Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale) is a gothic palace in Venice, northern Italy. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice.

Its two most visible façades look towards the Venetian Lagoon and St. Mark's Square, or rather the Piazzetta. The use of arcading in the lower stories produces an interesting "gravity-defying" effect. There is also effective use of colour contrasts.


The current palace was largely constructed from 1309 to 1424, designed perhaps by Filippo Calendario. It replaced earlier fortified buildings of which relatively little is known. Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon created the Porta della Carta in 1442, a monumental late-gothic gate on the Piazzetta side of the palace. This gate leads to a central courtyard.

The palace was badly damaged by a fire on December 20, 1577. In the subsequent rebuilding work it was decided to respect the original Gothic style, despite the submission of a neo-classical alternative design by the influential Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. However, there are some classical features — for example, since the 16th century, the palace has been linked to the prison by the Bridge of Sighs.

As well as being the ducal residence, the palace housed political institutions of the Republic of Venice until the Napoleonic occupation of the city in 1797. Venice was ruled by an aristocratic elite, but there was a facility for citizens to submit written complaints at what was known as the Bussola chamber.

The palazzo's principal function was to provide a space for the government to carry out its civic responsibilities to its people. The doge did, in fact, reside in the palazzo, however, he held no real power and was a representative figurehead for the Republic.

The building is preserved as a museum. Inside are housed paintings by Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese.

The Old Prisons

The court and the prisons were originally in the Doge's Palace. Prison cells were in the Pozzi (the wells) and in the Piombi (the leads). Cells in the Pozzi which were crowded, stuffy, and infested with insects. Cells in the Piombi, directly under the palace's conductive lead roof, were very hot in summer and very cold in winter.

A famous inmate of the Piombi was Giacomo Casanova, who escaped through the roof, re-entered the palace, and was let out.

The New Prison was built across the Rio de Palazzo from the palace. It was connected to the palace by the Bridge of Sighs.

Building Activity

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