Scuola Grande di San Rocco (Great School of St. Roch), Venice

Scuola Grande di San Rocco (Great School of St. Roch), Venice (must see)

The religious fraternity ("scuola") of Saint Roch was set up in Venice in 1478. Seven years later, the saint's remains were brought from Germany, resulting in a surge of donations so great that in 1489, the fraternity attained the status of a "Scuola Grande". In 1527, the city was struck by a plague outbreak, causing the scuola's revenue to skyrocket as people desperately sought Saint Roch's protection from the disease. The funds generated eventually financed the construction of the current building, complete with the remarkable paintings inside.

Indeed, no other Venetian fraternity is as lavishly decorated as this one. The artist responsible for its decoration is Venice's own 16th-century painter, Tintoretto. Born Jacopo Robusti, he acquired his nickname, which means "little dyer" or "dyer's boy", due to his father's profession as a dyer ("tintore"). Also known as Il Furioso ("The Furious") for his phenomenal energy in painting, Tintoretto was both admired and criticized by his contemporaries for the unprecedented boldness of his brushwork and his incredible speed. Nonetheless, it took him three decades to complete this project, starting at the age of 46 and continuing until his death in 1594 at the age of 76.

During this time, Tintoretto created over 50 epic canvases for the walls and ceilings of the Scuola Grande, earning it high praise from critics as "one of the three most precious buildings in Italy" due to its overwhelming impact. While the Tintoretto cycle begins with the "Annunciation" in the lower room, to truly appreciate his artistic progression, it is best to start in the smaller room on the upper floor, known as the Sala dell'Albergo, which houses the "Crucifixion" painting, showcasing the full magnitude of Tintoretto's mastery.

Other notable highlights include the New Testament scenes in the main upper hall, which defy conventions of perspective, lighting, and color—a testament to Tintoretto's relentless inventiveness that has few parallels in Western art. Despite being in his late 60s when he painted these scenes, they are considered some of his finest creations.

Why You Should Visit:
Rarely busy or crowded, offering a peaceful oasis of culture and Venetian history.
Photos do not do justice to the overwhelming experience of seeing it in person.

Tip:
Don't forget to pick up an audio guide since there are no descriptions available.
Dress warmly as it can get quite cold inside, and don't forget to bring your camera.
Take advantage of the mirrors in the chapter room to study the ceiling art without straining your neck.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Venice. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Scuola Grande di San Rocco (Great School of St. Roch) on Map

Sight Name: Scuola Grande di San Rocco (Great School of St. Roch)
Sight Location: Venice, Italy (See walking tours in Venice)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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