Bridge of Sighs Venice Italy about 1892

BRIDGE OF SIGHS, VENICE — In the rear of the Ducal Palace there hangs above the dusky waters of a narrow canal the structure poetically called “Il Ponte dei Sospiri,” or the “Bridge of Sighs.” The popular idea in reference to this has long been an erroneous one. It has been supposed that over this arch the ill-fated victims of the Council of Ten were led into the palace to receive their sentence, and then conducted back again to meet their death! If such were the case, the bridge would well deserve its name. But this structure only dates from the end of the sixteenth century, since which time there has been only one instance of political imprisonment. There can be no doubt, however, of the deep dungeons below this bridge called “wells,” for the traveler can see them to-day. They are dismal stone cells, the gloom and horror of which have been inimitably described by Dickens in his “Pictures from Italy.” No one can look upon this famous arch without recalling the immortal lines of Byron in his third canto of Childe Harold:

“I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,

A palace and a prison on each hand;

! saw from out the waves her structures rise

As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand;

A thousand years their cloudy wings expand

Around me, and a dying glory smiles

O’er the far times, when many a subject land

Looked to the Winged Lion’s marble piles,

When Venice sat in state throned on her hundred isles.”

(from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)

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