Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 9: Venice, Part 4

July 1, 2021


Palazzo Ducale

 Palazzo Ducale was constructed in the 9th century as the seat of government (joint offices) for the Doge of the Republic of Venice.

It has undergone several fires, and the current building dates back to the 15th century.

It is a colossal example of Venetian Gothic architecture, symbolizing the extraordinary wealth and power of the Venetian Republic.

The Gothic period, from the late 12th to the 15th century, is characterized by expansive and heavily decorated architecture.

The exterior of Palazzo Ducale is rich with exotic elements, such as Byzantine-style lavish arches, delicate decorations on small spires, and pink and white marble with diamond patterns on the walls.

The interior houses numerous council rooms and assembly halls adorned with magnificent paintings by artists like Tintoretto and Veronese.

Essentially, it is a colossal art gallery.

In every room, gilded stucco and splendid paintings symbolize the wealth of the Venetian Republic.

Particularly noteworthy are Tintoretto's "Venetian Glory" on the ceiling of the "Chamber of the Senators" and Veronese's 11 panel paintings on the ceiling of the "Audience Chamber".


The title Doge, meaning leader, refers to the head of state in Italian.

Doges were the leaders of maritime republics such as Venice, Genoa, and Pisa.

The origin of "doge" comes from the Latin word "dux", which also gave rise to the Italian word "duca" and the English word "duke."

The term "Palazzo" translates to "Palace" in English, so Palazzo Ducale means "Doge's Palace".

Besides Venice, there are Palazzo Ducale buildings across Europe, as there are many dukes apart from those in Venice.

The Doge of the Venetian Republic wore a distinctive hat called the "Corno Ducale" (Ducal Horn), which had a horn-shaped projection at the back.

The Italian word "corno" means "horn", and in Latin and English, it's "cornu".

In anatomy, parts of the body with protruding shapes are also called "cornu" (e.g., uterine cornu, sacral cornu, etc.).

 In European who know Greek mythology, the word "cornu" or "corno" evoked the horns of the goat that Zeus, the almighty god, suckled as an infant.

Therefore, horns symbolized fertility, power, and courage, believed to grant blessings of abundance to those who wanted for them.

In essence, the "Ducal Horn" was a prop used to flaunt the Doge's wealth and power.

Furthermore, in English, when "duke" becomes plural, "dukes", it can also mean fists or knuckles.

It seems that both in the past and present, dignitaries raise their fists while giving speeches.