Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice
The Scuola Grande di San Marco in Castello, Venice: information to arrive, hours, costs of tickets, history, architecture and works kept inside.
Same price of ticket counter: 1 single € 7,50; 24 hours € 21; 48 hours € 30; 72 hours € 40; 7 days € 60.
Scuola Grande di San Marco - Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo
The Scuola Grande di San Marco, with a beautiful Renaissance building, is located in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo in the Castello district. It is one of the oldest and most renowned Great Schools of Venice, so much so that in 1437 it assumed the name of the patron saint of the city.
Today the School is still the entrance of the Hospital of Venice but the visit to the halls is possible again from 2013; although the school has seen the dispersion of its most precious pictorial cycle, it remains a site full of masterpieces of the sixteenth and seventeenth century pictorial art and its façade, richly decorated and majestically articulated by friezes and statues, is certainly a masterpiece of Venetian Renaissance.
The school was started on an initial project by Pietro Lombardo who, together with the stonemasons, created a very articulated facade with a large play of friezes, trabeations, splitting columns with a perspective break in which beautiful windows appear embellished with polychrome marble, contributing to create one of the most refined Renaissance figures in Venice.
The façade, arranged on three levels and exapartite, presents a greater subdivision in two parts that corresponds internally to the Sala dell'Albergo on the right and to the Sala Capitolare on the left. The two parts constitute autonomous units with independent entrances but at the same time they interact architecturally with each other in harmony in the decorative components. Decorative elements such as fake porches, arched windows, gables and curvilinear crowning at the top are present in the two parts with a game of stylistic inversion. The first level, completely covered in white marble, presents for example on the sides of the doors two compartments with splaying that prospectively create two porticoes, with a round arch on the left side and architraved with trabeation on the right. The same linear motifs are present at the second level in the triangular gables on the right and curved on the left while all the 6 spaces of the two levels are separated by Corinthian pilasters that are annular - with green marble insert below - and totally white and fluted above.
The smaller door of the façade gave access to the Chapel of Peace, built to preserve a Byzantine image considered miraculous to have arrived in the city from Constantinople in 1349, which disappeared in the nineteenth-century hospital conversion of the building.
The entrance portal has two Corinthian columns on the sides placed on bases, divided into two levels with a square section at the bottom and circular at the top, which have bas-reliefs and in the round lunette of the arch is placed the high relief of St. Mark venerated by confreres attributed to Bartolomeo Bon, author also of the overlying statue of Charity placed in the middle of two Dominican saints, always works of the Bon.
On the sides in the perspective section there are two lions, copies of the original ones destroyed by French hands in 1797. The lions pair with the two stories of San Marco on the side of the minor door on the right, by Tullio Lombardo.
Author of the triumph of the third level is the Codussi who also made the façade of the hotel. Here on the second level in the center there is a lion mask, symbol of Saint Mark, which is repeated in the third level in the most classic iconography of the whole winged lion presenting the Gospel, placed on straight trabeation by five ionic columns.
Inside, the room on the ground floor received the confreres for the offerings and has three aisles with a double row of five Corinthian columns resting on tall Istrian stone bases with tiles decorated with floral motifs and grotesque presence. The floor is a polychrome lozenges typical of the Venetian school - red is Verona marble, white is Istrian stone - and the ceiling has a thick solid wood truss.
On the right aisle there are two monumental entrances to the Capitular Hall, which took place via two flights of stairs designed by Codussi in the sixteenth century. The doors are made of white marble, with three steps and a double row of pilasters supporting an entablature decorated with floral motifs with a tympanum and decorated with rosettes and plant motifs. The tympanum and the sails are embellished with red porphyry discs, symbol of the antiquity of imperial power.
The monumental staircase of the Codussi was unfortunately destroyed by the Austrians for the reuse of the School as a hospital and today you enter the upper floor through a twentieth-century reconstruction.
The Sala Capitolare has a carved and gilded ceiling, the work of Vettor Scienza da Feltre and Lorenzo di Vincenzo from Trento of 1504, built on the model of the adjoining room by the hand of Pietro and Biagio di Faenza. Here the pictorial cycle that gloried the School of San Marco remains intact. On the back wall there is the high altar built according to the Sansovino project in 1546, at the base of which was placed a beautiful wooden crucifix still under study for its dating; on the right there are three paintings dedicated to San Marco: on the right The transport of the body of San Marco on the ship of Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto, in the center Christ in glory with San Marco, San Pietro and San Paolo of Palma il Giovane, on the left Arrival of the ship in Venice by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto.
As soon as you enter the room on the right wall, there is a painting by Padovanino 1622, Le Nozze di Cana from the Convent of San Giovanni di Verdara in Padua, on the right wall The Crucifixion by Alvise Donato.
