The “Scuo­le Gran­di”

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Among Venice's coun­tless art trea­su­res, buil­dings kno­wn as ‘Scuo­le' or ‘Scuo­le Gran­di' might be men­tio­ned as un­mis­sa­ble at­trac­tions. It goes wi­thout say­ing that the­se are not schools in the ac­cep­ted sen­se of the word, but one of the in­nu­me­ra­ble di­stinc­ti­ve fea­tu­res of this uni­que ci­ty. Du­ring the an­cient Re­pu­blic of Venice, from the 13th cen­tu­ry on­wards, the word ‘Scuola' was, in fact, used to de­scri­be a bro­the­rhood, or ra­ther an as­so­cia­tion of lay mem­bers who met to pro­vi­de as­si­stan­ce to poor peo­ple, wi­do­ws, or­phans, old and sick peo­ple. The ‘Scuo­le' we­re di­vi­ded in­to

De­vo­tio­nal Schools (or Scuo­le Gran­di) whi­ch ga­the­red for re­li­gious pur­po­ses in the na­me of a pa­tron saint, Schools of Arts and Craf­ts and Schools of

Fo­rei­gn Com­mu­ni­ties (Scuo­le Pic­co­le or Scuo­let­te). Until the fall of the Re­pu­blic, they re­pre­sen­ted a real kind of wel­fa­re sy­stem, ini­tial­ly de­sti­ned for mem­bers but la­ter ex­ten­ded to the en­ti­re po­pu­la­tion.

The ‘Scuo­le Gran­di' had coun­tless means at their di­spo­sal, a part of whi­ch they in­ve­sted to em­bel­li­sh their own hea­d­quar­ters wi­th pain­tings by well-kno­wn ar­tists in­clu­ding Tin­to­ret­to, Ja­co­po Pal­ma il Gio­va­ne or Giam­bat­ti­sta Tie­po­lo. As ti­me pas­sed, the mo­st im­por­tant Schools built pa­la­ces for their re­si­den­ts de­si­gned by fa­mous ar­chi­tec­ts, and ador­ned them wi­th pain­tings by the be­st ar­tists of the era. Af­ter the fall of the Re­pu­blic of Venice in 1797, the Schools we­re sup­pres­sed by a Na­po­leo­nic edict (1807) and wi­thin the spa­ce of a short ti­me their as­se­ts en­ded up at an­ti­que mar­ke­ts and col­lec­tions th­rou­ghout the world.

Se­ve­ral of the be­st pre­ser­ved Schools we­re re­con­sti­tu­ted and tran­sfor­med in­to museums that can now be vi­si­ted by the pu­blic.

The­se in­clu­de the Great Schools of San Gio­van­ni Evan­ge­li­sta (www. scuo­la­san­gio­van­ni.it), the Scuola di San Rocco (www.scuo­la­gran­de­san­roc­co. it) and the Scuola dei Car­mi­ni (www. scuo­la­gran­de­car­mi­ni.it). Others, in­clu­ding the Scuo­le Gran­di di San Teo­do­ro (www. scuo­la­gran­de­san­teo­do­ro.it), the Scuola di San Marco (the seat of the ci­ty's ho­spi­tal), www.scuo­la­gran­de­san­mar­co.it), and the Scuola di San­ta Ma­ria Giu­sti­zia or San Fan­tin, cur­ren­tly ho­me to Venice's Fa­cul­ty of Scien­ce, Li­te­ra­tu­re and Arts (www. ate­neo­ve­ne­to.org), we­re con­ver­ted in­to pu­blic ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces and in­sti­tu­tions. The Scuola Dal­ma­ta di San Gior­gio de­gli Schia­vo­ni and the Scuola di San Ni­co­lò dei Gre­ci (cur­ren­tly Venice's Mu­seum of Icons), are ‘small' schools who­se ar­ti­stic trea­su­res are well wor­th a vi­sit.

La­stly, an in­te­re­sting fact: the fa­ca­de of the Scuola Grande di San­ta Ma­ria del­la Ca­ri­tà, sup­pres­sed in 1806, is now the en­tran­ce to the ma­gni­fi­cent Ac­ca­de­mia Gal­le­ries.

Scuola di San Rocco

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