Scuola Grande di San Marco. Located on the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, it is probably the best-known scuola, as it is located next to the Ospedale and the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (San Zanipolo).
It had become so influential and wealthy by 1437 that it assumed the name of the patron saint of the city. Adjacent to the Dominican convent of Saints John and Paul, it was the most imposing of the all the Venetian schools.
History. It was founded in 1260, by the Confraternity of San Marco as a Scuola dei Battuti; with a small meeting room near where the Santa Croce church once stood.
The confraternity moved to the current location in 1437, on land obtained the previous year from the Dominicans next door; however little is known about this building.
In 1485, after a candle on the altar caused a large fire and paintings by Jacopo Bellini, Gentile Bellini and Bartolomeo Vivarini, commissioned by the officers of San Marco in 1466, also perished in the fire. The original building had to be reconstructed; to a design by architect Pietro Lombardo and then later completed by Mauro Codussi. By 1490, the new meeting house was largely complete and decoration could begin.
In the early 16th century Gentile Bellini (a member of the scuola), began a series of paintings on The Life of Saint Mark, for the Sala dell’Albergo. Around 1523-4, various Venetian artists were commissioned to decorate the Sala Grande and further decoration in the Sala Grande continued into the 17th century.
The scuola was suppressed by Napoleon and the art dispersed. In 1819, it became an Austrian military hospital and it is now a civil hospital. Unfortunately, the original mariegola, is the only one which is missing from the Archives of the city of Venice.,
The Scuola di San Marco has recently been further renovated and reopened in 2013.
The facade can be admired from the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, the with its wonderful decorated niches and pilasters and white and polychrome marble statues.
Pietro Lombardo was responsible for the lower part of the façade. Some sculptures from the old facade were reused – the figure of “Charity” above the portal and a relief of “Saint Mark Venerated by Members of the Confraternity”, in the lunette below both thought to be by Bartolomeo Bon.
At pavement level Tullio Lombardo, (son of Pietro), created the four three-dimensional reliefs of the two lions, together with “Saint Mark Healing Anianus” and “Saint Mark Baptising Anianus”.
Marco Codussi took over in 1490, designing the upper windows and the top storey of the facade.
The Building’s Interior. It is possible to visit the interior, such as the main entrance hall and the upstairs scuola rooms; now used as the ancient library and a medical museum.
Entry is gained by Mauro Codussi’s staircase, destroyed in the 19th century, but rebuilt to Codussi’s plans. It is accessed through one of the pair of doorways he designed, in the right wall of the large vestibule with its ten Corinthian columns on tall pedestals; which is still used as the entrance to the hospital.
Sadly, most of the art in the Sala del Capitolo (The Chapter Hall (Sala) and the Sala dell’Albergo was dispersed in 1797 after the fall of the Republic and later Austrian control; so few originals remain in here.
LEFT: Entrance vestibule with processional series of ten columns on pedestals used as access to the hospital.
The Chapter Hall (Sala del Capitolo), has a spectacular gilded ceiling of 1519, by Vettor Scienzia da Feltre and Lorenzo di Vincenzo da Trento. The room contains some big impressive paintings and large display cases full of medical curiosities and books; the scuola still being owned by the Ospedale.
Sadly, all of the art in the Sala del Capitolo and the Sala dell’Albergo was dispersed in 1797; few originals remain in here.
LEFT: Chapter Hall with spectacular gilded ceiling and display cases full of medical curiosities and books.
The smaller Sala dell’Allbergo opens off of the Sala Grande. The carved and gilded ceiling here is by Biagio and Pietro da Faenza and is from 1504. In here digital reproductions replace the paintings, originally sited above the bookcases.
LEFT: The smaller Sala dell’Allbergo, featuring the ancient library and digital art reproductions on the walls.
Tuesday to Saturday
Please see my other blogs in the “Scuole Grandi ” series.
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