Get out of Doge and the glass all empty
September 22, 2021
Our second but first, full day in Venice started with high hopes for a wonderful time. The vaporetto or water bus was quick and dropped us off right at San Marco, the large square that you always see in any movie with a Venice location. It is magnificent! The frescoes and sculptures that seem to adorn every building are far more striking in real life than on film. Getting to the plaza early avoided many of the crowds; however, the museums only open at either 10 or 11 am so any way you try it, you are going to wait in line. Buying the 4 museum ticket at The Corner Museum seemed a good bargain until we discovered that the 4 museums did not include the San Marco cathedral.
The Corner Museum is quite interesting in itself with artifacts from the city’s history where it dominated northern Italian culture and economic life. Inside its many rooms are the chronicles of the city-state’s rise to domination of the eastern Mediterranean. Maps and globes chart the known world and the heavens above emphasizing the region’s evolution into a dominate naval power. Elaborate frescoes cover the ceilings in a showy display of wealth and influence.
Around the corner from the plaza is the Doge’s palace. The Doge of Venice was a true merchant prince holding his position more through wealth and influence than through family lines. While some did inherit the office most ruled with the support of the most wealthy and elite citizens. The Doge was elected to his office through a tradition that lasted for over 1000 years. The first Doge was elected in 697 AD and the last ended his rule upon dying in 1797. Quite a stretch when you consider the longevity of other elected offices.
The Doge Museum features the vast rooms of what was a combination Doge’s palace, seat of government as well as a sizable prison. Within those vast rooms a nesting layer of governing councils, known as Senates met to debate the issues of the day and guide the ruling hand of the Doge. At times the power shifted from Doge to the senates but most of the time the power was shared hence the longevity of the Doge’s office. The one time a Doge attempted a coup d’etat he was removed, tried in the Senate and executed. His name was forever stricken from the record and his image blacked out in all murals.
Our visit to the Doge’s Palace brings me to my efforts to get out of Doge. As mentioned the prison is a vast labyrinth of passageways leading past cells and other highly secured rooms designed to hold everything from debtors to the the truly dangerous. You come to it near the end of your visit and there is a way to exit without going through it. Unfortunately, we decided to go through and even more unfortunately, a large group of students somehow appeared directly in front of us filling the narrow, frequently turning passageways and making a quick breeze through that section impossible. After 15 or 20 minutes of being the caboose to a long, slow moving train we finally emerged into the ever present bookshop at the end of the museum and the free fresh air of the palace courtyard.
At this point my travelling partner for day had seen enough and wanted to go back to the hotel. I decided to continue on to the Glass Museum on the nearby island of Murano. Venietian glass has a long history and is famous the world over. Their craftsman used carefully guarded processes to create some of the finest lenses in the world. The secrets of the glass makers were protected by the government and to even speak of those secrets could get you killed. So secret were some processes that the knowledge was nearly lost until modern day craftspeople reverse engineered it.
My history with the museum is quite short. After an hour long boat ride to the island and a walk through its many maze like streets I discovered that my glass would remain empty. The museum is closed on Wednesdays. Instead I had a shorter boat ride back to Venice a bit of walking and a fine dinner of pasta and fried squid topped off with some gelato. Along the way I entertained by a circle of dancing Jews.