Venice, Italy - February 15th, 2014 : People walking in the square San Rocco in front of a renaissance palace called Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, Italy.
Editorial, Mediterranean Countries, Travel, Tourism, Photography, Building Exterior, Cloudscape, Large Group Of People, Color Image, Walking, Renaissance, History, White, Green Color, Brown, Blue, Ancient, Old, Cultures, Architecture, Travel Destinations, Vacations, Outdoors, Horizontal, Tourist, People, Venice - Italy, Italy, Europe, Tree, Day, Cloud - Sky, Sky, Town Square, Palace, Built Structure, City, Town, Style, Mediterranean Culture, Scuola Grande Di San Rocco

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Top choice in San Polo & Santa Croce

Everyone wanted the commission to paint this building dedicated to St Roch, patron saint of the plague-stricken, so Tintoretto cheated: instead of producing sketches like rival Veronese, he gifted a splendid ceiling panel of the saint, knowing it couldn't be refused, or matched by other artists. This painting still crowns the Sala dell'Albergo, upstairs, and Tintoretto's work completely covers the walls and ceilings of all the main halls.

When Tintoretto painted these darkly dramatic works, between 1575 and 1587, Venice's outlook was grim indeed: the plague had just claimed the lives of 50,000 Venetians.

In the Ground Floor Hall, St Mary's story starts on the left wall with the Annunciation and ends on the opposite wall with an unusually dark and cataclysmic Assumption. From spring to late autumn, the artworks provide a bewitching backdrop to top-notch classical-music concerts; ask at the counter or check the website for details.

Upstairs in the Chapter Room, Tintoretto's biblical scenes read like a modern graphic novel: you can almost hear the swoop overhead as an angel dives to feed the ailing prophet in Elijah Fed by an Angel. Mercy from above is a recurring theme, with Daniel’s salvation by angels, the miraculous fall of manna in the desert, and Elisha distributing bread to the hungry. The scenes from Christ’s life that fill the walls aren’t in chronological order: birth and baptism are followed by resurrection. The drama builds as background characters disappear into increasingly dark canvases, until an X-shaped black void looms at the centre of Agony in the Garden.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby San Polo & Santa Croce attractions

1. Chiesa di San Rocco

0.02 MILES

Built by Bartolomeo Bon between 1489 and 1508 to house the remains of its titular saint, beautiful St Roch's Church received a baroque facelift between…

2. I Frari

0.04 MILES

A soaring Gothic church, the Friary's assets include marquetry choir stalls, Canova's pyramid mausoleum, Bellini's achingly sweet Madonna with Child…

3. Chiesa di San Pantalon

0.08 MILES

It's not the prettiest from the outside, but the bald brick facade of this 17th-century church (rent by a concerning crack), doesn't give any indication…

5. Casa di Carlo Goldoni

0.15 MILES

Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni (1707–93) mastered second and third acts: he was a doctor’s apprentice before switching to law, which proved handy when…

6. Chiesa di San Polo

0.21 MILES

Travellers pass modest St Paul's Church (founded in the 9th century) without guessing that major dramas unfold inside. Under the carena di nave (ship's…

7. Ca' Rezzonico

0.22 MILES

Baroque dreams come true at this Baldassare Longhena–designed Grand Canal palazzo (mansion), where a marble staircase leads to a vast gilded ballroom and…

8. Palazzo Grassi

0.23 MILES

Grand Canal gondola riders gasp at their first glimpse of the massive sculptures by contemporary artists docked in front of Giorgio Masari’s neoclassical…