On the opposite wall to the altar San Marco that blesses the islands of Venice by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto alongside The Appearance of the remains of San Marco by Andrea Schiavone and final intervention by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto; the canvas tells the discovery of the relic of San Marco on 8 October 1094 within the new Basilica of San Marco, built following the fire that destroyed the previous construction during the revolt against the doge Pietro IV Candiano in 976, fire which determined the loss of the saint's remains for a century. Finally, the Capitular Hall also presents some beautiful display cases displaying medical instruments used in war hospitals due to amputations and a large number of forceps used in the 18th century.
From the Sala Capitolare a beautiful wooden portal with statues and San Marco revered by a confrere in lunette, by the sculptor of Agordo Giovanni Marchiori, leads to the smallest Sala dell'Albergo with a carved and gilded ceiling, work of 1495 by Pietro and Biagio from Faenza. Here the digital copies of the great cycle of masterpieces once present and now dispersed between the Galleria dell'Accademia di Venezia and the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan have been placed: above the entrance The martyrdom of Saint Mark by Giovanni Bellini (1526) in which you can see in the foreground the faces of the confreres of the school at that age; left The fisherman delivers the ring to the Doge of Paris Bordon recalls the miraculous events of February 25, 1341 which are represented alongside: Saints Mark, George and Nicholas save Venice from the storm by Jacopo Palma il Giovane; the saints became protagonists of the shipwreck of a boat of demons that were leading towards Venice a hellish storm. The cycle of paintings reproduced is the Healing of Aniano and Battesimo di Aniano by Giovanni Mansueti, a pupil of Gentile Bellini, and Preaching of San Marco in Alessandria by Gentile Bellini, now in Brera. Finally Episodes of the life of San Marco by Giovanni Mansueti.
The lintel of the door bears the rule of the Scuola di San Marco: UBI CHARITAS ET AMOR IBI DEUS EST meaning Where there is charity and love, there is God there; incipit of a hymn linked to the ceremony of the washing of the feet during the Last Supper.
The year of foundation of the Scuola dates back to 1260: the original dislocation of the Confraternity was near the church of Santa Croce where today are the Papadopoli Gardens, far away from the current place where the faithful moved instead during the XVth century (1437).
The increased needs of the Scuola, in fact, imposed the choice of an area that would allow to build a sufficiently large site: within a few decades the building was completed and the type of the prospect on the field probably should not be too dissimilar from that one of the Scuola della Misericordia. To crown the whole, on the contrary, there were 3 marble kiosks which were subsequently placed on the front towards the lagoon (as it appears correctly from the sixteenth century map by de' Barbari).
In 1485 a frightful fire - produced by a tent that licked the candles left lit on the altar of the Chapter Hall - destroyed the school. Although there was very little of the building, the passion and affection towards the religious association was so great that within a few months the reconstruction was established. The author of this first phase was Pietro Lombardo who, thanks to specialized stonemasons, gave life to a highly articulated façade in which the play of friezes, trabeations, doubling of columns, the prospective breakthrough in which the windows are inserted and the use classic of polychrome marble, contributes to create a vision of strong impact. However, it will not be the Lombards who will finish the work: on the threshold of 1500, in concomitance with the redesign of the internal staircase, Mauro Codussi was called to complete the upper crowning of the façade.
The confreres also decided to leave out the great Sala Capitolare to dedicate every resource to the Sala dell'Albergo where they presented a cycle of six paintings representing the following episodes of the life of San Marco: Preaching of San Marco and The martyrdom of San Marco di Giovanni Bellini, Aniano's Healing and Aniano's Baptism by Giovanni Mansueti, The Fisherman delivers the ring to the Doge by Paris Bordon, The saints Marco, Giorgio and Nicola save Venice from the storm by Jacopo Palma il Vecchio. This pictorial cycle contributed so much to the fame of the School that it crossed the borders of the Serenissima, attracting scholars here from all over Europe until, in 1797, the French and the Austrians forever compromised the integrity of the great cycle of paintings.
Unfortunately, even the staircase did not reach us: in 1819, in fact, during the works of adaptation of the building to the new hospital functions - which is still going on - it was demolished (even though the overall idea probably did not have to be much dissimilar from the one made at S. Giovanni Evangelista).
The hospital activity continued during the nineteenth and twentieth century, arriving until today. But on 20 November 2013, after a long and detailed restoration, the halls of the Scuola Grande di San Marco finally reopened their closed doors for almost two centuries to citizenship and the general public.
How to reach the Scuola Grande di San Marco
The Scuola Grande di San Marco is located in Castello in Campo San Giovanni e Paolo next to the famous basilica of the same name. The nearest waterbus stop is Fondamente Nove.
Then walk the Fondamenta with the lagoon on the left until you make a bridge where the Fondamenta dei Mendicanti starts on the right. At the end of this is Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo where there is the entrance to the Scuola Grande di San Marco.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday and the first Sunday of the month from 9.30 to 17.30.
Tickets: full € 8, students under 26 € 6, school students € 3. Free for under 12 children accompanied by adults, handicapped persons, licensed tour guides, ICOM members.
Website: Scuola Grande di San Marco