The Venetian Gothic Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, opening as a museum in 1923. Today, it is a museum.
In 810, Doge Angelo Partecipazio moved the seat of government from the island of Malamocco to the area of the present-day Rialto. However, no trace remains of that 9th-century building as the palace was partially destroyed in the 10th century by a fire. The following reconstruction works were undertaken at the behest of Doge Sebastiano Ziani (1172–1178). The new palace was built out of fortresses, one façade to the Piazzetta, the other overlooking the St. Mark's Basin. Although only few traces remain of that palace, some Byzantine-Venetian architecture characteristics can still be seen at the ground floor.
Political changes in the mid-13th century led to the need to re-think the palace's structure due to the considerable increase in the number of the Great Council's members. The new Gothic palace's constructions started around 1340, focusing mostly on the side of the building facing the lagoon. Only in 1424, did Doge Francesco Foscari decide to extend the rebuilding works to the wing overlooking the Piazzetta, serving as law-courts, and with a ground floor arcade on the outside, open first floor loggias running along the façade, and the internal courtyard side of the wing, completed with the construction of the Porta della Carta (1442).
The next reconstructions were made after a fire in 1483, 1547 and 1577. In the subsequent rebuilding work it was decided to respect the original Gothic style, despite the submission of a neo-classical alternative designs by the influential Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.
Since 1996, the Doge’s Palace has been part of the Venetian museums network.
The north side of the courtyard is closed by the junction between the palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, which used to be the Doge’s chapel. At the center of the courtyard stand two well-heads dating from the mid-16th century.
In 1485, the Great Council decided that a ceremonial staircase should be built within the courtyard. The design envisaged a straight axis with the rounded Foscari Arch, with alternate bands of Istrian stone and red Verona marble, linking the staircase to the Porta della Carta, and thus producing one single monumental approach from the Piazza into the heart of the building. Since 1567, the Giants’ Staircase is guarded by Sansovino’s two colossal statues of Mars and Neptune, which represents Venice’s power by land and by sea, and therefore the reason for its name.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.