Founded next to Santi Giovanni e Paolo in 1260 and one of the six Scuole Grandi or guild halls in Venice, the original Scuola di San Marco (now the main entrance to the Ospedale Civile) burned in 1485 when a breeze blew a drapery onto a candle. and was replaced with one of those unique buildings of distilled Venetian fantasy, an asymmetrical, sumptuously decorated Renaissance confection.
Pietro Lombardo built this replacement, with help from his sons and Antonio Buora; in 1495 Mauro Codussi was summoned to design its upper level of six curved crowns, a rolling motif that echoes not only Tullio and Antonio Lombardo’s charming shallow relief arches with lions on the ground floor, but also the domes of the 'other' St Mark’s and the city’s arched bridges.
Just within the door is the Grande Andito, the beautiful, granite columned entrance hall with its doorways designed by Codussi and the grand stairway.
In November 2013, after a €350,000 restoration, the upper floor rooms, the Sala Capitore and Sala dell'Albergo reopened. Even if you aren't interested in the historical medical library installed in the Scuola’s Sala Capitolare chapter room, it's worth a visit to see the most ornate gilded coffered ceiling in Venice, by Vettor Scienzia da Feltre and Lorenzo di Vincenzo da Trento.
The high altar in the room was designed by Sansovino, and although the room was stripped of its Renaissance masterpieces by the French and Austrians during their occupation, the altar still has Palma il Giovanni's original painting, Christ in Glory with SS Mark, Peter and Paul. Other works are digital reproductions of the paintings that original hung here, including St Mark blessing the islands of Venice by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto and the Marriage at Cana, by Padovanino.
The Sala dell'Albergo, entered by way of a door sculpted with a scene by Giovanni Marchiori, of St Mark worshipped by a member of the confraternity, has another dazzling coffered ceiling, this one by Biago et Pietro Faenza, begun in 1495. The reproductions here are the Preaching of St Mark in Alexandria by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini and The Martyrdom of St Mark, by Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Belliniano.
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Campo San Zanipolo
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Images by: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner