The Palazzo Ducale was the official residence of the Doge of Venice, who was the supreme authority of the Venetian region. It is a palace built in the Venetian Gothic style in the year 1340. It later opened as a museum in 1923 and is run by the Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia. The interior contains works by Vittore Carpaccio, Giorgione, ALvise Vivarini and Giovanni Bellini.
The Palazzo Ducale has four major parts: The Museo della Opera, the courtyard and the loggias, the Doge’s apartments and the institutional chambers.
Below, I have included a link to the official website of the Palazzo Ducale. It is a great resource for the historical background on the Palazzo and has detailed descriptions of almost every room in the Palazzo.
ALso, I have included a link to the “virtual tour” feature on the Palazzo Ducale website. Give it a look.
The Museo della Opera
The 42 capitals of the Museo della Opera include political and allegorical depictions of the power of Venice. The Museo della Opera has six rooms, each containing capitals and pieces of stonework and sculpture from the older facades.
The Courtyard and the Loggias
Public entrance to the Palace is through the Porta del Frumento, which is the oldest side of the building. On the right is the Piazetta wing and on the left is the Renaissance wing and closing the north side of the courtyards is the junction between the Palace and the Basilica San Marco. The formal staircase, the Giants’ Staircase, is flanked by two colossal statues of Mars and Neptune by Sansovino (mid- 16th century). The rounded arch dedicate to Doge Francesco Foscari links the Giants’ Staircase to the Porta della Carta, where the visitors leave the Palace.
The Doge’s Apartments
After a devastating fire in 1483, important reconstruction efforts were taken to preserve the rooms where the various Doges of Venice lived and worked. The rooms in the Doge’s personal apartments section are prestigious and ornate, though not particularly large. The Doge’s apartment complex has nine rooms:
- The Scarlet Chamber
- The “Scudo” Room
- The Grimani Room
- The Erizzo Room
- The Stucchior Priuli Room
- The Philosophers’ Room
- The Corner Room
- The Hall of Portraits
- The Equerries Room
The Institutional Chambers
The Institutional Chambers housed all the main branches of the government- The Great Council, the Senate and the Collegio. It is divided into three floors, starting in the Square Atrium. The decor in the different rooms determines the actions that would take place within and depicts some of the glories and the power of the Venetian empire.
The first floor has seven rooms, one of the most notable, being the Chamber of the Great Council.
The Chamber of the Great Council
Notably the largest and most majestic chamber in the Doge’s Palace, this room served as the meeting place for the Great Council.The Great Council was the most important political body in the Republic. Comprised of all the male members of Patrician families over age 25, regardless of status. The room also served as the place where the first stages of electing a new Doge were held. Every Sunday, the 1,200-2,000 the Great Council would meet and be seated in double rows that ran the length of the room, with the Doge presiding at the center of the room at the podium.
The walls are adorned with works depicting events from Venetian history, allegorical figures, along with portraits of the first 76 Doges of Venice by Jacopo Tintoretto.
The second floor also has seven rooms, containing the Senate Chamber and the Chamber of the Council of Ten.
The Antechamber to the Hall of the Full Council
The Antechamber to the Hall of the Full Council was the chamber where foreign visitors and ambassadors waited to be received by the Full Council, which was the council that dealt with foreign affairs. After the 1574 fire, the room and its frescoes by Veronese were restored. The frescoes all depict Venice in allegorical form, bestowing honors and rewards. Jacopo Tintoretto’s four canvases for the Square Atrium also adorn the walls, along with Paolo Veronese’s famous work, The Rape of Europa.
The Council Chamber
The Full Council, comprised of the Savi and the Signoria, was responsible for organizing and coordinating the works of the Senate and promoting foreign and legislative activity. After the fire of 1574, Andea Palladio designed the decor, and Paolo Veronese contributed the paintings on the ceiling, which were painted between 1575-1578. The paintings are a celebration of the good government of the Venetian republic.
The Senate Chamber
As one of the oldest institutions in Venice, the Senate meetings took place here. Though it was more like a sub-committee of the Great Council, its members were from the wealthiest Venetian families. The paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto portray religious subjects such as the figure of Christ which may parallel the idea that the Senate conclave which elected the Doge, is under the protection of God.
The Chamber of the Council of Ten
The body of the Council of ten was originally an institution that was meant to be temporary, but ended up being permanent. The members were chosen from the Great Council and elected by the Senate. Veronese’s paintings are on display in the chamber, one of the most famous featuring the goddess Juno scattering her gifts on Venice.
The Loggia Floor has four rooms:
- The Chamber of Censors
- The Chamber of the State Advocacies
- The “Scrigno” Room
- The Chamber of the Navy Captains
The Prisons feature chambers in the Doge’s Palace and across the canal, connected by the “Bridge of Sighs,” named for the expiring sighs of the prisoners as they faced their imminent punishment in the prisons.
- The Bidge of Sighs
- The New Prisons
The Armory is comprised of four rooms that feature many collections of historical weapons and armaments. The majority of the collection dates back to the 14th century, where the Venetian republic had its own army, though there are older pieces as well as pieces from the 16th and 17th centuries.