The ground floor is organized around the central courtyard and houses the headquarters of the Museo dell’Opera, located between the southern and western façades; is surrounded by a portico both on two sides of the external wall and along the entire internal perimeter; connects to the superior through the Scala dei Censori and the Scala dei Giganti.
On the ground floor there is the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, double height, surrounded by a portico, whose location is known to us as documents of the period testify that it was communicating with the court and which were flanked by other smaller rooms, among which the chapel of San Niccolò, facing the canal
The Opera Museum is located on the ground floor of the building. The Opera was in the past a sort of technical office responsible for the maintenance of the building and the management of the countless interventions of reform and restructuring suffered and kept documents and traces of its activity. The capitals of the Museo dell’Opera are a precious and important part of the apparatus of sculptures and reliefs that enrich the medieval facades of Palazzo Ducale. In particular, in 1875, during an important restructuring plan, as many as 42 capitals were removed and replaced with copies: the originals, carefully restored, were placed in the museum. The importance of the capitals lies in the fact that these not only constituted an exceptional work of art, but also transmitted historical, moral and political teachings, which however today are difficult to interpret. The current layout is developed in six rooms.
Plan of the Lodges
At the top of the Scala dei Giganti is the vast system of loggias, which, surrounding the building from inside and outside and preserving part of the original fortress, support the imposing structure above giving the typical sense of the Palazzo Ducale of overturning, with the solid closed part above and the airy and light one below.
On this floor there were a series of smaller rooms for the administration and services of the building, as well as the Cancellale Ducale Inferiore (now bookshop) and the museum library.
On the wall are set several mouths of lion in which, since the end of the sixteenth century, could be introduced complaints of crimes or embezzlement. Once entered in the slot, the ticket ended up in the wooden box that opened on the other side of the wall, in correspondence of the office to which the complaint was addressed.
Also on this floor two important environments were located.
The Sala dello Scrigno, in which the Golden Book was placed, in which all the names of the Venetian patricians were registered, and the Libro d’Argento, in which the families of the Originarii were listed, that is to say the full Venetian citizens, the doors of the administration were open, all accompanied by documents capable of proving the regularity of these inscriptions. These two documents were kept in a casket, kept inside a wardrobe, eponymous of this place. The current one dates back to the eighteenth century, and is decorated with the colors of white and gold. This place is decorated with numerous portraits of avogadori, made by Alessandro Longhi, Pietro Ubertiand Vincenzo Guarana and communicates with Avogadria and with the Sala della Milizia da Mar.
The Sala della Milizia da Mar; this organ, made up of about twenty members of the Senate and the Major Council, was established in the middle of the 16th century and had the task of recruiting crews for war galleys of the powerful Venetian fleet. The dossals date back to the sixteenth century, while the torches are two centuries later. This environment, communicating with the Chancellery, with the Sala della Bolla and with the Sala dello Scrigno, overlooks the Rio di Palazzo.
The judicial environments of the loggia floor
Also on the level of the loggias are the rooms destined for administrative justice: the judicial offices were in fact a vertical system gathered in the corner between the wing of the pier and that of the Palazzo rio and developed over the entire height of the building, connecting to each other through stairs and passages. In the loggias they found a place.
The Halls of the Censors and Notaries, intended for magistrates charged with maintaining morale and suppressing corruption in the administration of the state while not forming a judicial body. These two, communicating, are located between the Scala dei censori and the Scala d’Oro and are facing the Rio di Palazzo. The paintings by Domenico Tintoretto, Leandro Da Ponte and Tiberio Tinelli portray some magistrates and, below, the coats of arms of those who held this office.
The Sala dell ‘ Avogaria de Comùn housed an ancient magistrature formed by three members elected by the Maggior Consiglio who were responsible for maintaining constitutional legality. Another task of this magistracy was to watch over the purity of the patrician component, judging the legitimacy of marriages and births related to the families enrolled in the Golden Book. Among the portraits of Avogadori, many of them in adoration before the Virgin, the saints or Christ, there are works by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto.
These spaces led to the Bridge of Sighs, which, bypassing the Rio di Palazzo, connected the Palazzo to the building of the New Prisons.
