Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Lonely Planet review

Everyone wanted the commission to paint this building dedicated to the patron saint of the plague-stricken, so Tintoretto cheated: instead of producing sketches like rival Veronese, he gifted a splendid ceiling panel of patron St Roch, knowing it couldn't be refused or matched by other artists.


Old Testament scenes Tintoretto painted from 1575 to 1587 for the Sala Grande Superiore ceiling upstairs read like a modern graphic novel: you can almost hear the swoop! overhead as an angel dives down to feed ailing Elijah. Against the shadowy backdrop of the Black Death, eerie lightning-bolt illumination strikes Tintoretto's subjects in New Testament wall scenes.


In the assembly hall, Tintoretto tells Mary's life story, starting on the left wall with Annunciation and ending with dark and cataclysmic Ascension opposite. Gregorian chant concerts are occasionally performed here (ask at the counter), and you can practically hear their echoes in Tintoretto's haunting paintings.