Doges Palace, Venice Palazzo Ducale
The Doges' Palace in Venice was the center of government of the Republic and the residence of the Doge. Apparently a square building, it actually consists of only three wings: the wing along the Rio Palazzo, the main facade on the Molo (71m/233ft) and the west façade (75m/246ft) overlooking the Piazzetta. The fourth wing is formed by the Basilica di San Marco (Basilica of St Mark) which the palace has adjoined since 1438.
Doges Palace Map
Address: Piazzetta San Marco, I-30100 Venice, Italy
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Oct 31: 9am-7pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9am-5pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9am-5pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €11.00, Concession or reduced rate €5.50
Useful tips: Last admission one hour before closing. Photography prohibited.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Doges Palace Highlights
The Palazzo Ducale is now a museum but, unlike the general run of museums, the paintings on display here were created especially to decorate the Doges' Palace, not added later. Visitors follow a marked itinerary.
Sala del Maggior Consiglio
This Hall of the Great Council, the seat of the Lower House of the Venetian Parliament, is impressive not so much because of its size (54m/177ft x 25m/82ft) but because of its harmonious proportions in relation to its size. It was made so large not simply in order to be imposing but also on purely practical grounds, since when the Council was in session it had to accommodate up to 1800 citizens entitled to vote. It therefore had rows of seats in the middle, along the two long walls and against the west wall; the short east wall with the tribune was reserved for the Doge and the highest officials. The hall was built between 1340 and 1355.The greatest artists of their time took part in painting the room. From Padua came Guariento, whose painting above the Doge's throne was destroyed by fire and replaced in 1588 by Tintoretto's "Paradise" which is still in place. The fire of 1577 also destroyed the paintings by Gentile da Fabriano, Pisanello, Giovanni Bellini, Carpaccio and Titian.Reconstruction (in its original form) was entrusted to Antonio da Ponte, who built the Ponte di Rialto. Tintoretto and Veronese did the paintings, assisted by Palma the Younger and Francesco Bassano.Tintoretto's "Paradise" (22m/71ft x 7m/23ft) ranks as the largest oil-painting in the world and its great mass of figures make it difficult for the viewer to take in the picture as a whole. Close inspection shows that Tintoretto ranged the figures in accordance with their rank, grouping them in circles and segments of circles with Christ and his Mother in the center at the top.Another masterpiece is the ceiling with panels painted by Veronese - "Venezia". Venice surrounded by gods and crowned by Victory.Other masterly ceiling-paintings are "Doge Ponte paying homage to Venice" by Tintoretto, and "Venice welcoming the conquered Nations around her Throne" by Palma the Younger.The wall canvasses depict scenes from Venetian history. The frieze, just under the ceiling, of the first 76 Doges is the work of Domenico Tintoretto and his assistants; the portrait of Doge Marino Faliero, who was beheaded, has been painted out in black.The Sala del Maggior Consiglio was where all the decisions which made the Republic a World Power were discussed. It was also where the Republic was declared to have been dissolved in 1797.The tour now continues in the Doge's apartments on the second floor of the east wing.Sala dello ScrutinioThe Voting Hall was where public elections, including the election of the Doge, were prepared and carried out. The paintings, including "The Conquest of Zara" by Tintoretto (right wall) depict Venetian battles on land and sea.Sala dello ScudoThe maps, copies of originals of about 1540, document Venetian rule.Sala GrimanSpecial features are the ceiling, with its gold ornamentation on a blue ground, and the frieze of allegorical subjects (after 1504).Sala ErizzoAn interesting 16th century ceiling and 15th-17th century marble and stucco chimneypiece.Sala degli StucchiThe stucco on the vaulted ceiling dates from the 17th century; the stucco and painted inserts on the walls were added in the 18th century.Small staircase of the DogesAbove the door is a fresco by Titian, "St Christopher", the only painting by this artist in the Doge's Palace to have survived.Sale dei FilosofiThis vestibule gave access to the Doge's apartments.PinacotecaThe rooms at the back of the Doge's apartments contain a small picture gallery with works by Giovanni Bellini, Hieronymus Bosch, Boccaccio Boccaccini, Antonello de Saliba, Tiepolo and Tintoretto.PrigioniUntil about 1750 there were no escapes from the State prison and even Casanova only managed to get out by an extremely hazardous route.Especially feared were the piombi ("lead chambers"), the low narrow cells right under the lead roof which were like furnaces in summer.The cells once had wooden walls, ceilings and floors, but now only the stone walls and iron-barred windows are left.
