One of the premier symbols of Venice:
Although the office of the Doge of Venice was created in the seventh century, it was not until the 9th century that the first ducal palace was built. This old palace was destroyed by a series of fire.
The existing Palazzo Ducale, located at one end of the Piazza San Marco, forms part of the impressive architecture in the heart of Venice. It gained its present form between 1340 and 1420 and was further extended and renovated by subsequent doges.
In creating the pink Verona marble facade on top of the lace-like stone arcades the designers had broken with architectural tradition. The lower section of columns gives an unusually light and airy effect, since it supports the more solid-looking upper floors. This ‘reverse’ design wouldn’t become common in architecture for hundreds of years. It shows once again that Venice was centuries ahead of other cities in many ways.
The building’s high walls of white limestone and pink marble provide background for the many colors laid on in the decorations. The carefully crafted loggias, the crenellated roof and the magnificent balconies all define late-Gothic Venetian architecture.
There are 36 capitals on the lower colonnade that are festooned with carvings. The animals and flowers represent some of the finest stone work in Europe. Amongst the many sculptures are those depicting Adam and Eve, Noah, the Archangel Gabriel and many other religious figures.
The result is not just a boring government building, but a magnificent work of architecture that also houses some of the world’s finest art.
For more than a thousand years, the Doge’s Palace was the heart and symbol of political life and public administration within the Venetian Republic. So, when that Republic fell in 1797, its role inevitably changed. The Palace was used by various administrative offices as well as housing the Biblioteca Marciana (from 1811 to 1904) and other important cultural institutions within the city.
By the end of the nineteenth century the building was showing clear signs of decay, and an extensive restoration was embarked upon by the Italian government at a great expense.
Despite fires, earthquakes, damage from Napoleon’s war machine and much more, the Doge’s Palace stands today as one of the premier symbols of this amazing city.
Since 1996 the Doge’s Palace has been part of the network of museums that comes under the management of the Venice Museum Authority.