Fourteenth century Venice was ruled by a group of elite merchants, explains the Khan Academy. The main elected ruler was called the ‘doge’ and his residence was -- much like the White House in Washington -- “a private residence and also a place for official business.” The Doge’s palace is unquestionably “the finest secular building of its era in Europe and the central building of Venice,” says Rough Guide. Architecturally it is a unique mix of styles, its exterior “can only be called Islamicised Gothic, whereas the courtyards and much of the interior are based on classical forms.” It housed Venice’s governing councils, its law courts and prisons -- “all power in the Venetian Republic and its domains was controlled within this one building.”
Despite its golden staircase and lavishly painted rooms, recounts Weekend Notes, the doge’s power “was titular rather than active … a network of advisors kept him in this gilded prison.” Take a tour and visit the great council chamber, the Council of Ten’s secret headquarters, the damp, dark prisons and the Shield Room, covered with world maps that reveal the extent of Venetian power.
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