Palazzo Ducale

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Palazzo Ducale

Post by Serenissima » 18:57:55 Monday, 18 April, 2016


As your boat bobs along the water on the morning after your arrival - rowed by a swarthy, though well-dressed, gondolier dressed in the servants' uniform of one of the great noble merchant houses - crossing the Lagoon from your foreigner's lodging-house on the sandy Lido, the clouds part and the daystar lights up a grand sight before you, turning the unusual, rich blue waters of Venezia into a golden path. And indeed, that is what the sea always has been, for the curious people who dwell in this place marry it as a bride, at once their protection and the source of their immense wealth.

Ahead of you, as you squint and raise your eyes, you finally see Venezia itself - a great city, rising out of the sea itself like nothing you have ever seen before. There are hundreds of other islands, true, some fortified with solid brick, others isolated and bearing calm churches with the sounds of chanting monks drifting across the water. Others still have palatial family mansions atop them, surrounded by elegant gardens, built with towers for the observation of the tide and the hundreds of ships which cross this threshold between the sea and the land every day. But truly, nothing can compare to the Rialto's marble, brick and stone, sitting just above the water as if they had floated there forever.

Mesmerised by the sight ahead of you - the docked ships, the shouts of traders selling their wares, the bustle of well-dressed individuals around the Campo San Marco doing the business of the state and their own interests, the grand guild-halls and mercantile collegia imposing their wealth over their surrounds, rather than merely flaunting it ostentatiously, the Populari grassi, self-made men, displaying wealth that commoners elsewhere can only dream of and contorting themselves on the same level as kings of other countries - you hardly notice when the boatman brings his little comfortable vessel up to the dock. You have arrived at the Palazzo Ducale, the centre of the Most Serene Republic's power. Hurriedly, you press a low-value coin into the gondolier's hand as you climb out, the pikemen guarding the door opening it for you. After all, you are expected.

Ushered inside this century-old building, the fusion of Byzantine and Italian designs is at once apparent - even the great Basilica, the private chapel of the Republic, beside this palace, would look as much at home in Constantinople as it would in any part of Italy. The wealth and sophistication of the East has rubbed off here, and you are far from dreary, cold stone of the rest of Europe as can be. Which is not to say the Venetians are immune to criticism - their tolerance of Jews, their open trade with heathens, and their dedication to the principle of adhering to deals made, even in defiance of certain Christian moral conventions. But at the same time, it cannot be denied that their ways are successful in making theirs the most prosperous city in Europe. Finally, after several flights of stairs, you enter a well-lit chamber with an aged figure sat upon a carved throne, surrounded by several smaller seats and stools for different seniorities of advisors.

You are in the presence of the Most Serene Doge and his council. Speak, and be heard.
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