Bridge of sighs

The bridge of sighs is among the most popular attractions in Venice. It was built at the beginning of the 17th century. The design belongs to Antonio Contino. The bridge was used as a link between the Old Prison, situated in the Doge’s Palace and the New Prison, which was built across Palazzo River. It has the shape of an arch, suspended over Palazzo Rio. The prisoners walked across this bridge to the interrogation rooms, located in the Palace, to the cold and dark cells, from which just a few of them managed to come out alive.

There are several stories about the origin of the name of the bridge. One of them is connected to the fact that the prisoners have crossed through it on their way to the execution chamber. That very moment was probably the last time they saw the sunlight and breathed fresh air. For other prisoners this was the last time they were so close to the life outside the cell and to freedom as a whole. This story however is unlikely to be true because at the time the bridge was built (16030 the executions, conducted by the Inquisition were already in the past. There is another, more romantic story associated to the name of the bridge. According to this story if a couple kisses in front of the bridge when a gondola passes under it at sunset they will enjoy eternal love. It was only on the 19th century when the bridge got his name from the famous poem of Lord Byron in his book “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” – “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand”. The famous Giacomo Casanova himself has walked over the bridge but unlike many others he managed to escape from the prison.

Description: the Bridge of sighs /picture source:;

The bridge is 11 meters wide and is made of limestone. This is the only covered bridge in Venice and it is entirely closed.  It has two windows with stone bars which let very little light through. Only one of the faces that are decorating the bridge is smiling. All other faces are dark and somber. Inside the bridge is divided into two short passages separated by a wall. Many of the prisoners had to slouch to get though. That how they were not able to talk and to pass messages to each other. It is striking how something so beautiful on the outside can be such misery on the inside.

This Renaissance monument has inspired many artists all over the world. Edgar Allen Poe mentions it in his novel “The assignation”. The idea for the arched passage from the Winter Palace to the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg is taken from the Bridge of sighs.

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