Ca' d'Oro façade overlooking the Grand Canal.
Ca' d'Oro (correctly Palazzo Santa Sofia) is regarded as one of the most beautiful palazzi on the Grand Canal in Venice. One of the older palazzi, it has always been known as Ca' d'Oro (golden house) due to the gilt and polychrome external decorations which once adorned its walls.
The Palazzo was built between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges between 1043 and 1676. Upon election, each new Doge would leave his own palazzo and take residence in the Doge's Palace.
The architects of the Ca d'Oro were Giovanni Bon and his son Bartolomeo Bon. The work of these two sculptors and architects epitomises the Gothic style in Venice: they are best known for their work on the Doge's Palace and in particular the Porta della Carta with its monumental sculpture of the judgement of Solomon.
The principal façade of Ca' d'Oro facing onto the Grand Canal is built in the Bon's Venetian floral gothic style. Other nearby buildings in this style are Palazzo Barbaro and the Palazzo Giustinian. This elegant linear style favoured by the Venetian architects was not totally superseded by the flourishes of baroque until the end of the 16th century.
Venice as a Republic in 1496.
Did you know that Venice used to be a Republic? The history of the Republic of Venice began with the city of Venice, which originated as a collection of lagoon communities banded together for mutual defence from the Lombards as the power of the Byzantine Empire dwindled in northern Italy in the late seventh century. Sometime in the first decades of the eighth century, the people of the lagoon elected their first leader Ursus, who was confirmed by Byzantium and given the titles of hypatus and dux. He was the first historical Doge of Venice. Tradition, however, since the early eleventh century, dictates that the Venetians first proclaimed one Anafestus Paulicius duke in 697, though this story dates to no earlier than the chronicle of John the Deacon. Whatever the case, the first doges had their power base in Eraclea.