Doge’s Palace Highlights & Collections
The ancient city of Venice is home to a variety of historic monuments and sites. Travelers flock from all around the world to explore these sites and soak in the rich culture and stories around the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Basilica and of course, the Doge’s Palace. If you’re planning a visit to the Doge’s Palace, here are some essential collections present that are worth a visit.
Doge’s Palace Collections
Facing the San Marco basilica, the courtyard of the Doge's Palace is a grand space offering even grander views. Two mid-16th-century well heads feature in the middle of the courtyard. Since 1567, the Giant's Staircase is guarded on either side by Sansovino's colossal statues of Mars and Neptune, representing Venice's power by sea and land. Leading to the upper floors from the Gold Staircase, you'll walk past two important plaques: one from 1362 that has Gothic lettering from the papacy of Urban V, the other stands at the Giants' Staircase and celebrates French King Henri III's visit to Venice in 1574.
Located between the Rio della Canonica entrance and the apse of St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Apartments offer visitors an interesting peek into Venetian royalty. The Doge's Apartments were damaged in 1483 due to a disastrous fire and the renovation work was completed by 1510. While the apartments were prestigious, they weren't particularly large. This was done to emphasize that while the Doge was the symbol of the State, he was first its servant. Today, the visitable rooms feature technological panels to allow for a more dynamic use for exhibitions and also highlight the room's original decorations.
Your tour of the institutional chambers begins in the Square Atrium. These rooms were used to house the organs of political and judicial administration. This was a cause of envy in Europe due to its immutability and ability to resist the passage of time and maintain social peace and harmony. You’ll also visit the chambers of primary governmental organs like the Senate and the Great Council. You can also visit the chambers used by the Vatican’s main judicial bodies. The rich decor of these rooms is designed to not only indicate the role of the bodies but also to celebrate the virtues of the State.
As the seat of all government functions, the Doge’s Palace also housed a prison. A new prison with larger and more airy cells was built on the other side of the canal, intending to improve prisoners’ living conditions. Each cell was lined with overlapping planks of larch that were nailed in place. The Bridge of Signs was built in 1614 to link the Doge's Palace to the new building that would house the New Prisons; it is covered on all sides and contains two parallel corridors. The bridge’s name referred to the prisoners’ sighs as they were moved to their cells, seemingly as they glanced for the last time at the city of Venice.
If historical collections of weapons and armaments delight you, then you'll love visiting the Armoury. Under the control of the Council of Ten during the 14th century, the Armoury was stocked with weapons that would be readily available for the Doge's palace guards. There are four distinct rooms within the Armoury, each showcasing weapons of a certain category and time period. Some iconic arms stocked in the Armoury include suits of armour from the 15th and 16th century, swords, crossbows, halberds, and quivers. There are also extraordinary firearms, chastity belts and other means of torture available for viewing at the Armoury.