Instead of simple father-son handyman projects, sculptor Pietro Lombardo and his sons had more ambitious goals: a high-Renaissance marble facade for the most important confraternity in Venice. Mauro Codussi added the finishing touches on this gem. Magnificent lions of St Mark prowl above the portals, while sculpted trompe l’œil perspectives beguile the eye. Although the scuola now serves as the city’s main public hospital, you can visit an intriguing museum (€5) of medical instruments and antique books in the palatial gallery upstairs.
While little effort has been made to create a narrative of the objects on display, they are fascinating nonetheless, and the fabulously decorated gallery is reason enough to visit. Also housed here are more than 8000 medical books, including works by early physicians such as Galen and Hippocrates. Best of all is Paduan professor Andreas Vesalius’ treatise De humanicorporisfabrica (1543), a canonical text on anatomy, which details the fabric of the human body in extraordinarily detailed woodcut engravings.