I’ve passed the Doge’s Palace many times in my Venice visits and finally went in for this first time today. This was where the elected head of the Venetian Republic (the Doge) lived and where the governing councils met. A kind of White House/Capitol Hill combo. It’s smaller, of course, but makes up for it with lavish decor.
Apparently, they wanted everyone to keep their eyes on heaven, or at least on the best approximation of it that large-scale paintings and several tons of gold leaf could manage.
They had a fire that required a complete interior do-over in the 1500s, and we see the result of that effort today. One goal was to impress upon foreign trade envoys that they were dealing with the World Leader in commerce and luxury.
I focused my camera upward mostly but the rooms themselves also had ornate marble fireplaces, richly-tiled floor mosaics, and extravagant wall treatments.
For the 1300-1500s, the Venetians were remarkably democratic (if you were from a patrician family) and had an orderly, elected succession of Doges. The paintings are primarily devoted to religious scenes and the city’s great achievements in trade and battle. Along with about 80 other painters, Titian, Tintoretto, and Bellini all got large commissions during the post-fire renovation.
And this is the Big One, the Great Council Room, one of the largest rooms in Europe in its day. The Doge would preside over a council of as many as 2,000 members (all from patrician families – common folk were not invited). He was also advised by two other lesser councils. The artwork and ceiling are just amazing!
I was going to take the tour of the basement prison and the “Bridge of Sighs” but at the last minute I noticed a small sign informing the public that the ceiling height was 2 meters (just about 6 feet) in many corridors. That sounded a bit claustrophobic to me, so I decided to just enjoy the bridge from outside.