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Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the Grand School at the Church of St. Roch in Venice, Italy

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Saint Roch (Rocco in Italian) is known as the patron saint of the sick. His body is encased in a glass tomb within the Church of St. Roch, which is adjacent to the Scuola Grande (Grand School) San Rocco. The ancient school houses Tintoretto’s masterpieces including the Annunciation in the lower hall.

Here Tintoretto (1518-1594), one of Venice’s most renowned artists, was under contract for all of his paintings. The locations of these within the Church of St. Roch remain in their original places. The bold exterior of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco introduces itself nicely to the grandeur and beauty inside the building.

Venice’s Sistine Chapel

Often referred to as Venice’s “Sistine Chapel,” The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is covered from floor-to- ceiling with gorgeous Renaissance paintings. In the early-to-mid 1500s, the Confraternity of Saint Roch (founded in 1478) transferred here after the grand building was finished (built from 1517 to 1560). One of the most pronounced and enchanted Venice buildings of its time, the Scuola has been operating in one mode or another ever since then.

Although guests should be forewarned that this building is not climate-controlled, it is tourist-friendly in its ease in which to visit due to being off the beaten path and not crowded with visitors. Upon entering the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, visitors should acquire a hand mirror in order to see the frescoes atop the ceilings without straining one’s neck. The audio tour (which actually starts on the top floor) is also highly recommended and can even make this an astonishing and educational hour-long (or so) family event.

Revealing Details about Saint Roch

Saint RochTo reveal some details about Saint Roch (Rocco in Italian), for which this Scuola (Italian for school) was named, he was born into a very wealthy French family but opted to remain anonymous as he discarded his riches, living in poverty amidst the poor for whom he assisted to help cure those ailing with the plague. Amazingly, Saint Rocco also contracted the plague but he miraculously recovered.

When he was 20, Saint Rocco’s wealthy parents died and so he endowed the majority of his inheritance to the poor. Moving along to five years before his death, Saint Rocco (or Roch), who was completely and purposely unrecognized, was thrown in jail by his own uncle, believed to be a spy. There he died in 1327 and, in 1485, the Confraternity of San Rocco received his body.

Prayer to Saint Rocco

O Great St. Rocco, deliver us, we beseech you, from contagious diseases, and the contagion of sin. Obtain, for us, a purity of heart which will assist us to make good use of health, and to bear sufferings with patience. Teach us to follow your example in the practice of penance and charity, so that we may, one day enjoy the happiness of being with Christ, Our Savior, in Heaven. Amen.

Tintoretto Captured Worldwide Struggles in His Art

The Brazen Serpent, by Tintoretto (1576)Some of the paintings contained within Scuola Grande di San Rocco are deliberate in that they signify the struggles of common Venetians at that time. Witness Tintoretto’s Moses Striking Water from the Rock, The Brazen Serpent, and The Fall of Manna as they represent three modes of suffering—thirst, disease and hunger—that San Rocco and his brotherhood dedicated their lives to combatting. Legendary Renaissance artists Tiepolo, Strozzi and Giorgione also have paintings within the Scuola.

In combining the rich history of Venetian art and the religion of Venice –the marriage for which is gloriously displayed time and time again throughout the city of Venice—Tintoretto finished over 50 paintings for this church and confraternity during his lifetime. Some of his other masterpieces feature various depictions of the Virgin Mary, Christ, and the life of Saint Rocco.

Tintoretto’s artworks are also located within Doge’s Palace and L’Accademia in Venice, but the Scuola Grande di San Rocco was the first and main home for Tintoretto’s masterworks. To be certain, the Scuola proudly houses the majority of Tintoretto’s works to this day.

“The Crucifixion” by Tintoretto

The Crucifixion, by Tintoretto (1565)The second floor of the Scuola showcases Tintoretto’s paintings of man’s fall and redemption with New Testament pieces painted on the walls and Old Testament paintings on the ceilings. Tintoretto’s room-sized masterpiece of The Crucifixion is off the main hall on the first floor, in the Sala dell’Albergo side chamber. Life-sized and mesmerizing, it captures Tintoretto at his best depicting in its entirety the activity, sorrow and suffering that surrounded the crucifixion.

Other Tintoretto paintings in the Scuola include The Annunciation and The Epiphany. The adjacent church of San Rocco houses paintings by Tintoretto as well. Best of all, the church is free to visit!

How to get there: The school is directly behind the Santa Maria dei Frari Church. By vaporetto: San Tomà. Located in San Polo, one of six subdivisions (or neighborhoods, and known as sestieri in Italian) in Venice and it is near the famed Rialto Bridge.

Admission and Hours:  San Rocco is open from April through October daily, from 9:00 am - 5:30 pm and November through March daily, from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. Admission is just €5.50 for adults and €1.50 for children. You can also buy guidebooks in Italian, English, French, Spanish and German.

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