Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista. Founded in 1261, has its origins in the Church of Sant’Aponal (Sant’Appollinare) and then moved in 1301, to what was called “Contrada San Stin”, today in the district of San Polo.

 


 

BELOW: St John the Evangelist 1732-1733, Giovanni Maria Morlaiter

 

 

History of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista.    Founded in 1261, it has its origins in the Church of Sant’Aponal (Sant’Appollinare) and then moved in 1301, to what was called Contrada San Stin; today in the district of San Polo.  They rented some rooms owned by the Badoer family on the upper floor of a hospice for needy, elderly women next to the church.  The Scuola was also allowed to conduct its own religious rites in the church, under the patronage of the Badoer.  The rented rooms were later renovated.

 

 

In the Campiello della Scuola (small square), on the right-hand wall close to the entrance on the right, is a wonderful relief that shows the brothers kneeling before St John.  Two inscriptions, proclaim that the works were started in 1349 and completed in 1354.

 

 

 

 

Over time the Scuola gained more and more importance, especially when in 1369 the chancellor Philippe de Mézières, of the kingdoms of Cyprus and Jerusalem; donated a fragment of the True Cross.  It immediately became the object of veneration and is currently kept in the elegant chapel called “Oratorio della Croce”.

The entrance portal that opens out into the small square, immediately commands attention and is the splendid marble septum, created by Pietro Lombardo between 1478 and 1481.

A true masterpiece of Venetian Renaissance sculpture, it features the symbols of the Scuola and its patron St John: a large eagle resting on three books and surmounted by a cross.

To the right, is the main building of the Scuola Grande; whilst its dedicated church is on the left.

In 1797, the Republic of Venice came to an end. The Scuola Grande was closed by Napoleonic in 1806 and the property partly taken into state ownership and partly sold.  The rooms were reduced to storage space and state deposits.

 

 

Interior.  Entering at the rear of the square and on the ground floor, can be found the “Sala delle Colonne”, which has retained its original medieval appearance.

 

Entering at the rear of the square and on the ground floor, can be found the “Sala delle Colonne”, which has retained its original medieval appearance of the fifteenth-century building.

The Hall of Columns is a vast space intended to host the brothers and pilgrims.  The five stone columns with lowered bases, decorated at the top by owl beak capitals with the figure of a cloaked brother holding the staff of St John (dated to c. 1350); support the longitudinal beam on which the ceiling beams rest.

The plain walls are interrupted by various openings, including a Renaissance doorway leading to the campiello, a water entrance and the portal, matching that of the atrium; leading to the eastern flight of the staircase.

A tiny Cappella dei Morti, was created in the bay of the staircase.

After the great flood of 1966, the hall was restored and made impermeable to high tides and is furnished with interesting stone material; most not originating from the Scuola.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the jewels of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, is the Grand Staircase dating back to 1498 and designed by architect Mauro Codussi.  A true masterpiece, it leads from the Atrium and Sala delle Colonne to the first floor and is appreciated for the extraordinary ability to exploit the small space and its illusionary properties (the staircase is widens towards the top).

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the first floor is the “Sala Capitolar” (St John’s or Chapter Room); a most beautiful room.  During the reconstruction in 1727 and 1762, the ancient ceiling was elevated 5 metres and 12 large oval windows were added.  The result is a stunning reflection of natural light, on the coloured marble floor.

The geometric oval and star shapes form three rosettes; a pattern which is also used on the wooden benches.  Many of the paintings on the walls tell episodes of the life of San Giovanni Evangelista; while the ceiling shows a series of scenes from the book of the Apocalypse.

The altar dedicated to the patron saint against the end wall, designed by Massari in 1728;  replacing a previous one in wood.  The niche in the centre contains the statue of St John the Evangelist in the act of writing his Gospel, accompanied by the eagle and a cherub; symbol of divine inspiration, by Giovanni Maria Morlaiter (1732-1733).

Most of the paintings on the walls illustrate episodes from the life of St John the Evangelist according to the Golden Legend by Jacopo da Varagine, while on the ceiling there is an eighteenth-century cycle of scenes taken from the book of Revelations; another work written by the author of the fourth Gospel.  The more significant ceiling paintings include two corner compartments by Giandomenico Tiepolo.

 

 

Exterior.  Outside, to the left of the small square, the Church of the Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista, can be visited.

 

Founded in 960 as a private chapel of the Badoer family, it has been extensively modified over the centuries from its original Gothic design; with only a few original design remnants remaining.  The church now features a single square nave with a flat ceiling and three rectangular chapels.

It also contains a precious organ dating back to 1760, by Giovanni Battista Piaggia; next to which is a portal that leads to the adjacent cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today.  The Scuola, organises cultural and social events, often at international level and can only be visited when there are no events taking place.

 

Please see my other blogs in the “Scuole” series

Scuola Grande della Carità 

Scuola Grande della Misericordia 

Scuola Grande di San Marco 

Scuola Grande di San Teodoro 

Scuola Grande di San Rocco 

The Scuola Grande dei Carmini 

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