In the past, prisoners in chains coming out of the court crossed this bridge to go towards their cells and, sighing and lowering their heads, would have been able to see their final glimpses of life and freedom before captivity.
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Towards the end of the 16th century, precisely in 1589, the Senate of the Republic approved the construction of a new building to be used as a prison, which was located on the other side of the Doge's Palace canal. This meant that the Doge could get rid of the prison which had become too small and, above all, not very secure.
This meant that a bridge to serve as a link between the prison and the seat of government and justice was needed; at the beginning of the 17th century, upon the approval of the Doge Marino Grimani, the Bridge of Sighs was built in Istrian stone and in a typically baroque style, to the designs of the architect Antonio Contin.
This elevated and enclosed bridge guaranteed maximum security when prisoners were moved from the Prigioni Nuove to the halls of the avogados and magistrates and vice versa.
Through the small windows of drilled marble, you can see Ponte della Paglia and the island of San Servolo on one side and the back of Doge’s Palace and the Ponte della Canonica on the other. Looking at the bridge from the exterior we see the crest of the Doge Marino Grimani and a depiction of justice.
The name of the bridge probably originated from the popular imagination: the chained prisoners, when crossing the bridge to head towards the gallows and seeing the lagoon, its islands and freedom for the last time, would have sighed.