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Doge’s Palace

Venice - Bridge of Sighs - view
Venice - Doges Palace - side viewVenice - Doges Palace  - view from the lagoonVenice - Bridge of Sighs - day view

A long time ago, Venetians built a castle to house their government and all their leaders in a single place. The first Doge’s Palace was a medieval castle composed of the Doge’s apartments, the government of the Republic of Venice, the courthouse and a jail. As time passed, the castle became too small for the government and finally it was destroyed by a fire. The Palace was rebuilt in pink marble between the 4th and 5th centuries, though it was made more spacious so as to contain a room for the Great Council. Over the years, several other fires partially destroyed the palace and many renovations and extensions were made, giving it the aspect it has today.

The Doge’s Palace has a very particular and fascinating structure, in that it was built differently from the other buildings in Venice: instead of having a strong base, its architects decided to put a first level made of galleries and thin arcades. Shockingly, the whole building stands on this elegant first level.

Things to see

The interiors of the Doge’s Palace were decorated by several famous Renaissance artists such as Veronese, Tintoretto and Titian. Tintoretto is the creator of “The Paradise” in the Great Council room. This giant canvas is considered one of the biggest masterpieces in the world, reaching nearly 25 meters in length.

Due to its location, each of the four sides of the Palace faces an interesting part of Venice. One side faces Saint Mark’s Square and where the courthouse once stood while another faces the lagoon and the Grand Canal. The view that the latter side offers was reserved for the government. The third side faces the canal called Rio de la Canonica, where the Bridge of Sighs can be admired.  This side is where the Doge had his apartments. The last side shares a wall in common with Saint Mark’s Basilica.

For several centuries, the Doge’s Palace was the only building in Venice allowed to be called “Palace”. The others palaces had to name themselves Ca’ which was the short form for “casa”, meaning “house” in Italian.