Scuola Grande di San Marco

Scuola Grande di San Marco (37)

The history of the Scuola Grande di San Marco dates back to 1260, when it was built in the district of Santa Croce as headquarters of one of the 6 fraternities in the city. These groups dedicated to charitable works, marked, because of the fact that leading figures were members of them, the religious and cultural rhythm of Venice of that period. Around 1437 it was moved to its current location, in the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo. 

Fate or bad luck determined that in 1485 this wooden building, including its lovely spiral staircase, was destroyed by a fire, which encouraged the heads of the brotherhood to commission a new headquarters. 

Responsibility for the work was placed in the hands of Giovanni Buora and Pietro Lombardo, who worked simultaneously on the Palazzo Ducale. Finally, because of disagreements between the authors and the heads of the fraternity, the project was completed by Mario Codussi. However, once Codussi had taken over the reins, despite everything, the Lombardo workshop was entrusted with the statues that decorate the façade.

The current façade of the building is, in fact, a clear example of this joint work. While the general structure, markedly asymmetrical, characterised by its arcades, is the work of Lombardo and Buora, then the higher order was finished by Codussi in 1495.

The original arrangement was maintained for this new headquarters, with a small room reserved for meetings situated above the main hall, which is decorated with two rows of columns. The outside, decorated with Corinthian pilasters and with marble figures, features the irregular division in two parts of the main façade, each of which has its portal. The one on the right is flanked by beautiful bas-relief work attributed to Tullio Lombardo which represent scenes from the life of Saint Mark.

The Scuola Grande di San Marco was for a long time the most important of the Venetian scuole because this building, an authentic jewel of the Renaissance, housed great works of art, which today are in important museums, such as the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice or the Pinacoteca di Brera, in Milan. 

Needless to say, the fraternity possessed the painting titled Miracles of Saint Mark, by Tintoretto, as well as several works by Palma the Eder and Pâris Bordone.

 When in 1797 the Republic of Venice fell, the Napoleonic authorities dissolved the fraternity, and in 1808 turned the Scuola Grande di San Marco and the adjoining buildings of the hospital of San Lazzaro dei Mednicanti and the Dominican convent of Santi Giovanni e Paoli into a hospital, a function that the building still fulfils to this day.

Between 2000 and 2004 a laborious restoration process was undertaken that returned to the Scuola Grande di San Marco its early splendour. 

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