The Doge's Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale di Venezia) is a gothic palace in Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice.
Its two most visible façades look towards the Venetian Lagoon and St Mark's Square, or rather the Piazzetta. The use of arcading in the lower stories produces an interesting "gravity-defying" effect. There is also effective use of colour contrasts.
The current palace was largely constructed from 1309 to 1324, designed perhaps by Filippo Calendario. It replaced earlier fortified buildings of which relatively little is known. Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon created the Porta della Carta in 1442, a monumental late-gothic gate on the Piazzetta side of the palace. This gate leads to a central courtyard.
The palace was badly damaged by a fire on December 20, 1577. In the subsequent rebuilding work it was decided to respect the original Gothic style, despite the submission of a neo-classical alternative design by the influential Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. However, there are some classical features — for example, 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. Venice was ruled by an aristocratic elite, but there was a facility for citizens to submit written complaints at what was known as the Bussola chamber.
In addition, referring to this building as the "Doge's Palace" is slightly misleading. The palazzo's principal function was to provide a space for the government to carry out its civic responsibilities to its people. The doge did, in fact, reside in the palazzo, however, he held no real power over the city and was merely a figurehead for the Republic.
The building is preserved as a museum. Inside, visitors can see paintings by Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese, which glorify the Venetian state.
The Old Prisons
The court and the prisons were originally in the Doge's Palace. Prison cells were in the Pozzi (the wells) and in the Piombi (the leads). Cells in the Pozzi which were crowded, stuffy, and infested with insects. Cells in the Piombi, directly under the palace's conductive lead roof, were very hot in summer and very cold in winter.
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