The Armory of the Doge’s Palace. Armor and weapons

Like a giant lily, you are conceived
From the blue sea, whose abyss has guarded

Your houses, palaces, your temple, your sails,
And solar power, and knightly attire.
Henry Longfellow. Venice. Translation by V.V. Levik

Military museums in Europe. In room 2 of the Armory of the Doge’s Palace there is a very interesting trophy: a triangular standard captured in the famous battle of Lepanto in 1571. Along the perimeter, verses from the Koran are embroidered on it, and the inscription in the center proclaims the glory of Allah and his prophet Muhammad. Here you can also see the original armor of the French King Henry IV, which was donated to the Venetian Republic in 1603. On the chest of their cuirass there is a mark from a bullet, that is, it is obvious that after production they were subjected to a kind of test for strength. It is interesting that the weight of most of them does not exceed 23 kg, that is, they are not that heavy to wear. There is also a very rare medieval armor on display – the brigandine, which represented a shell made of plates sewn onto the fabric from the inside. And why it is so rare is understandable: metal can withstand a lot, but the fabric, alas, does not have its strength. There is also the armor of the admiral of the Venetian fleet Francesco Duodo, who heroically fought at Lepanto, which adorns both the lions of St. Mark and arabesques in a purely oriental taste. In the same room, 15th century chanfrons are exhibited – headbands to protect the heads of horses; several two-handed swords and two ornate halberds.

And this is how the “Hall of the College” looked in the painting by Francesco Guardi (second half of the 18th century)

Here she is, this brigandine!

Room 3, or “Morosini Room”, gets its name from the bust of Francesco Morosini in the niche at the end of the room. As a Venetian admiral, he became the supreme commander of the Venetian fleet during the war with the Turks in 1684-1688, re-conquered the Peloponnese, received the title of Peloponnesiaco (“conqueror of the Peloponnese”), and was elected doge in 1688. Moreover, Morosini’s military victories were such that he was the only person in the entire history of the Venetian Republic who was awarded a monument from the state, erected to him during his lifetime. In this room you can see a staggering number of swords in the characteristic Venetian style, halberds, crossbows and their quivers, marked with the letters CX, which are also visible on the doorframes, which denote only their belonging … The Council of Ten – the highest organ of the Venetian Republic. X. Another noteworthy exhibit is a small, exquisitely decorated kulevrina cannon dating from the middle of the 16th century.

Venetian swords of Schiavona 1480-1490 and sixteen-sixth century. Venice and Hungary. They had a horizontal crosshair curved in the shape of the letter “S”. Traditional weapon of the Doge’s Guard

Below – the Venetian swords of the Schiavona 1480-1490; at the top are the two-handed swords of the spadons of the landsknecht mercenaries of 1560–1580; morion-cabasset helmets, second half of the 16th century, Brescia

The handle matches the sword!

Hall number 4. This room contains various examples of firearms from the 16th and 17th centuries. The collection also includes some instruments of torture, as well as a chastity belt and some instruments of torture, but the main thing is, of course, all kinds of muskets and pistols. The collection of pistols and arquebus – the ancestors of modern rifles – belonging to the Doge’s Palace, contains rare and valuable specimens, mainly made by German gunsmiths or working in the republic in Brescia. Some are completely metal, others have wooden handles and are very richly decorated with gilding and ivory and mother-of-pearl inlays. There are also models made in the East, such as the seven Persian arquebusses, which no doubt were donated to the Doge Marino Grimani (1595-1605) by ambassadors from this distant country.

In this photo we see a German Reitarsky pistol with two locks (above), but with one barrel, which was loaded sequentially in 1560. By the way, the ball on its handle is not at all intended to hit the enemy on the head like a club. Inside, it is empty and this container was intended for storing spare pyrite, a pistol with an oriental wheel lock and a German pistol, which was used primarily by travelers.

There are many crossbows in the collection and this is one of them, but very unusual: a small steel crossbow only 27 centimeters long, found in 1664 by a certain Giovanni Maria Zerbinelli, who was hanged after this weapon was found with him. In Venice, it was strictly forbidden to store such portable weapons at that time! Next to them are instruments of torture: a collar with spikes and a “key” for the fingers. Their owner, Francesco Novello da Carrare, ruler of Padua, was strangled to death in the basements of the Doge’s Palace in 1405 with his sons, accused of possessing these and other “cruel objects” and using them to torture his prisoners.

