Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Bridge of Sighs, Prison and Doge's Palace

We all saw the tall campanile in St. Marks Square as our cruse ship entered Venice. But this photo is not from the ship.  Shirley caught this incredible photo from the bell tower on San Giorgio Maggiore, across the Grand Canal.

That large building with all the arches is Doge's Palace. Look closely on the right side of Doge's and you can see part of the Bridge of Sighs.                                                                                    

It is thru the Doge's Palace that one gains access to the Bridge of Sighs, which is the taller enclosed bridge attached to palace and the prison across the canal.  This picture was taken so early in the morning from the cruise ship that there is not a single soul on the plaza in front or the bridge (Ponte della Paglia).

When you get your ticket for Doge's Palace your passage over the bridge to the prison and back is part of the deal.

This is the famous Bridge of Sighs. There are two separate corridors that run next to each other in the bridge. Look closely at the two windows on the bridge... they are masonry blocks with a geometric pattern. Makes taking photos a bit of a challenge... or you may say an opportunity!

From this opening in the blocks on the Bridge of Sighs we can see the Paglia Bridge along the Grand Canal, busy with tourists today... and across the canal to the little island San Giorgio Maggiore with the inflatable statute of Mark Quinn and the tall campanile . To see the whole story on Quinn's purple lady go to my blog post on June 30... click here.  That campanile is where Shirley took that great first photo in this blog.

The famous name of the Bridge of Sighs dates from the Romantic Period and refers to the sighs of prisoners, who on their way from the courtroom to the cell where they would serve their sentence, took a last look at freedom... catching a glimpse of San Giorgio and the lagoon thru the small windows.

Earlier in the palace I opened a window to get an unobstructed photo of the bell tower and basilica on San Giorgio Maggiore... and got caught by a guard who gave me hell in Italian. But it was worth it. I captured a great shot. Two days later we were on top of that bell tower looking back at the Doge's Palace.

We walked thru what seemed like miles of corridor... and there were prison cells on both sides of the Bridge of Sighs.  It wasn't miles... it just seemed like it since I really needed to find bathroom! That isn't funny.

Narrow hallways, low doors and small cells.  This is not Four Seasons accommodation... in fact these prisoners didn't even get one season!

Not very many cells have any window... let alone this huge one.  Shirley's arm taking a photo helps with the scale.  It was maybe a little over two feet square.

On the other side of the corridor in the bridge we look up the canal... full of activity.  Can you imagine the anticipation of the prisoners coming out.  This may have been their first glimpse of the outside world.

Signs and guards through out the palace constantly reminded us not to take photos... but I took some anyway.  No flash.  We like to take photos of floors.  We loved the pattern of this one.  Glad we weren't doing this design in our late night tile laying caper!

Some of the details in the ceilings were quite spectacular.  And of course there was more art on the walls than my feeble brain could comprehend.

This is called the "Lions Mouth" postbox for anonymous denunciations at Doge's Palace.  The mayor of the city lived in this palace.  The mouth is a mail slot in which people could give the mayor secret denunciations against anyone who concealed favours or did not pay for services rendered.  Now there is a novel idea for a "Suggestion Box."

There were rows of columns, each one with different details and figures on the top.

This upper veranda was absolutely huge.  Shirley was in awe!

Looking out from this deck provided an interesting shot.

I loved the effect of the pattern looking out on the sky and the library across the square.  This four leaf clover pattern is found on several buildings in Venice and no place else in the world... except Las Vegas.

From that Doge's veranda we had a great view of the library and St. Theodore on the western column.

The former patron Saint Theodore was later replaced by Mark.  Rick Steeves said, "I guess stabbing crocodiles in the back isn't classy enough for an upwardly mobile world power."

Criminals were executed by being hung from this column in the hopes that the public could learn its lessons vicariously.

The original Campanile was a lighthouse and stood for ten centuries until it toppled over into the centre of the square in 1902.

It was rebuilt ten years later complete with its golden angel on top, facing into the breeze.  You can ride a lift to the top... but there was not enough time for us to do it.

The population of Venice is about 60,000.  They estimate that every year 25 million visitors come here... that works out to almost 70,000 people a day, assuming they stayed only one day.

Reality is that most people stay an average of 3 or 4 days.  That makes the actual count of visitors on any given day might be more like 250,000.

We were there in high season, which might double the above count.

If we go back for another visit, we would try to go in low season.

"I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs, 
a palace and a prison on each hand. 
I saw, from out the wave, her structures rise, 
as from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand. 
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand 
around me, and a dying glory smiles 
o’er the far times, when many a subject land 
looked to the Winged Lion’s marble piles, 
where Venice sat in state, throned on her hundred isles!" 

- from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Sigh.


  1. Low season! Now you're talking. I'm with you on that.

  2. It's a trade off between fewer people and colder weather.