One of the "Grandi Scuole" of Venice created by lay confraternities is that of San Rocco, which was established in 1478 and continues to this day.

A Bit of Background

The "scuole" weren't school's per se but centers operated by various lay confraternities that served as guilds for trades, artisans, merchants or charitable organizations, that chose a patron saint and also "sponsored" the dedications, festivities, processions and works done in that saint's name and honor. Some operated like trade guilds or worker's unions for foreign workers in the Republic; others were dedicated to public assistance and charitable works. Some sponsored the arts and invested in property and artwork, enriching the city with splendor. These guilds or confraternities were officially recognized by the Council of Ten of the Republic of Venice in 1467, who was happy to have them providing public assistance, good deeds and charity work in the republic. The confraternities took in donations from wealthy sponsors, and grew in prestige.

The Church and Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Established in 1478, they set about restoring and enlarging the church of San Rocco and building their headquarters next door, on land given by the adjacent Monastery of the Frari. The cornerstone of the Scuola was laid in 1515 though it would take 50 years to complete. The church became a pilgrimage site, as the corpse of San Rocco, which had been "spirited away" from Montpellier (France) was transferred to a place of honor below the monumental altar in a chapel. He is the patron saint of the plague-stricken, which was a grim reality in the Republic of those times. Those fearing the plague made pilgrimages here -and opened their wallets, helping fill the confraternity's coffers. The monumental "reliquary-altar" funerary monument done like a triumphant arch. The Church highlights paintings by Tintoretto, Giorgione, Pordenone, and others.

Tintoretto was hired to do much of the decoration of the Scuola. The most celebrated is the Sala dell'Albergo, a grand hall with a marvelous cycle of paintings completed between 1564 and 1588 and has been referred to as Venice's version of the Sistine Chapel.

  • In the Lower Hall: The Annunciation; the Adoration of the Magi; the Flight to Egypt; the Presentation at the Temple; the Slaughter of the Innocents; the Assumption of Mary (Tintoretto)
  • The Upper Hall features Adam and Eve; Jacob's Ladder; Moses bringing forth water from the rock; Manna falling from heaven; Adoration of the Shepherds; Baptism; Christ's Temptation; the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes; Resurrection of Lazarus; the Resurrection and Ascension; the Last Supper; and more. (Tintoretto)
  • The Sala Albergo allegories of the guilds including St. John's, St. Mark's, St. Theodore's, and Charity; Christ Before Pilate; Ascent to Calvary.

But it's not "only" Tintoretto; there are works by Titian, Giorgione, Tiepolo and others, that aren't to be overlooked. In fact, the grand staircase bears massive and beautiful works by Antonio Zanchi and Pietro Negri, while the small dome is painted with "Charity holding a flaming torch" by Giovanni Antonio Fiumiani.

    The Scuola Grande is open from 9:30 AM til 5:30 PM daily, year-round, including holidays except Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

    The Church of San Rocco is open every day, including holidays. Sunday Mass is at 11:00 AM.

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    Address in Venice:

    Campo San Rocco.