Great School of San Rocco or in Italian Scuola Grande di San Rocco is a unique tourist attraction in Venice, which is deeply rooted in the Venetian tradition. These schools were actually confraternities where people with similar interests met in order to wield more political power. Members of these schools were mostly merchants and ordinary citizens i.e. people who were not of noble background.
Great schools were brotherhoods, the members of which were merchants and ordinary citizens, since no nobleman was allowed in unless they renounced any position in the government. Being mostly middle class members with no possibility of exercising any political power, by joining similar brotherhoods, they could play prestigious roles in the Venetian society.
These Schools first appeared in the 13th century and they continued to play an important role in the society until the downfall of the Venetian Republic. These schools played a crucial role in the religious life and in the organization of numerous charities. Members of such schools enjoyed a number of benefits that at first were for members only, while over time other citizens could benefit from their work.
Having started mostly as the religious confraternities, already in the 15th century, there were different types of schools that took care of the interests of artists, craftsmen, whilst there were national schools for each foreign community in the city. Only the schools of religious nature, such as the Great School of San Rocco, became the great schools and in the 16th century there were six of them.
Great School of San Rocco
The Great School of San Rocco came into possession of the remnants of the Saint Rocco or St. Roch in 1485, just several years after its foundation in 1478. According to a legend, Saint Rocco was born in Montpellier in France as the son of the governor of the city. Upon the death of his parents, he went on a pilgrimage to Rome, where he successfully cured the plague victims and preformed miracles. After having cured plague victims in several Italian cities, he came to Piacenza where he developed plague as well. He was exiled from the city and again by a miracle survived in the nearby forest and cured himself. After this ghastly experience, he came back to Montpellier where he was imprisoned by his uncle allegedly for being a spy. He died in the prison cell several years later. Shortly after his death, he was proclaimed the protector of plague victims, while over time he also became patron saint of animals, victims of different infectious diseases and major disasters such as earthquakes.
Thanks to the popularity of the Saint Rocco among people and due to the frequent outbreaks of plague in Venice, this school became the richest such organization in Venice. During the plague outbreaks, numerous citizens flocked to visit the tomb of San Rocco in order to pray for themselves or the loved ones leaving huge offerings behind.
During the Napoleonic rule in the city, all great schools were suppressed. This decision was only revoked for the Great School of San Rocco. This is why this school is the only remaining great school in Venice. Even though the Napoleonic decree from 1806 had been revoked, the school lost its funding deposited with different institutions and the land it held in possession.
Great School of San Rocco today
The school lost its original purpose, or at least partly lost it, and it has become a mere tourist attraction. The reason why it is so popular among tourists is that the walls of the several rooms that are open for visits are painted mostly by the famous Venetian painter Tintoretto. He managed to obtain the bulk of the work of decorating most rooms of the Great School of San Rocco.
Ticket price for the Great School of San Rocco in Venice
Regular ticket price is 10 Euros (€).
Reduced ticket price is 8 Euros (€).
Free admission: children younger than 18.
Reduced ticket: for individuals younger than 26 and individuals older than 65.
Working hours of the Great School of San Rocco in Venice
The Great school of San Rocco is open every day from 9:30 to 17:30h.
The school is closed only at Christmas and New Year’s day.
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