The Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace is the main tourist attraction for everyone who comes to Venice for the first time.
The building lies in Saint Mark’s Square, overlooking the lagoon, next to the Basilica of Saint Mark (another must-see). It sums up all the history of the city, from the political events to office politics, from military triumphs to events in the artistic life. The building was the residence of the Doge and his family as well as the seat of the government and life of the Serenissima. The Palace was used for the administration of justice, for political and legislative activity, for trials and to receive foreign delegations.
In ancient times the Doge’s Palace was a sort of Fortified Castle, isolated by canals surrounding it as they were moats. Over the centuries, the building has been restructured and restored countless time. In fact the Palace, as we can see it now, is the result of a series of modifications, changes and reconstructions. Partial reconstructions became necessary after three violent fires (in 1483, in 1574 and in 1577). Each decoration, each statue and each painting is located in this building to show the power and the wealth of Venice to the world, according to the will of those people who decided which works should be created in every corner of the building.
The Doge’s Palace has three sides, two main sides and one alongside the canal, which divides the building from the Prisons. The fourth side is the lateral side of the Basilica of Saint Mark. The two main facades overlooking the Saint Mark’s Basin and the Saint Mark’s Square have two levels of colonnades, over which there’s a inlaid marbles construction, with large windows and a central balcony.
The structure looks like an oriental architectural style, which allows us to understand how close the economic and cultural relationship between Venice and the Near East was.
The capitals of the columns are a masterpiece. They’re decorated with figures, allegories, human heads, animals and vegetations of all kinds. It’s a collection of stories, jobs and science which were the masterpiece of the Gothic sculpture in Venice.
Nowadays, the public entrance to the Doge’s Palace is via the Porta del Frumento, on the facade overlooking the Saint Mark’s Basin. But the main entrance is actually the Porta della Carta, on the side overlooking Saint Mark’s Square. The Porta della Carta served as the ceremonial entrance to the building for kings, princes, ambassadors and the Doge, who after a brief walk was crowned on the Giants’ Staircase. The staircase is dominated by two colossal statues of Mars and Neptune, and therefore the reason for its name.
The exterior of the Doge’s Palace resembles an oriental style, whereas the interior is a mixture of the Venetian Gothic style and Renaissance constructions. This confirms that the Palace has gone through various phases and practically it has transformed gradually together with the history of Venice.
If you’re an art enthusiast planning a visit to Venice, don’t miss our comprehensive guide on What to See in Venice to discover the hidden gems of the lagoon city.
San Marco square – Venice