It was no fun being held in the jails of Venice at the pleasure of the Doge of the Serenissima. and the visitor to Venice does not need much imagination during a tour of the Palazzo Ducale.
For starters, the Sala della Cancelleria was Venice’s most secretive location and the equivalent of the CIA or ex KGB archives.
The route also takes in the Sala del Tormento, infamously named for its purpose of gaining confessions prior to prisoners learning their fate, and the inside of the Ponte dei Sospiri bridge from where a small door to leads to the infamous ‘Pozzi’ prison.
Only one man ever escaped from the infamous prison. His name, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova on the night of 31st October 1756. Fortunately, for him he was held in the less rigid section for errant nobles called the Piombi, but he still had to break through the lead roof and fool the night watchmen.
Risking death by falling from the roof of the Palazzo Ducale, Casanova was mistaken for a reveller who had been locked into the palace following a function. He was let out by a side door and fled by gondola
It is hard to believe that a huge fire in 1577 destroyed a significant part of the building and many of the original treasures. Rebuilt to the splendour we see today, the rooms are unfortunately empty of furniture following Napoleon’s sack of the Republic’s treasures.
The walk inside Palazzo Ducale finishes at the top of the Scala dei Gigante. It was here the newly elected Doge would be presented to the crowd with the words ‘This is the Doge, if you like him’.
Look closely at the ten columns of the Palazzo Ducale and note that the final two are red not white. It was from here the Doge would witness public executions and where public orders were pinned.
Along the first floor portico of the Palazzo there is also a small ‘mouth of truth’ where notes were posted to inform the Serenissima about crimes and injustice. They had to be signed and accusations supported by two witnesses, but anonymous suggestions were never simply thrown away.
The gothic Venetian splendour of the Palace is set up by the two statues at the top of the staircase. They are the Giganti or Giants. Mars and Neptune, fittingly the Roman Gods of War and Sea.
But the Doges were only human and of all those who succeeded to the highest representation of State, perhaps Doge Corner had the most ignominious end of all. He died from a brain haemorrhage following an altercation with his son who wanted to keep chickens in the Palazzo Ducale for fresh eggs every morning.