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Possibly, like some early Veneto-Byzantine private palaces, the Doge’s Palace had corner towers: the so-called torresella small tower now incorporated into the treasury of San Marco may have been one of these. In this case the towers presumably played a defensive role as well as a visual one: one of the corner blocks on the lagoon side is known to have served as an armoury. The palace was built around an internal courtyard, like other communal palaces of the period fig. 53. The Palazzo Comunale itself occupied the wing along the Molo or waterfront; the Palace of Justice faced the Piazzetta; and the doge inhabited the portion overlooking the small canal on the opposite side. 34 The exterior of the Palazzo Ducale owes the essentials of its present appearance to a radical rebuilding programme in the mid-fourteenth century. Despite the famous serrata of the Great Council Maggior Consiglio in 1297, when the ranks of the nobility, then comprising about 200 families, were effectively closed to outsiders, the number of male nobles, all of whom were entitled to attend the Great Council, was growing rapidly by natural multiplication. The room provided for their weekly sittings was becoming quite inadequate and in 1340 it was finally 53 Palazzo Ducale, ground-plan from L. Cicognara, A.
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