As you follow the signs to the Rialto Bridge and Saint Mark’s Basilica, you’ll definitely pass a small square with the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the Chiesa (church) of San Rocco, and a da Vinci Museum. Now, I can’t comment on the da Vinci museum other than the understanding we had from the description was that it was a compilation of da Vinci’s inventions that were built and on display. I love da Vinci, but I would prefer to see his actual drawings and paintings, so we skipped the da Vinci museum. I was very intrigued, however, by the Chiesa di San Rocco and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
San Rocco (or Saint Roch) was the protector against plague, which had devastated Venice in the 15th century. In 1478, a group of wealthy Venice citizens founded the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
When I was studying for my art degree, I took a class that I loved called Women in Art and Culture, and one of the artists we studied was Marietta Robusti, also called Tintoretto. Both the Church of San Rocco and Scuola Grande di San Rocco have works from Jacopo Robusti or Tintoretto, her father, who was commissioned in 1564 to produce paintings for the interior. I was curious to see the work of the father as I’d never really studied him in depth, and I didn’t regret the visit!
The church is small and has more artists featured than Tintoretto, but the works are all lovely and the church is by no means unadorned. It is beautiful in its paintings and detail, but doesn’t really hold a candle to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
We exited the church and walked across the square. My husband was hesitant due to the admission, but we soon realised children were free, which is always welcomed with five of us–especially as my children aren’t always excited about art museums.
The downstairs (Salla Terra) is a columned room containing a nave and two aisles nothing but the works of Tintoretto adorning all of the walls, depicting scenes from Mary’s life. It’s a lovely room, but once you’ve looked at all of the paintings, which are gorgeous, you walk up a stone staircase with a domed roof to a room that will take your breath away. I find the downstairs deceptive when you first walk in and it makes the upstairs (Sala Superiore (“Upper Hall”)) all the more grand.
The ceiling and walls are covered by Tintoretto’s paintings trimmed in gold and with sculpture adorning the walls beneath it, including a wooden rendering of Tintoretto himself by Giuseppe Angeli and allegorical figures by Francesco Pianta. The ceiling in the Sala Superiore are from the Old Testament and the walls are depictions from the New Testament. There is also a room off to the side which has paintings depicting Christ appearing before Pilot to Calvary, which adorns an entire wall.
Scuola San Rocco was not something we planned, but was my favourite part of the trip. If you go to Venice, you shouldn’t miss it!
Next: Saint Marks Basilica and the rest of Venice