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Richard Saul Wurman’s Access Guide, which dates the beginning of the Scuola’s construction to 1515, points out that “most of the great Renaissance architects of Venice contributed to this remarkable building, which epitomizes the stylistic trends of that period: the ground floor was built by Bartolomeo Bon, the middle and top floors by Sante Lombardo and Scarpagnino, and the final touches were added by Gian Giacomo de’ Grigi. Like its neighboring rival at St. John the Evangelist’s, the Brotherhood of St. Roch was a powerful association of merchants, storekeepers, and other members of the Venetian bourgeoisie, whose purposes ranged from assisting the poor to redeeming sinners. When the brotherhood commissioned Jacopo Tintoretto to decorate the interior of the building, it tied its name forever to one of the most extraordinary cycles of paintings in the history of Venice” (133).

Left: Il Scuola Grande di San Rocco and its accompanying church. Right: The façade of the Scuola (or corporation).

Having approached Venice through Lord Byron and J. W. M Turner, Ruskin immediately fastened the nuances of their art to his own perceptions. According to him, the great moment of revelation about Venice came, not when he encountered the palaces along the Grand Canal or the Ducal Palace, or even Saint Mark's, but when he first saw Tintoretto's great cycle of paintings on the life of Christ. At the urging of his friend and drawing-master J. D. Harding, he visited the Scuola di San Rocco, where his encounter with Tintoretto's masterful cycle forced him, he says, to study the culture and history of Venice, and thus he came to write The Stones of Venice.

Left: The façade of the fraternal organization’s church. Right: The main entrance to the Scuola seen in the distance behind the columns flanking the entrance to the church.

Left: The organization’s church is surmounted by a statue of St. Rocco (or Roch). Right: This bas relief above the church entrance depicts him aiding the poor during the plague.

The Façade of the Scuola di San Rocco

Left: The main entrance to the Scuola. Right: One of the ornate capitals, which supports the base of the column on the upper story. [View of the building’s corner, showing its brick sides.]

Left: Bottoms of columns carved with women’s faces. Right: Note the façade’s polychromy created by different colored marbles.

Left: Windows and window surrounds.

Inside the Scuola di San Rocco

More of Ruskin's Venice

Photographs by Landow October 2000 and Freidus (February 2020) [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL.]


Ruskin, John. The Works. Ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. “The Library Edition.” 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903-1912.

Wurman, Richard Saul [and Patricia Schultz]. Florence Venice Milan Access. New York: HarperCollins, n.d.

Last modified October 2000