The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most emblematic structures to be discovered in the fascinating city of Venice. Visitors from all over the world get captivated by its beauty, rich history and legends. Let's discover this Venetian wonder!
The construction of the Bridge of Sighs
In Rio de la Canonica, the canal which separates the Doge's Palace from the New Prison, it is situated The Bridge of Sighs, or as it is known in Italian “Ponte Dei Sospiri”. It was built in 1602 by Antonio da Ponte, the same architect who built the Rialto Bridge. The materials used for its construction are marble and white Istrian stone. Unlike other famous bridges in the world, this one presents the particular characteristic of being completely closed since it had to prevent prisoners to escape. The only two openings are the stone mesh windows on each of the walls of the bridge.
The exterior walls of the bridge are decorated by a bas-relief representing Justice and the coat of arms of the Doge Marino. Meanwhile, the interior is a prison corridor separated by a division on its center, which forms a double corridor that allowed prisoners to enter and exit without being able to see or speak to each other. This bridge was used as a channel to take prisioners who had to go to the court, to the torture room or to their dungeons. The cells were usually located in the basement or under the roofs. Basement cells were also called “the wells” because of its humidity. The cells located under the roofs, instead, were called “pellets” because they were literally suffocating due to the heat.
The meaning of the name “Ponte dei Sospiri”
Its name makes an allusion to the sigh of prisoners seeing Venice for the last time through one of the bridge's windows. That ultimate feeling of freedom before ending their life in prison. There are other bridges around the world that share the same name, some of them can be found in the cities of Oxford and Cambridge in England, Stockolm in Sweden and Frankfurt in Germany.
The new prison of Venice
The new prison was built in 1580 to replace the old cells of the Ducal Palace. The new Venetian prison is connected with the Doges Palace by the Bridge of Sighs and it is organized on three floors around the courtyard. The famous Casanova was confined in this prison in 1775 when he was accused of espionage. He stayed there for six years until he managed to escape with the help of another prisoner, Father Balbi, by making a hole in the ceiling of the cell.
Visit to the Bridge of Sighs
The exterior of the Bridge of Sighs can be admired from the bridge that overlooks the Rio de la Canonica, on the Riva Deli Sciavoni. Another option to have a closer look is to go underneath during a gondola ride. Finally, you can visit it as part of a tour of the Doge's Palace and the New Prison.
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