Sala del Collegio
This hall, probably the most beautiful room in the whole palace, is where the "Collegio" (the Cabinet of the Government) met under the chairmanship of the Doge, and where the Republic received its most important visitors.What most impresses the visitor are the harmonious proportions of the room and the unity of decoration and furnishings. The large wall-painting of 1578 above the Doge's throne is by Veronese and depicts Doge Sebastiano Venici offering thanks to Christ for the victory of the Venetians over the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto.The ceiling by Francesco Bello is the finest in the palace and has a wonderful series of paintings by Veronese (ca. 1577). As everywhere else in the palace, these paintings take as their subjects the ideals that formed the basis of the State of Venice: "Mars and Neptune" (power on land and sea), "Faith" (piety), "Justice and Peace". The borders depict the virtues of the State: dog (fidelity), horn of plenty (industry), crane (vigilance), spider's web (diligence), eagle (self-control), scepter (magnanimity), dove (peaceableness), lamb (meekness).The wall-paintings are by Tintoretto or his pupils. Near the entrance is Tintoretto's "Doge Andrea Gritti kneeling before the Virgin".
The rooms in the Doges' Palace in Venice which once housed the armory of the Republic nowadays have over 2,200 weapons and suits of armor (mostly 15th-16th century) on display.Andito del Maggior ConsiglioThis vestibule with its gilded ceiling beams is where the members of the Great Council waited before the sessions and during the breaks.Sala della Quarantia Civil VecchiaThe civil court which sat here consisted of a body of 40 (hence Quarantia) lawyers.The framed picture of the Virgin dates from the 15th century and the large wall-paintings from the 17th century.Sala del GuarientoThis room contains the undamaged fragments of the large fresco painted in 1365 by the artist Guariento (hence the room's name) for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Hall of the Great Council) which was burnt out by the great fire of 1577.
The Sala dell'Anticollegio in the Doges' Palace in Venice was mainly used as a waiting-room for foreign delegations. The paintings are by Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Jacopo Bassano.Tintoretto's four paintings are based on mythological events and give a new interpretation to the history of Venice: "Minerva dismissing Mars" (victory of wisdom over force); "Vulcan and Cyclops forging weapons for Venice"; Mercury and the Three Graces" (Venice's commercial activities are recompensed by beauty); "The Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne" (Venice's marriage with the sea).Napoleon had Veronese's "Rape of Europa" taken to Paris, but it was later returned together with other art treasures.Bassano's painting depicts the scene from the Old Testament of the return of Jacob with his family.
Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci
The Council of Ten, which sat here, was the secret State court. It was in charge of the secret police and controlled every aspect of public and private life. There was no appeal against a judgment given by the Ten.A harmonious blend of wood paneling, gilding and paintings, including Veronese's "Jupiter hurling his thunderbolts against the Vices", a copy of the original in the Louvre and an allusion to the work of the Council of Ten, and "Juno offering the Ducal Crown to Venice".
Sala del Senato
The Senate met twice a week in this hall. Consisting of the Doge, members of the College and some 60 members of the Great Council, the Senate laid down policy guidelines and made decisions on peace and war.Most of the paintings are by Jacopo Palmer the Younger and reiterate the theme of the glorification of Venice.Private chapel (not always accessible)The Doge's private chapel has a fine "Madonna" by Sansovino.
The main and side staircases of the Scala d'Oro lead from the Loggia on the first floor to the second floor and thence to the offices and reception rooms on the third floor. In earlier times only members of the Council and the Doge's guests of honor were allowed to use them.This impressive staircase, which gets its name from its rich gold ornamentation, was probably begun by Sansovino in 1583 and completed by Scarpagnino about 1550.
The Atrio Quadrato in the Doges' Palace in Venice contains a remarkable ceiling-painting by Tintoretto of the Doge Girolamo Priuli (1561-1564) appearing before Venice and with justice presenting him with the Sword and the Scales in the presence of his Patron Saint and Peace. All the wall-paintings are also based on the theme of Venice.
Sala dei Tre Capi
This room belonged to the three Chief Magistrates elected from the Council of Ten to form the Court of Inquisition which dealt with acts of high treason and espionage and kept the nobles under surveillance. Anyone brought before them was as good as dead.
Sala della Bussola
The wooden compass in the right-hand corner gave this room its name (there are two doors hidden behind it). In this room those summoned to appear before the Council of Ten waited to be examined. Next to the door is a Bocca di Leone ("lion's mouth"), into which secret denunciations could be dropped.
