The exact date of the construction of Ca’ Vendramin Calergi is not known, however historians set the start of work in 1481, with the purchase of old structures in the area that was to host the new building.
According to historical sources, the palace was completed by 1509, a relatively short time in view of the technology available at the time and the difficulties inherent in building on the water. The history of Ca’ Vendramin Calergi could easily fill the pages of a novel. The first patrician to be associated with the fortunes of the building was Andrea Loredan, an influential figure amongst the Venetian nobility, and from a family that gave Venice three doges. He had the palace built and was linked to it at length. Mauro Codussi was the architect who realised the apex of his achievement, undoubtedly the most ingenious of all the early renaissance architecrs in Venice. In 1581, when the Loredan family ran into financial troubles, the building was sold for the sum of 50 thousand ducats to the Duke of Brunswick, who adored Venice. The palace changed owner once more after only two years, and became the property of William III Gonzaga, marquis of Mantua, who in turn passed it on to Vittore Calergi, a Venetian noble who hailed from the island of Candia. Under his direction it flourished and underwent extensions, ncluding the construction of the so-called “white wing”, erected above the garden in 1614, on a design by Vincenzo Scamozzi, renowned Renaissance architect.
In 1739 the palace was inherited by the Vendramin family, related to the Calergi, who had become the Calergi-Grimani through wedding ties. Thus the building acquired its present name. In 1844 the last members of the Vendramin line sold the palace to the Duchess Maria Carolina of Berry, a high ranking figure, daughter of the heir to the throne of the Two Sicilies, niece of the Hapsburg emperor Leopold II and wife of the second son of the future king of France Charles X. In the wake of the unrest of the Risorgimento the owners were forced to sell off the palace, and many works of art were auctioned in Paris. Following the death of the duchess, Ca’ Vendramin Calergi became the residence of the Count de’ Bardi and the Dukes of Grazia who hosted Richard Wagner at the time the great German composer was working on Parsifal. Wagner lived in the palace from 1882 to 1883, the year of his death there, on 13 February. Today, the wall facing the Grand Canal bears a memorial plaque to Wagner with a quotation by Gabriele D’Annunzio. In 1937 the last heirs of the Grazia counts, Lucchesi-Palli sold it to Giovanni Volpi count of Misurata who renovated it in part, made an apartment of the first floor, also to be used for performances and seminars, while the second floor became the Centre for Electromagnetic and Electrical Phenomena. In 1946 Ca’ Vendramin Calergi became the property of the Venice City Council who made it into the winter venue for the city casino.