The Loggia floor
The Chamber of Censors. The State Censors were set up in 1517 by Marco Giovanni di Giovanni, a cousin of Doge Andrea Gritti (1523-1538) and nephew of the great Francesco Foscari. The title and duties of the Censors resulted from the cultural and political upheavals that are associated with Humanism. In fact, the Censors were not judges as such, but more like moral consultants, being their main task the repression of electoral fraud and the protection of the State’s public institutions. On the walls hang a number of Domenico Tintoretto’s portraits of these magistrates, and below the armorial bearings of some of those who held the position.
The Chamber of the State Advocacies. This particular State Advocacy department dates from the time when Venice was a commune (12th century). The 3 members, the Avogadori, were the figures who safeguarded the very principle of legality, making sure that the laws were applied correctly. Though they never enjoyed the status and power of the Doge and the Council of Ten, the Avogadori remained one of the most prestigious authorities in Venice right up to the fall of the Republic. They were also responsible for preserving the integrity of the city’s patrician class, verifying the legitimacy of marriages and births inscribed in the Golden Book. The room is decorated with paintings representing some of the Avogadori venerating the Virgin, the Christ and various saints.
The “Scrigno” Room. The Venetian nobility as a caste came into existence because of the “closure” of admissions to the Great Council in 1297; however, it was only in the 16th century that formal measures were taken to introduce restrictions that protected the status of that aristocracy: marriages between nobles and commoners were forbidden and greater controls were set up to check the validity of aristocratic titles. There was also a Silver Book, which registered all those families that not only had the requisites of “civilization” and “honor”, but could also show that they were of ancient Venetian origin; such families furnished the manpower for the State bureaucracy – and particularly, the chancellery within the Doge’s Palace itself. The Golden and Silver Books were kept in a chest in this room, inside a cupboard that also contained all the documents proving the legitimacy of claims to be inscribed therein. The cupboard which one sees here nowadays extends around three sides of a wall niche; lacquered in white with gilded decorations, it dates from the 18th century.
The Chamber of the Navy Captains. Made up of 20 members from the Senate and the Great Council, the Milizia da Mar, first set up in the mid 16th century, was responsible for recruiting crews necessary for Venice’s war galleys. Contrary to what one might expect, the bulk of these crews were made up of paid oarsman drawn from the Venetian manufacturing industries. Another similar body, entitled the Provveditori all’Armar, was responsible for the actual fitting and supplying of the fleet. The furnishings are from the 16th century, while the wall torches date from the 18th century. The next room, now the bookshop, used to house the Lower Chancellery of the Doge’s Palace.
Palazzo Ducale di Venezia
The Doge’s Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale) is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice in northern Italy. 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 one of the 11 museums run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.
The history of the Doge ‘s Palace in Venice begins in the Middle Ages and continues with numerous extensions, renovations and demolitions aimed at adapting the building to the new needs of the city and in particular the need to give a seat to those governing bodies that, by increasing their number, they began to support the doge in the administration, depriving him of some powers and decreasing the spaces at his disposal.
In 810, after Venice had become the capital of the Serenissima taking the place of Heraclea and Metamaucum, the seat of the doge was built there, probably in the form of a fortified and turreted building, soon flanked by a basilica.
The complex remained essentially unchanged in its appearance until the twelfth century, when, with the dogato of Sebastiano Ziani, an era was inaugurated characterized by numerous renovations, which involved all three wings. In the southern, western and eastern wings the works started before 1340, 1424 and 1483 respectively, in the latter case as a result of a fire which would be followed by two others, which would have led to the destruction of many works of art, promptly replaced thanks to the work of the main Venetian masters. Built the New Prisons and renovated the ground floor between the 16th and 17th centuries, the Palazzo was no longer the subject of important works, but rather the victim of damage that led to the removal of numerous works of art.
With the annexation of Venice to the Kingdom of Italy, the building passed under the jurisdiction of the latter and became a museum, a function that continues to perform by hosting the headquarters of the Civic Museum of Palazzo Ducale, part of the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice (MUVE) and in 2012 visited by 1 319 527 people.