Scuola Grande di S. Giovanni Evangelista
The Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, founded in 1261, is home to one of the six great lay confraternities, modelled on, and supervised by, the city’s ruling Council of Ten. It commissioned the best artists and architects to express its commitment to Christian good works and spirituality – and to rival the richness of other Scuole.
In 1369 it acquired its most significant treasure, a relic of the True Cross and its best known architectural splendour is the decorated screen wall spanning the little square outside the Scuola which was built in 1484 by Pietro Lombardo. The confraternity followed this up a few years later, in 1498, when it commissioned Mauro Codussi to build a monumental staircase up to the Chapter Hall. He had already built one for the Scuola Grande di San Marco in 1495 as well as churches and palaces, which show how he helped to graft the ideas of the early Renaissance onto Venetian traditions. The site at the back of the Scuola was cramped, awkward and marshy but Codussi built a staircase of two flights with intermediate landings, that meet in a bridge at the top, with a chapel in the space below. To make it seem larger he manipulated the perspective so that the staircase widens from bottom to top by 70 cm. The dome above is stretched to match the illusion, and the architectural ornament and distinctively Codussian window complete the design.
The Scuola was suppressed by Napoleonic Edict in 1807 and many of its paintings were removed to the Accademia, but in the 19th century a group of Venetians revived it and the Confraternity is still active today.
Now the monumental staircase is at grave risk and in need of major conservation because it is pulling away from the back of the building while the 19th century tie-rods, that indicate this is not a new problem, are no longer effective.
Venice in Peril Fund is contributing €15,000 to the Scuola for the most urgent work to support the vault below the landing, strengthen the brick buttressing and renew the tie-rods ahead of the main €1 million project, which will include discrete phases of work that can be done as funds are raised.
For visiting hours: www.scuolasangiovanni.it