Sala delle Quattro
The Hall of the Four Doors was decorated in accordance with Palladio's designs. The ceiling and the frescoes are from the Studio of Tintoretto. The wall-painting "Doge Antonio Grimani before the Faith" was begun by Titian about 1600 and completed by another artist.
Sale dei Inquisitori
The inquisitors, who met here, were the examining magistrates whose task was to interrogate offenders, if necessary with the aid of red-hot pincers, the rack and the thumbscrew.The room was originally covered entirely in leather. The picture in the middle of the ceiling is Tintoretto's "Return of the Prodigal Son".
Museo dell' Opera
The 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.
The astonishing exterior of the Doges' Palace in Venice is often referred to as a symbol of the "city on piles". The fragile filigree of the Loggia with its 71 columns and almost Oriental tracery stands on the 36 short columns of the ground floor. Above is a massive block of marble with six large windows and a richly ornamented Gothic balcony. It is faced with white and pink marble in a diamond pattern. On top is a cornice of merlons and spires. The amazing tension created by this combination caused André Suarès to exclaim "So much graceful strength on such fragile foundations!"
Porta della Carta
The Porta della Carta (the main entrance) was created as the link between the Doges' Palace and the Basilica by the brothers Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon (1438-1432). Together with the Ca' d'Oro it is considered a perfect example of Venetian Gothic.The door is surrounded by a framework of ornamentation and allegorical figures; above is Doge Francesco Foscari kneeling before the Lion of St Mark (symbolizing the attitude of the Venetians towards their State - the individual bows to the power of the State). The present sculpture is a 19th century copy of the original which was destroyed in 1797.The Porta della Carta (Paper Gate) is thought to be so named from the petitioners who used to wait here for the members of the Council and the Government in order to hand over their petitions and requests. The laws of the Republic were also proclaimed in front of the gate, at the corner of the Basilica di San Marco, on the stump of a column used for that purpose.
Scala dei Giganti
The Staircase of the Giants, also designed and begun by Rizzo, adjoins the Foscari Arch and leads up to the State apartments on the first floor of the Doges' Palace in Venice. Its top landing is where the Doges were crowned - and, in the case of Doge Marino Fliero, beheaded. The Coronation procedure was for the newly elected Doge to take his oath, whereupon the youngest member of the Great Council would hand him the white "corno" (Doge's cap) and the senior member would place it on his head.The staircase owes its name to the two larger-than-life-size figures of Mars and Neptune symbolizing Venice's power on land and sea. They are the work of Jacopo Sansovino (1567).
The courtyard of the Doges' Palace in Venice, redesigned by Antonio Rizzo after a fire in 1483, is a Renaissance masterpiece. After Rizzo fled, having been accused of embezzlement, the upper part of the main facade of the courtyard was completed by his successors; the west and south facades were refaced at the beginning of the 17th century.
The Porta della Carta leads into the courtyard of the Doges' Palace in Venice through the Foscari Arch, a Gothic porch richly ornamented with columns, niches and turrets, and already displaying elements of the Renaissance style, especially in the statues of Adam and Eve by the sculptor Antonio Rizzo (these are copies, the original stand in the Quarantia Criminal on the second floor).
The west facade of the Doges' Palace in Venice is mostly 15th century. It copies the style of the south front (balcony windows, gable statue). The capitals here - allegorical themes, foliage - are also noteworthy.In earlier times sentences of death used to be proclaimed from a position between the ninth and 10th columns of the Loggia (the only ones made of red marble).
Cortile dei Senatori
To the left of the main courtyard of the Doges' Palace in Venice is the Cortile dei Senatori with a Late Renaissance front and beautiful marble ornamentation. This is where the Senators used to gather before receptions. The little chapel next to it was the Doge's private chapel (now closed).
The south facade of the Doges' Palace in Venice with its two lower Gothic windows is the oldest part of the exterior. The beautiful capitals symbolizing Vice and Virtue (14th-15th century) are worthy of note. The large balcony window dates from 1404 and the figure on the gable, Venice as "Justice", from 1579.
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed arched bridge over the Rio di Palazzo joining the first floor of the Doge's Palace with the first floor of the prison.Completed by Antonio da Ponte in 1603, today it is one of the main tourist attractions of Venice, although less because of its attractive Baroque shape than because of its name and significance; it was over this bridge that prisoners were taken before the judges, and the sentences given by Venetian judges were as hard and unmerciful as the laws of the Republic.
More Doges Palace Pictures
Map - Doges Palace
Map of Venice Attractions