The Scuola Grande di San Teodoro. Dedicated to the first patron saint of Venice, the confraternity of San Teodoro was founded in 1258, within the Church of San Salvador, close before moving to its own grand premises close by on the Campo di San Salvatore.
The Scuola Grande di San Teodoro is part of a very old tradition. In the eighth century, in a small church, where the Basilica of San Marco is located today; a brotherhood was founded and dedicated to the saint who became the city’s patron.
In 828, the Serenissima Republic, following the policy of detachment from the Byzantine sphere of influence, decided to replaced St. Theodor with St. Mark; whose body had been brought to back to Venice, from Alexandria in Egypt. As a result, the brotherhood was dissolved.
The formation of the new scuola, at the Augustinian father’s church of San Salvador; dates back to 1258. The fathers, were granted a small room to be used as a seat for meetings, five burials in the cloister and an altar in the church consecrated to the saint; in exchange for a small annual payment.
In 1261 the remains of San Teodoro were moved from Constantinople to Venice. The relics were, placed in an urn on the altar of the Scuola, within the church of San Salvador. The brothers committed themselves to decorate and illuminate the chapel dedicated to their protector.
Increasing membership, influence and wealth, resulted in greater devotion to the welfare of the poor and needy and allowed the confraternity to acquire a new status in the city.
Scuola Grande status was granted in 1552; the last confraternity in Venice to achieve this honour.
In 1556, the brotherhood decided that they needed to build their own larger meeting house; but waited to 1576 until land became available, opposite the church of San Salvador.
At the end of 1581, the building designed by Simone Sorella was completed, but was smaller and oriented differently from the present one and the facade did not face the campo.
The size of the new headquarters, however, did not respond to the demands of social prestige, dictated by the importance which the scuola acquired over the years. Consequently, the brothers soon began to raise funds to enlarge and embellish it. The plan was to gradually buy houses and shops in the immediate vicinity of their headquarters, but revised this idea.
In 1608, the enlargement project got underway. By inverting the axis of the previous building which now had the monumental facade facing the campo, the project completely changed the appearance of the building. However, the scuola ran into financial difficulties the facade was incomplete and the staircase to the first floor were still missing.
In 1649, Jacopo Galli a wealthy brother and merchant, bequeathed enough funds for the scuola to commission Giuseppe Sardi and Baldassare Longhena; to build a grand facade and a double staircase.
The complex of the facades, while remaining substantially tied to sixteenth- century schemes, belongs to the new baroque taste that Baldassarre Longhena was spreading to Venice
The sculptures, in Vicenza stone, and the crowning elements of the main facade were created by Bernardo Falconi in 1657. The imposing staircase, built in 1661, which connects the ground floor hall with the chapter hall on the first floor, is also to be ascribed to Sardi
With the fall of the Republic, came suppression and almost all the magnificent silver furnishings, which were the work of refined craftsmen, were sent to the Milan mint by order of the Napoleonic government. The precious silver cross and rock crystal (fifteenth century) that appears at the Gallerie dell’Accademia and a few other objects; remain a testimony of this splendour. Paintings, sculptures, altars, and furnishings are partly lost, partly dispersed and a few have recently identified in various collections.
The headquarters were used as a place for political meetings, a storage of flour, a shelter for beggars, then a political archive. From 1821 until 1837, the headquarters were leased to a bookseller and then to an antique dealer. Around 1840, the property was sold to a Venetian nobleman, then it was rented as a furniture store on the first floor and as a cinema on the ground floor.
In 1960, the Scuola was further remodelled and is now used as a venue for cultural events such as exhibitions, meetings and concerts.
Since 1999, “I Musici Veneziani”, perform their concerts in the beautiful setting of the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro.
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Please see below my other Scuole Grandi Posts:
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