Scuola Grande di San Rocco ★★

The Upper Hall, or Salone Maggiore, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice, Italy (Photo by Didier Descouens)
The Upper Hall, or Salone Maggiore

An ancient Venetian men's club slathered in Tintoretto paintings

scuola was a lay fraternity whose members dedicated their time and money to a charitable cause.

It was also a venue for these private gentleman's clubs to show off, and to that end many scuole commissioned artists to decorate their home bases.

When the Scuola di San Rocco held an artists' competition in 1564, Renaissance master Jacopo Robusti (1518–94)—better known as Tintoretto because because his father was a tintore, a fabric dyer—pulled a fast one on his rivals.

Instead of preparing a sketch depicting The Glory of St. Roch for the judges like everyone else, he went ahead and finished a painting, secretly installing it in the ceiling of the Sala dell'Albergo off the second-floor hall.

The judges were suitably impressed, and Tintoretto got the job (and, the following year, membership in the confraternity).

Over the next 23 years, Tintoretto filled the scuola's two floors with more than 50 amazing works, the largest collection of Tintorettos anywhere.

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt on the ground floor is superb, but his masterpiece hangs in that tiny Sala dell'Albergo, a huge Crocifissione (Crucifixion) that ranks among the greatest and most moving works in the history of Venetian art.

Tintoretto was a devout, unworldly man who traveled beyond Venice only once. His epic canvases are filled with phantasmagoric light and mystical spirituality.

In the center of the gilt ceiling of the Great Hall, also upstairs, is Il Serpente di Bronzo (The Bronze Snake).

Among the eight paintings downstairs, each depicting a scene from the New Testament, the most noteworthy is La Strage degli Innocenti (The Slaughter of the Innocents), so full of dramatic urgency and energy the figures seem almost to tumble from the frame.

Although dark by nature of the painter's brush, the works were restored in the 1970s. A useful guide to the paintings inside is posted on the wall just before the museum entrance.

The upstairs Great Hall is lined by some spectacular wooden stalls carved with amazing figures in 1657–76 by Francesco Pianta il Giovane. 

There are a few Tiepolos among the paintings, as well as a solitary work by Titian. (Note that the works on and near the staircase are not by Tintoretto.)

Photo gallery
  • The Upper Hall, or Salone Maggiore, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Italy (Photo by Didier Descouens)
  • The facade, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Italy (Photo by Didier Descouens)
  • A telamon carved as a self-portrait by Francesco Pianta il Giovane
  • A telamon from Francesco Pianta il Giovane
  • Sala dell
  • The Lower Hall, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The staircase, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Italy (Photo by Zairon)
  • The wooden stalls of the Upper Hall, carved by Francesco Pianta il Giovane in 1657–76, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Italy (Photo by Zairon)
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Tips

How long does the Scuola Grande di San Rocco take?

I guess you could do this in 30 minutes, but I usually spend an hour or more, much of it just sitting along one wall of the Great Hall, staring at the beauty around me: carved stalls, ornate decorations, and all those glorious Tintoretto paintings.

The ticket office closes 30 minutes early.

Concerts

The Accademia di San Rocco (tel.041-962-999, www.musicinvenice.com) sponsors highly recommended chamber orchestra concerts in these evocative environs.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).