Upper Hall and Treasury

For a long time the decoration of the large Upper Hall (approx. m. 44x17) was made up of simple painted “canevazzi,” which were replaced and repainted from time to time. It was only in 1574 that the Confraternity decided to proceed with a suitable restoration of the Hall and in 1576 Tintoretto donated the central painting The Brazen Serpent which was then followed by a life contract which allowed the decoration of the whole Sala according to a vast and complex programme by Tintoretto himself with the probable supervision of a responsible individual from the Scuola.

The episodes portrayed in the Hall are taken from the Old and the New Testaments and are grouped around three fundamental topics, represented in the three central canvases on the ceiling: Moses drawing Water from the Rock (water miracle), The Brazen Serpent (healing from disease), The Miracle of Manna (bread miracle). Thirst, disease, and hunger are the three bodily scourges afflicting mankind and Saint Roch and the Scuola dedicated to him have devoted their activity to their relief.

The New Testament episodes also recall, according to Tintoretto’s conception, the spiritual benefits connected with the three elements: water (The Baptism and Heals the Paralytic), healing meant as salvation and spiritual rebirth (The Resurrection of Christ and The Ascension) and bread (The Last Supper, i.e. the Eucharist, and The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes).

Tintoretto underlined the character of “vision” which he intended to give his canvases by inserting on the north wall of the Hall the figures of St. Roch and St. Sebastian whose eyes are turned toward the ceiling and the walls, respectively.

On the ceiling the Old Testament tale is told in 21 panels, some of which are large, and starts with Original Sin followed by Moses saved from the Waters (repainted by Giuseppe Angeli), The Three Men in the Furnace (G. Angeli), God Appears to Moses, Moses draws Water from the Rock, The Pillar of Fire, Samson Drinks Water from the Donkey’s Jaw (G. Angeli), Jonah Leaves the Whale’s Belly, Samuel and Saul (G. Angeli), The Vision of Ezekiel, The Brazen Serpent, Jacob’s Ladder, The Vision of Jeremiah (G. Angeli), The Sacrifice of Isaac, Elijah on the burning chariot (G. Angeli), Elisha multiplies the bread, The Miracle of Manna, Elijah fed by the Angel, Abraham and Melchizedek (G. Angeli), Passover, Daniel is Saved by the Angel (G. Angeli).

On the walls, the New Testament themes are told in this order: The Adoration of the Shepherds, The Baptism of Christ, The Resurrection of Christ, Christ praying in the Garden, The Last Supper, The Miracle of the Loaves and Fish, The Raising of Lazarus, Ascension, Christ Heals the Paralytic and The Temptation of Christ.

The walls of the Hall are completed by wooden altar frontals and a series of allegorical representations by Francesco Pianta il Giovane, the Younger, celebrated maestro of the Seventeenth Century. The long scroll supported by Mercury on the right of the staircase arch bears the description of the programme which guided the artist. The order of the figures starts from the east wall: proceeding to the right the first figure is Melancholy followed by Honour, then Avarice with the accounts books, Ignorance with a donkey head, Science and the Difference between Good and Evil. Between the figures of chained Fury and Curiosity covered by a cloak is an enigmatic Libreria with its 64 volumes of exceptional realism. Next to the bust of Scandal one can see the allegory of the Honest Pleasures symbolised by musical instruments; the wall is completed by the figure of Cicero, defending sculpture, and the Caricature of Tintoretto, defender of painting. On the opposite wall are some Female Figures (Caryatids) and between them a man representing Abundance. Next to the door of the Albergo are the figures of Stratagem and Immoral Blame. A large Hercules is placed between the two windows, under which are the statues of Faith, Hope and and Charity.

The end wall is entirely occupied by the Presbytery and the Alter, attributed to Francesco di Bernardino. The altar-piece with The Apparition of St. Roch is by Tintoretto; the statues of Saint John The Baptist and Saint Sebastian, at the sides of the altar, are by Gerolamo Campagna. The Presbytery is decorated by altar frontals with 24 high wooden reliefs sculpted by Giovanni Marchiori and representing Episodes from the Life of Saint Roch. The Balustrade with bronze gate by Giuseppe Filiberti is completed by two statues representing Two Prophets. They were the only ones among 14 commissioned statutes that Gerolamo Campagna managed to complete before his death in 1626.

Along the walls are 23 fanaloni from the eighteenth century which were carried together with the canopy and the insignia of the Scuola, during solemn ceremonies and processions.

In the area of the Presbytery the two canvases that were originally placed on the landing are now placed on an easel: the Visitation, painted by Tintoretto in 1588, and The Annunciation painted by Titian in 1542-43 but donated to the Scuola in 1555. The Dead Christ attributed to Vittore di Matteo, known as Belliniano, The Crucifix between Saint Roch and Saint Pantaleone by Domenico Tintoretto, The Crucifix between Saint Girolamo and Saint Francis by the school of the Padovanino, Portrait of a Man by Jacopo Tintoretto, for a long time thought to be his self-portrait, and the Christ Carrying the Cross are all displayed on easels. This latter painting, surmounted by Titan's lunette (The Eternal Father with Angels who bear the signs of the Passion), was attributed to the young Titian, in the period when the painter was still in Giorgione’s circle, but has now been definitively assigned to Giorgione. The painting was originally collocated in the church of San Rocco in a marble tabernacle and was the object of great devotion and generous offerings to the Confraternity. In 1955 it was moved inside the Scuola to leave room for the altar piece by F. Carena dedicated to St. Pio X.

