We started out at ten o’clock and visited the Doges Palace. It is said to have been founded in 814 for the First Doge (or President) of Venice. It has been repeatedly altered and rebuilt.
The gothic exterior, lined with small slabs of colored marble, had two pointed arcades of 107 columns, one above the other. The upper arcade is remarkably rich in execution. From here, the Republic caused its sentences of death to be proclaimed. On the corner are sometimes groups of sculpture, Adam and Eve (obedience), Solomon’s judgment (justice) and Noah’s fall (temperance). The large portal built in 1438 has some fine reliefs and statues. In the magnificent court are two wells in bronze made in 1559.
We ascended the Giants Stair Case, at the top of which are the colossal statues of Mars and Neptune. On the highest landing of these steps, the Doges were crowned. In the court below us, we saw fragments of statues and ornaments from the Campanil, which are stored here to be replaced as soon as the new structure is ready for them.
We ascended the Golden stairs, once accessible to those only whose names were entered as “Nobili” in the Golden Book. From here we entered the apartments in which the Authorities of the Republic held their meetings and which retain much of their ancient splendors. In the Saladel Collegio, the ceiling is covered with beautiful paintings by P. Veronese, set into deep gold frames. The side walls have large paintings by famed old masters, and it would take too long to mention them, even the most celebrated ones.
From the window of the Ante Chamber to the Senate Room, we had a fine view of the tile-covered roofs of the Houses with the grand domes, steeples and cupolas of the churches in the background. In the paintings are shown many of the Doges in various attitudes to the Savior, such as being presented to Him by S. Marc, etc.
We next visit the Ante Room and the Chapel of the Senate and next the Room of the Counsel of Ten—here is a secret door which led to the Bridge of Sighs and the dungeons. In the ante chamber of the three Inquisitors of the Republic, we saw an opening with two sets of doors and separate locks behind which there is a box into which denunciations were thrown from the outside and which doors could only be opened by the three Inquisitors and the three heads of the Senate together. In this room is another secret door which leads to the Torture Room.
In the Room of the Great Council, we saw Jax Tintoretto’s “Paradise,” the largest oil painting in the world it is 71’ by 23’ and has a bewildering multitude of figures with some very fine heads. On the frieze are the portraits of 76 Doges, with a black space for one of them who tried to betray the Republic and was beheaded. We saw the old ballot box which was used by the Senate.
Passing through the Archaeological Museum Rooms in which the Doges formerly resided, we descended the staircase, and we crossed the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the palace with the prison. The prison is still in use while the notorious Riombi, or prisons under the leaded roof of the palace, were destroyed in 1797. We descended from the bridge to the Pozzi, a series of gloomy dungeons with a torture chamber and the place of execution for political criminals. In the latter there is a door opening on to a side canal through which the bodies were put into a gondola and given to the friends or dropped into the sea.
In the afternoon we went to the S. Maria della Salute, a spacious dome-covered church. It lies at the east extremity of the Grand Canal. It is overloaded with sculptural decorations on the outside and was erected in 1630 in commemoration of the plague. There are some fine pictures of Titian here, among them, “The Descent of the Holy Ghost.” The monolithic columns supporting the vaulting of the Choir were taken from a Roman Temple in Istria. In the Sacristy are some more fine paintings by Titian “St. Mark and Four Other Saints,” in fine coloring and good heads. Also “Cain and Abel,” “Abraham and Isaac,” “David and Goliath,” which are on the ceiling, show the master hand of this great painter. We took a gondola this afternoon and, as we were rather tired of sightseeing, we just took in the old buildings, narrow canals, pretty views, and the girls went into a mosaic factory. Home in good time for dinner and early to bed after enjoying a little motion song given by four orphans which Mr. Conte has in his charge.