The Bridge of Sighs

I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,
A palace and a prison on each hand.

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV. by Lord Byron

P1010832 View from Bridge of Sighs reduced
View from the Ponte dei Sospiri, the Bridge of Sighs towards the Ponte della Paglia with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. To the left, the New Prison, to the right, the Doge’s Palace.

I blush to admit it here but before I read City of Fortune, before I stood on the Bridge of Sighs myself, looking out at the view towards St Mark’s Basin, I used to be under the impression that the Bridge of Sighs in Venice had to do with sighing lovers, like some sort of a Juliette’s balcony. In fact, the Bridge of Sighs connects the Doge’s Palace to the new prisons on the other side of the canal and the sighing was done by the condemned men as they were led across the bridge, this being their last glimpse of the views of Venice.

P1020435 Bridge of Sighs and Pte d Paglia cropped reduced.jpg
The Bridge of Sighs beyond the Ponte della Paglia

The Doge’s Palace in Venice was more than the residence of the Doge; it was also the place where the affairs of the Venetian state were conducted, where foreign ambassadors were received, where the various councils and the senate met. So there are council chambers, antechambers, court chambers. And a prison. And torture chambers. If you entered the Doge’s Palace as an accused man, there was a fair chance that you never came out again. At least, not for a while.

P1010828 View from prison reduced.jpg
The Doge’s Palace as seen through the prison bars


2 thoughts on “The Bridge of Sighs

  1. Santiago

    Oh, what a sad and terrible vision. I didn’t know that. Next time I go there I will think about the destiny of all those who crossed the bridge and never returned. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 2 people

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