Everyone has a certain image of Venice. Even those who never visited the city still have a certain picture in mind, not necessary a realistic picture, but still something that represents what most fascinates us about Venice. And we bet that among those images there is a Gothic palace.
Why the city of Venice is so connected with Gothic? To what do we owe this fruitful and fortunate relationship? How did Gothic become so symbolic for Venice?
Let us start by saying that Gothic in Venice is best represented by Doge’s Palace, it is a style of power, symbolising centuries of conquests and prime marine importance.
After a disastrous fire of 1577, Doge’s Palace had to be rebuilt, and Venetians wanted the new Palace to look exactly like the one they lost, with its Gothic façade.
Gothic is fascinating – it’s not a strictly defined style, but rather it adapts and merges with local traditions in complete harmony, creating new unexpected results.
When Gothic started to first appear, Venice was an Eastern Byzantine city. Almost as if a piece of Middle-East was ripped out and transported to the Adriatic. Thanks to the gradual passage from Byzantine to Gothic, the city has inherited an abundance of forms, daring decorations and levantine façades.
Gothic arches with pointed ends are shaped by an oriental curve, and the light reflected from water bounces off the Istrian stone frames.
In the years between the end of 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries Venice goes through construction of what at the time was considered the most beautiful piece of architecture ever built. The magnificent house of Marco Contarini da San Felice, the Ca’d’Oro Palace or the Golden House.
The name of the palace derives from when it was originally built, the façade used to have golden decorations, which got destroyed by time and weather. However what really confirms the social status of the powerful family Contarini is definitely the internal court pavements. 350 squared meters of precious marbles, imported from all over the world, depicting complex geometric forms.
In the same period of time Doge Francesco Foscari buys a palace on the Grand Canal that used to belong to Gianfrancesco Gonzaga and Francesco Sforza, demolishes it, and builds instead one of the most imposing Gothic palaces of Venice – Ca’Foscari Palace.
Ca’Foscari, stands for Casa Foscari or the house of Foscari family; technically it is a private residence. However it also was one of the ways for the Republic of Venice to show off its magnificence and wealth to foreign guests. Important visitors, such as monarchs of other countries, would stay in Ca’Foscari. The palace is standing on the central curve of the Grand Canal and has a spectacular view.
Beautiful entrance doors of important noble residences were considered a prestigious element. A lot of them would be decorated with precious marbles, which recalls byzantine past.
Soranzo Van Axel Palace is situated in the Santa Maria dei Miracoli area, and its Gothic entrance portal is decorated with round green marbles and family’s coat-of-arms. Van Axel were originally from Holland, but became part of Venetian nobility in 1665.
Definitely one of the most famous Gothic palaces in Venice is the Palazzo Dandolo on Riva degli Schiavoni. This palace was originally built for one of the oldest noble families, the Dandolo family. Most famous for the Doge Enrico Dandolo, who conquered Constantinople in 1204. In 1822 the palace has become Hotel Danieli, and what makes it famous today is extravagant moorish interior used often in photoshoots and films.
But that is another story for another time, which La Bussola Team will gladly write about in future!