THE GIANTS’ STAIRCASE
The Scala dei Giganti (the Giants’ Staircase) is located in the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace in Venice and it connects the ground floor to the internal loggia on the first floor.
Despite the richness, the elegance and the refinement of its structure, the expectations raised by its pompous name don’t correspond to reality. You will discover the staircase is not so gigantic! After this first impression, though, you cannot but be admired by this construction on the top of which are the two imposing statues from which it takes its name.
The Giants’ Staircase was built in the late fifteenth century following the designs of Antonio Rizzo. The marble works are by Antonio Bregno and Domenico and Bernardino of Mantua.
The two colossal statues are by Jacopo Sansovino, carved in 1554 and placed here in 1566. They represent Mars, the God of War, and Neptune, the God of Sea, which were the patrons of the aristocracy and of the merchants of the Republic of Venice.
The coronation of the Doge, who finally entered the Doge’s Palace, took place right on top of the Giants’ Staircase. The ceremony included a solemn mass in St. Mark’s church and a tour of St. Mark’s Square upon the shoulders of the Arsenalotti – the workers of the Arsenal. From that moment on, the Doge became de facto prisoner of his status: he was surrounded by the royal luxury but he was continuously watched and his every move was monitored.
It is said that the two statues were specifically made so colossal with the purpose of belittling the figure of the Doge during the coronation ceremony, just to remind to everyone that the title of head of the Venetian Republic did not bestow upon him greater powers than other citizens.
The staircase is therefore a significant place from a symbolic point of view and it is right on this stair the great figures in the history of Venice went up and down; a long series of doges, inquisitors, councilors, senators and patricians until the last Doge, Ludovico Manin, who descended the Giants’ Staircase in 1797 and he was to never ascended it ever again.