Doge's Palace Layout & Collections
The Courtyard and the Loggias
Facing the San Marco basilica, the courtyard of the Doge's Palace is a grand space offering even grander views. The north side of the courtyard is shut off by the junction between the palace and St. Mark's Basilica, with the latter originally used as the Doge's chapel. Two well heads dating to the mid 16th century feature in the middle of the courtyard. Back when the Doge's Palace was used as the Doge's residence, members of the Senate gathered in the Senator's Courtyard, to the right of the Giants' Staircase, for government meetings. 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 plaques of supreme importance. The first one dates back to 1362 and has Gothic lettering dating from the papacy of Urban V. The other plaque stands at the Giants' Staircase and celebrates French King Henri III's visit to Venice in 1574.
The Doge’s Apartments
Located between the Rio della Canonica, the water entrance to the building, and the apse of St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's rooms offer visitors an interesting peek into the lives of royalty in Venice. 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 Doge's Palace institutional chambers begins in the Square Atrium. These rooms were used to house the organs of political and judicial administrative. This was a cause of envy of Europe due to its immutability and ability to resist the passage of time and maintain social peace and harmony. Later, you'll cross the chambers of all the main organs of government including, the Senate, the Great Council and the Collegio. During your trip, you'll also get to visit the rooms used by the main judicial bodies within the Vatican Republic. The decor of the rooms you'll visit is chosen after careful consideration and designed to not only indicate the role of the bodies but also to celebrate the virtues of the State.
Since the Doge's Palace was the seat of all judicial and government functions, it also housed a prison. A new prison was built on the other side of the canal, intending to improve the living conditions of prisoners with larger and more airy cells. Following established tradition, each cell was lined with overlapping planks of larch which were nailed in place. Built in 1614 to link the Doge's Palace to the building designed to house the New Prisons, the Bridge of Sighs is enclosed and covered on all sides and contains two separate corridors which run parallel to each other. The name of the bridge dates back to the Romantic period and referred to the sighs of the prisoners as they moved from the courtroom to their cells.
If historical collections of weapons and armaments delight you, you'll love visiting the Armoury. Under the control of the Council of Ten in the 14th century, the Armoury was stocked with weapons which would be readily available for the Doge's Palace guards. 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 more means of torture available for your viewing pleasure at the Armoury. There are four distinct rooms within the Armoury, each showcasing weapons of a certain category and time period.