Crossbow by Giovanni Zerbinelli and the instruments of torture by Francesco Novello

Among the most amazing exhibits, which could well be given a separate article, are samples of hybrid weapons, and there are more than 180 of them here! These are shooting clubs and hybrids of a pistol and an ax, hybrids of a crossbow and an arquebus, a mace pistol and a six-fighter pistol, a pick pistol, an ax pistol and even … a spear pistol!

An impressive collection of helmets is also on display. Here and “the grand bascinet, with a mantle that a simple bascinet did not have, and various types of salads, and barbute helmets.


Salad XV c.

Salade with movable visor, approx. 1450 BC

Bologna salad, reinforced with a forehead plate, approx. 1490 g.

The barbut helmet was considered an Italian invention and in the same Germany was called “Italian salad”. Moreover, it was very often covered with a cloth. Here is how this, for example, a typical Italian barbut in form, approx. 1470 g.

Ceremonial barbutes – and there were such – could be covered with crimson velvet and carried embossed gilded copper jewelry

But this is already a hybrid of morion and cabasset – morion-cabasset, also called “Spanish morion”. As for the name, the word “morion” comes from the Spanish word “morra” – “crown”, and there are a lot of such helmets in the collection of the Armory, and it is not surprising, because the Swiss guard of the Pope still wears them. But the cassette, in its shape, resembled a bottle-calabash gourd, and it was from her that it got its name! Both the morion, and the cabasset, and their hybrid, were very convenient primarily for arquebusiers, since the fields bent upwards did not prevent them from shooting at the walls of fortresses

The exhibition contains many halberds (brought to Italy by Swiss mercenaries at the beginning of the 15th century and, curiously, is still used by the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, certainly makes it perhaps the most famous medieval weapon that has survived to this day!). In addition to halberds, there are glaives, corsets, protazans, in a word, polearms for every taste. That’s just taking pictures of him, and even through the glass, well, it’s just very inconvenient.

In addition to helmets for people, the exposition also has chanfrons – headbands for horses!

You don’t even know which one is more beautiful!

There is also a very beautiful, albeit small-caliber, kulevrina cannon on display, donated to him in 1576 by the heirs of one of the Doges. Looks like an example of high foundry art, and not a device for murder – that’s what we can say about her.

There are also completely original samples of firearms: a ship’s five-shot revolving cannon, made by the master Giovanni Bittista Comin in 1621. But it took too long to recharge!

Another prototype of the machine gun: a twenty-barreled cannon with a rotating block of barrels by master Giovanni Maria Bergamin, who came here, in the armory room of the palace, in 1622. She had a vertical and horizontal aiming mechanism and, it is believed, could fire at a speed of 500 rounds per minute!

Plundered ship lamps captured on Turkish galleys at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571

Overwhelmed with impressions of what we saw, we leave the halls of the Armory, again follow the signs on the walls and find ourselves … inside the famous “Bridge of Sighs” leading from the Doge’s Palace to the neighboring building where the prison was located. There was a prison in the palace itself, and at the very top, under a leaden roof, where the prisoners froze to death in winter and literally toasted in summer from the incredible heat.

This is how this bridge looks from the outside. Never thought I’d end up inside him before

Lattice in his window from the inside

Tourists here, of course, have something to photograph, but actually being inside this “humpbacked bridge” is a bit creepy. And some begin to wander in narrow underground passages and then, upon meeting you, they ask in frightened voices: “How do they get out of here?” The best answer is: “No way!” And sardonic laughter in addition!

This is all that the unfortunate prisoner could see, going across this bridge to the dungeon, casting a last glance through the slits of the grating. And it’s sad to sigh … This is where the name of the bridge came from, that the people walking along it always sighed very bitterly

Then this door slammed behind them …

For them, the “window into the world” was the window behind this truly monstrous iron lattice!

In the prison hallway. Author at work

This is usually the end of the visit to the Doge’s Palace. Although, you should not rush out of it, but have a snack on real Venetian pizza right there, in the underground, in a cafe, looking at how gondolas float past you right behind its glass door. Romance, however!

This door …

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