Near the portal of the Albergo there are two paintings on an easel by G.B. Tiepolo executed around 1732 but bought by the Scuola in 1785; they represent Agar and Ishmael succoured by the Angel and Abraham visited by the Angels.

The entrance to the Sala della Cancelleria is located on the west wall, towards the Presbytery. The elegant eighteenth century room, with its walls covered by briar wood, has a richly decorated stucco ceiling, the work of Carpofaro Mazzetti Tencolla. In the middle there is a painting by Giuseppe Angeli Saint Roch in Glory and at the sides, the allegories of Faith and Charity. According to eighteenth century sources, Bernardo Strozzi’s canvas, Saint Roch, now on an easel, was at that time hung on the wall. At the end of the Cancelleria there is the door to the Archives, where the mosaic with The Annunciation by Giovanni Novello can be found. The door to the left of the Scalone leads up to a room built in 1775 by Giorgio Fossati to host the Tesoro (Treasury) of the Scuola, which contains a significant number of precious objects, part of which are displayed on the Feast Day of Saint Roch, on August 16th of every year, in the Sala dell’Albergo.

THE TREASURY

The treasury is an integral part of the extraordinary artistic patrimony of the Scuola Grande Archconfraternity of San Rocco. Although reduced from its once incredible scale, as documented in the old inventories, it is still one of the richest in Venice for the number and quality of the pieces. There are several chalices, reliquaries, monstrances, paci, altar-cards, crucifixes, astylar and processional crosses of beautiful make which are precious evidence of Venetian goldsmith’s art, both sacred and profane from the Gothic period to the Eighteenth century.

The oldest inventory of 1506 cites the presence of chalices, paci and other precious objects among which there is also a “tabernaculo cum el deo de misser san Rocho.” To this is added the splendid "reliquiario che racchiude la “spina della corona di Cristo" (reliquary containing a “thorn from Christ’s crown”) given by Zuan Maria Contarini on March 20th 1518. However, the most important addition to the Treasury is owed to the legacy with which in 1526 Maffeo Donà gave the Scuola all his rich gold and silver goods, a gift which in 1528 leads to the more careful custody of the precious objects which, except the ones entrusted to the chaplain for worship necessity, were placed in the so-called Scrigni (caskets). During the Sixteenth Century the Treasury was increased with other goldsmith’s works, among which a silver statue of St Roch, executed in 1536 by Bernardino Morati and many other pecious objects from the same time, including some pieces donated by Donà, that were melted or destroyed. It seems that there were no new acquisitions or additions until the Eighteenth century, when the monumental silver processional cross is dated, perhaps executed at the end of the previous century, and the Reliquary of the Virgin’s Veil, dated 1758.

In 1775, the Scrigni were thought to be unsuitable for such richness, and the Scuola decided to entrust the overseer Giorgio Fossati with the works for the so-called Sanctuary or Treasury, where the precious objects were collocated in the rich walnut cabinets that were expressly made for this reason. Following an order from the Council of Ten in March 1797, and an imposition of the democratic government of the following October, most silver goods were given to the Zecca (mint). A century later the Convocato generale della Scuola, on December 31 1899, resolved to rearrange the collection and open it to the public. Today, after more than a century and many years in which those rooms remained closed, the Scuola is preparing for the Treasury to be permanently displayed to the public, whereas in the past it was only to be viewed on the day of St Roch, when according to custom, it was presented in its richness on the desk of the Sala dell’Albergo.

This is why the big Eighteenth century wardrobes and the single goldsmith’s pieces are being restored. The Reliquary of the Spina – whose relics has been authenticated - a beautiful baroque chalice, the Agnus Dei of 1677, a coral candelabra, the opulent reliquary of the finger of St Roch and that of the veil of the Virgin Mary, and the astylar cross of 1741, which still today precedes the procession of confratelli on solemn occasions, have so been restored to their original splendour.

  • Tintoretto, The Adoration of the Shepherds
  • Tintoretto, The Baptism of Christ
  • Tintoretto, The Resurrection
  • Tintoretto, L'orazione nell'orto
  • Tintoretto, L'ultima cena
  • Tintoretto, The Temptation of Christ
  • Tintoretto, The Probatica Piscina
  • Tintoretto, The Anscension
  • Tintoretto, The Raising of Lazarus
  • Tintoretto, The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
  • Tintoretto, St. Sebastian
  • Tintoretto, St. Roch
  • Tintoretto, The Apparition of St. Roch
  • Tintoretto, Moses drawing water from the rock
  • Tintoretto, The Brazen Serpent
  • Tintoretto, The Miracle of Manna
  • Tintoretto, Adam and Eve
  • Tintoretto, Jonah leaves the whale's belly
  • Tintoretto, The Sacrifice of Isaac
  • Tintoretto, The Passover
  • Tintoretto, The three children in the furnace
  • Giuseppe Angeli, Samson draws water from the donkey's jaw
  • Giuseppe Angeli, The Vision of Jeremiah
  • Giuseppe Angeli, Abraham and Melchizedek
  • Giuseppe Angeli, Moses saved from the waters
  • Giuseppe Angeli, Samuel and Saul
  • Giuseppe Angeli, Elijah on the burning chariot
  • Giuseppe Angeli, Daniel saved by the Angel
  • Tintoretto, The Eternal Father appears to Moses
  • Tintoretto, Elisha multiplies the bread
  • Tintoretto The Pillar of Fire
  • Tintoretto Elijah fed by the Angel
  • Tintoretto The Vision of Ezekiel
  • Tintoretto Jacob's Ladder