This Is Not a Dodgey Palace!

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by garymarsh6 on October 16, 2009

Palazzo Ducale or the Doges palace.

The Doge’s Palace is one of the most beautiful and famous palaces not only in Venice but in the world and is situated along the water front near St. Marks square next to the ornate Byzantine Basilica of St. Mark.

The palace used to house the Doge of Venice who was a life long elected Duke elected by the aristocracy of Venice to oversee the running of Venice. He was a very powerful figure in the city and also acted as a magistrate. Once the duke was elected he had to live by law in the palace for the rest of his life until he died. The position of Duke goes back to 700 AD and the last Doge of Venice was Ludovico Manin who was forced to abdicate when Venice was conquered by Napoleon in 1797.

The palace is a massive complex of buildings with a very beautiful white façade one looking over the bay of St, Mark and the other onto St. Marks square. The façade looks like it is piped icing sugar as it is very intricate and ornate. It was here that the council of Venice met and ruled the Republic of Venice. The council would oversee laws and regulations and the Doges palace was the seat of power.

Due to the possibility of corruption all the mail for the Doge was opened and read first by someone else then by him to protect against corruption. Interestingly the 55th Doge plotted a coup and declared himself a Prince. He was subsequently beheaded and his body mutilated. All records of him were destroyed as if he never existed and was condemned to damnation. There are paintings on the wall of all the Dukes but there is no such painting of the 55th Duke instead where the painting of him should be is covered by a black veil.

The Doge was a very powerful man and acted as chief magistrate. Criminals convicted of an offence were sent to the dungeon prison next to the palace. They used to have to go to reach the prison was over a small bridge which became known as the bridge of sighs as this would be the last view the prisoner would have of Venice through the tiny windows. Many would stop and sigh hence the name.

The rooms in the palace include massive chambers where the council would meet and where entertainment of visiting dignitaries took place. Not only was it a working palace but also the Doges official residence. The building is very ostentatious and beautifully decorated. There are inner courtyards and covered corridors and balconies overlooking the central courtyard and also out over the Bay and square.

The rooms are magnificently decorated with art not only on the walls but the ceilings too. There was a lot of gilded woodwork throughout the building and there are many ornate antiques which are absolutely stunning. I know in my description I am probably not doing it any favours but you would need to visit and see it for yourself as it is absolutely one of the most beautiful palaces I have ever seen. At times parts of the palace may be closed for restoration work which is a shame but vital to save this beautiful example of mans talents.

There has been a building on the cite from the 9th century and it has also been unfortunate to have been burnt down when the building was mainly constructed of wood. It wasn’t until the 13th Century that the building we know of today took shape in its current form.

You first enter the palace through the doorway facing the bay and you are lead into a large courtyard. Looking around this magnificent courtyard adorned with marble statues and fountains. You can see that the building was not constructed all at one go and there are different styles. Each Doge tried to make the Palace more beautiful by stamping his own ideas on the palace by building and refurbishing it. There are some wonderful views of St, Marks Basilica from here and even better from the higher floors. Just before the ascending staircase there is a small wooden black gondolier used exclusively by the Doge. It had a small covered boxed in seat for him to sit on.

There was some pomp and ceremonial circumstances involving the Doge. Under his hat he wore a smaller cap and a new one would be made every week for him by nuns in the city. A parade would leave the palace and the doge would walk to the convent to pick up his new cap. Another ceremony that still takes place today once a year it involves the throwing of a ring into the lagoon by the Doge.

There is a marvellous staircase that will take you up to the private apartments of the Doge and the impressively decorated chambers and antechambers where the Doge and the council would meet dignitaries. One of the staircases is named the Scala d’Oro which is the Golden staircase ornately adorned in gold leaf. There are displays of precious art works and an armoury of weapons used throughout the centuries.

The largest chamber in the palace is the Sala Maggior Consiglio where the council would meet. It is absolutely huge measuring over 170 feet long adorned all the way round with beautiful frescos both on the walls and ceilings. It takes up the whole of the lagoon side of the building. It is absolutely stunning and it is worth while sitting on the side of the massive chamber taking in the sights of the frescos and the shear vastness of this massive hall. On the back wall there is the world’s largest oil on canvas painting by Tintoretto which replaced works of art by Bellini, Titian and others destroyed in the fire.

There is a small dais on which the Doge would sit and accompanied by senior courtiers in session being the chief magistrate of Venice. From here he would hear criminal cases before going on to council business. Convicted prisoners would be led out across the Bridge of Sighs to their prison cell either in the basement prison or in the rafters.

Sadly over the years the palace has suffered with fires one started deliberately to kill one of the Doges and his sons who were corrupt and made the citizens of Venice extremely angry. Life was not always pleasant for the Doge some had been assassinated and murdered by others who were either jealous or who wanted to become Doge themselves.

The tour of the palace is self led and you exit via a magnificent staircase which leads you out to St. Marks square through the door named the Porta della Carta which literally means paper door. It was called the paper door because normal citizens were not permitted to enter the palace and had to post their petitions to the Doge on the door of the palace or hand them to one of the guards.

I would say that this is a compulsory visit for anyone visiting Venice as it will be the highlight of anyone’s trip to the city. The artwork is breath taking and perhaps on a scale never seen or experience before. I loved it so much and can not wait to go back to Venice to see it again.

The palace is open every day from 09:00 to 19:00 but to 17:00 from November to March. The only two days it is closed is Christmas Day and New Years day.

Prices of admission are 17 Euros but this ticket will allow you multiple entry for up to 9 months and also admission to the Museum Correro.

There are reductions for children and pensioners and children under 6 pay nothing.
Doge's Palace/Palazzo Ducale
Piazza San Marco
Venice, Italy, 30124
+39 0415224951

© LP 2000-2009