The Prisons’ Palace

The Prisons’ Palace, situated in a very central position in the hearth of Venice historical center of Saint Mark's Square, is linked to the Doge’s Palace by the famous Bridge of Sighs.

The building was planned by the architect Antonio Da Ponte who, starting from 1589, resumed the construction begun by Giovanni Antonio Rusconi in 1563. The Prisons were then completed by Antonio and Tommaso Contino (Da Ponte’s nephew) around 1614. The Palace hosted one of the most ancient magistracies of the Venetian Republic "The Lords of Night at the Criminal": this important judicial organism consisted of six members representing the city's quarters and covering tasks of police and surveillance, as well as instructing processes.

Starting from the 18th century, the Prisons’ rooms were temporary used a as an infirmary for Doge’s Palace’s jails and for prisoners awaiting trial, just like Niccolò Tommaseo and Daniele Manin in 1848.

However in the following centuries, this historical building was used for many activities and functions of various kinds until 1922. From this date, by ministerial concession, the Palace became the Artistic Circle of Venice’s prestigious seat which was founded in 1919 and got started from a Vittorio Emanuele’s idea. For that reason in 1871 he constituted "the rescue work for poor and needful artists”. The Artistic Circle wanted to become a sort of cenobium for a few selected arts’ connoisseurs, who wished to gather on the style of the nineteenth-century “salotti”.