The Palazzo Ducale or Palace of the Doges is the former residence of the Doges, and the former seat of power of the Republic. For centuries it was the only building in all of Venice that was allowed to carry the title of palace. Other buildings were called Ca
[…] : the shortened version of casa (house). The Palazzo contains several big offices, courtrooms, torture rooms, and cells. It was built in 814 as a gloomy fort. Just as the Basilica it was destroyed multiple times and rebuilt an equal amount of times. The current Palazzo dates from about the 14th century. De façades, mainly made out of pink marble, are a perfect example of the gothic architecture.
“The corners [of the south wing] are decorated with 14th-century sculptures, thought to be by Filippo Calendario (See Web Gallery of Art) and various Lombard artists such as Matteo Raverti and Antonio Bregno. The ground floor arcade and the loggia above are decorated with 14th- and 15th-century capitals (Wikipedia), some of which were replaced with copies during the 19th century.” Source: Wikipedia
The Bocca di Leone, or “Mouth of the Lion,” refers to a collection of small openings or slots in the exterior walls of the palace. It served as a means for citizens to submit secret reports, accusations, or complaints about illegal activities or individuals to the authorities. The openings were designed to ensure the anonymity of the informants, as they could drop their written messages into the mouth of the lion without being identified. The reports were then collected and examined by a special committee responsible for investigating the allegations.
“The main entrance of the Doge palace, to the right of the San Marco, is called the PORTA DELLA CARTA (The Door of the Paper), and it owes this name to an ancient tradition. In olden times, this is where documents and public announcements were posted to make them public. After the fall of the Republic, ‘writers’ would be posted below the portico, with a portable lectern, who, against payment, would act on behalf of the illiterate by writing petitions, applications, appeals, but also personal letters.”
Translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p. 228
“Flanked by Gothic pinnacles, with two figures of the Cardinal Virtues per side, the gateway is crowned by a bust of Mark the Evangelist over which rises a statue of Justice with her traditional symbols of sword and scales. In the space above the cornice, there is a sculptural portrait of the Doge Francesco Foscari kneeling before the Lion of Saint Mark. This is, however, a 19th-century work by Luigi Ferrari, created to replace the original destroyed in 1797.” Source: Wikipedia
‘Marriage of the Sea‘
To this ancient ceremony a quasi-sacramental character was given by Pope Alexander III in 1177, in return for the services rendered by Venice in the struggle against the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. The pope drew a ring from his finger and, giving it to the doge, bade him cast such a one into the sea each year on Ascension Day, and so wed the sea. Henceforth the ceremonial, instead of placatory and expiatory, became nuptial.
Every year the doge dropped a consecrated ring into the sea, and with the Latin words “Desponsamus te, mare, in signum veri perpetuique dominii” (“We wed thee, sea, as a sign of true and everlasting domination”) declared Venice and the sea to be indissolubly one.’ Source: Wikipedia
‘The north side of the courtyard is closed by the junction between the palace and St Mark’s Basilica, which used to be the Doge’s chapel. At the centre of the courtyard stand two well-heads dating from the mid-16th century.’ Source: Wikipedia
‘In 1485, the Great Council decided that a ceremonial staircase should be built within the courtyard. The design envisaged a straight axis with the rounded Foscari Arch, with alternate bands of Istrian stone and red Verona marble, linking the staircase to the Porta della Carta, and thus producing one single monumental approach from the Piazza into the heart of the building. Since 1567, the Giants’ Staircase is guarded by Sansovino’s two colossal statues of Mars and Neptune, which represents Venice’s power by land and by sea, and therefore the reason for its name. Members of the Senate gathered before government meetings in the Senator’s Courtyard, to the right of the Giants’ Staircase.’ Source: Wikipedia
“At the top of the staircase [Gigianti = Giants] lies the arch with the lion, between the statues of Mars (left) and Neptune (both on the pedestal signed by Jacopo Sansovino), a kind of terrace. That is where a newly elected doge was inaugurated. He would take the oath of office (containing a long list of promises and allegiances), and would receive the zoia or ducal cap from the senior adviser.” Translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p. 229
The Scala dei Censori leads the visitor on the other side of the courtyard inside. Inside we’ll take the Scala d’Oro (gold staircase) upstairs. This staircase was designed by Jacopo Sansovino in 1558 and derives its name from the plastered and gilded vault by Alessandro Vittoria.