entrance to the Palazzo Ducale is called the Porta della Carta (“Gate of the Paper”) and is located on the Piazzetta San Marco side. Important messages for the inhabitants of the city were posted here. The portal, which opens directly onto the courtyard, was designed by Bartolomeo Bon in 1438. The two sculptures depict the winged lion of San Marco and the Venetian Doge Francesco Foscari (15th century).
Scala dei Giganti
In the courtyard is the Scala dei Giganti (“Staircase of the Giants”), which is flanked by large statues of Mars and Neptune and used to lead to the 2nd floor and the private quarters of the Doge himself. At the top of this staircase, a new Doge was crowned. The statues have been there since 1567 and are supposed to personify the power of Venice both on the water and on land.
On the second floor are the offices of the chancellery and on the third the Sala del Collegio. In this “Council Room” foreign ambassadors were received. In addition to the hall of maps and the armory, it is decorated with portraits of all the Doge’s. Or actually, all but one, as one gentleman fell into disgrace after having tried to stage a coup.
The largest space in the palace is the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, where the Supreme Council (sometimes a thousand people) used to meet. It overlooks the quay and one of its walls is completely taken up by Tintoretto‘s painting “Paradise” (1577).
The basement of the building was where prisoners who had to appear in court were kept. Later, a new prison was built on the opposite side of the Rio di Palazzo. This building was connected to the Palazzo Ducale via a hallway through the Ponte dei Sospiri (“Bridge of Sighs”). You can walk through this hallway as part of your visit.