The Doge’s Palace (Doge = Duke) in Piazza San Marco is always on the list of “must see” sites in Venice. The oldest parts of the palace were constructed in the fourteenth century. Many of the original sculptures and capitals have been moved to the palace museum and replaced by copies.
The palace was damaged by fire several times and rebuilt. For a detailed history of the building itself, see the Wikipedia article. These photos show the exterior of the palace, but I wasn’t able to go all the way around the building (at least not without a gondola…). The palace is quite extensive, so allow plenty of time to wander around.
The first photo was taken at the top of the Giants’ Staircase. The colossal statues, which give the staircase its name, are Mars and Neptune, representing Venice’s power by land and sea. They were carved by Jacopo Sansovino, who carved many of the sculptures of St. Mark’s basilica, in 1567.
The Giants’ Staircase was also the site where the Doge was crowned. If you look closely in the next photo, you’ll see that even the steps are carved.
The next photo shows the staircase against the background of the palace, which rises two stories above the loggia behind the staircase. The palace is a magnificent example of Venetian Gothic architecture.
The next photo looks directly into the Porta della Carta, originally the official entrance of the palace. The tunnel leads to St. Mark’s basilica, which appears in the upper right corner of the photo. I noticed that a lot of Italian cathedrals (Siena cathedral, for example) have magnificent coloured marble facades on their “public” sides. The sides facing other buildings are often plain red brick.
View into the courtyard of the Doge’s palace. The two round objects are cisterns.
Giants’ Staircase viewed from the side:
Courtyard of the Doge’s palace, with the dome of St. Mark’s basilica visible over the clock tower.
The clock tower (1615) is on the Secret Itinerary tour.
Courtyard surrounded by two-storey loggia:
I don’t know who this woman is. I just included her for scale. She is looking out of one of the elaborately decorated windows on the storey above the loggia.
Queen carved on a fourteenth-century capital. Probably a reproduction.
The next photo shows the Porta della Carta from the Piazza San Marco side, i.e., at the other end of the tunnel. In the carving above the lintel, Doge Francesco Foscari kneels before the winged lion, symbol of St. Mark and of Venice. The carving is a nineteenth century work by Luigi Ferrrari, to replace the original, which was destroyed in 1797. St. Mark stands above the entrance on the Gothic pinnacle. I took the next three photos from the walkway on the outside of St. Mark’s Basilica.
“Judgement of Solomon,” carved by Giovanni Bon and his son, Bartolomeo Bon, on the northwest portico beside the Porte della Carta:
Detail of angel on the upper story of the portico:
The Doge’s Palace was not only a private residence; it also housed courtrooms and prisons and torture chambers. (The torture chambers are not open to the general public. You have to book the Secret Itinerary tour.) We did go over the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), through the passage facing away from the lagoon.
The Bridge of Sighs, built in 1602, was named during the Romantic Period after the sighs of prisoners who were taken from the Doge’s courtrooms to the prisons on the other side of the canal. There are actually two passages over the bridge. I took this photo from a bridge over the canal.