Doge’s Palace in Venice

A tour of Venetian history

The Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, opening as a museum in 1923.

The history of a residence for the Doge in the current location goes back as far as 810 A.D. Doge Agnello Participazio moved the seat of government from the island of Malamocco to the area of the present-day Rialto, when it was decided a “ducal palace” should be built. No trace remains of that 9th-century building as the palace was partially destroyed in the 10th century by a fire. Around 1172 A.D., Doge Sebastiano Ziani inititated reconstruction work that would drastically change the entire layout of the St. Mark’s Square. The new palace was built out of fortresses, one façade to the Piazzetta, the other overlooking the St. Mark’s Basin. Between 1340 and 1430 A.D. further reconstruction was done to transform it into a Gothic style palace.

Violent fire in 1483 and then again in 1547 forced further repair and reconstruction work.

Refurbishment works were being held at the palace when on 1577 a third fire destroyed the Scrutinio Room and the Great Council Chamber, together with works by Gentile da Fabriano, Pisanello, Alvise Vivarini, Vittore Carpaccio, Giovanni Bellini, Pordenone, and Titian. In the subsequent rebuilding work it was decided to respect the original Gothic style. 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. In 1866 Venice became part of Italy. By the end of the 19th century, the structure was showing clear signs of decay, and the Italian government set aside significant funds for its restoration and all public offices were moved elsewhere except the State Office for the protection of historical Monuments, which is still housed at the palace’s loggia floor. In 1923, the Italian State entrusted the management to the Venetian municipality to be run as a museum.

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