Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale in Italian) is a Venetian Gothic palace located in the heart of the city, at Piazza San Marco.
The building was the official residence for the Doge of the Republic of Venice, and acted as a meeting place for the republic’s major institutions.
The palace is located between Rio della Paglia, Piazzetta San Marco, and the Basilica of St. Mark. The building, which borders entrance to the Grand Canal of Venice, is visible from the Adriatic, and located on the southern side of Saint Mark’s square.
First version of the Doge’s Palace existed during the Republic of Venice, but that building was destroyed by a great fire in 976, which also destroyed the first version of St. Mark’s Basilica.
The current version of Doge’s Palace was built in 1340, and it housed the rulers of Venetian Republic, Doges of Venice, until 1797.
PHOTO: Doge’s Palace, as seen from Piazzetta San Marco.
As a place of administration, the palace was, for many centuries, the seat of the Venetian administration, with the legislative, executive, and judicial branches having been centralized in the hands of the Doge.
Also, until the sixteenth century, the palace housed Venetian prisons (on the top floor), with one of the most famous prisoners held here having been Giacomo Casanova.
Casanova escaped, however, on 1 November 1756, with the help of his cellmate, a priest named Marino Baldi. His escape, in fact, was the only known escape from the prison.
Later, a new prison building was built next to the palace, with its prison cells being located on the ground floor and on the basement, instead of the roof section.
This new prison building and the Doge’s palace were separated by a linking bridge between the two buildings, the famous Bridge of Sighs, a small, completely closed stone bridge, through which prisoners crossed after their trial to their jails.
In terms of architecture, the palace is one of the greatest artworks in Venice, with the best architects used for its construction and the best artists for its decoration.
Today, the palace is primarily a museum with its rooms decorated by the greatest Venetian painters, famously including Tintoretto.
Tintoretto’s greatest work on the building, realized with the assistance of his son Domenico Tintoretto, is the vast canvas work of “Paradise”, located within the Grand Council (Consiglio Maggior) hall, the largest painting in the world, at 22 m of length.