The Venice in Peril Fund, during the summer of 2008, acquired a manuscript, rather unusually, but illustrating the interest of the Fund in the conservation of all things Venetian in the widest sense - in this case of a peculiarly Venetian tradition, that of the piccole scuole. The six (or, later, briefly, nine) Scuole Grandi were a prominent part of the city's fabric, both visibly and politically, but the piccole scuole, of which there were some 925, though they were less conspicuous and spent less conspicuously on art and buildings, were even more vital. Among historians interest in them, as representative of the populo minuto, has recently been aroused, also, among art historians, in connection with Tintoretto, who was so largely patronized by them (it was mostly their chapels he decorated throughout the city) that he could make the gesture of painting the Scuola Grande di San Rocco for free.
The manuscript the Fund has acquired, which has been donated to the Archivio storico del Patriarcato di Venezia, was the mariegola (matricola in Italian) or combined rule-book and logbook of the Scuola del Santissimo Sacramento in the church of San Polo. These scuole of the Holy Sacrament (or Eucharist) sprang up in the early sixteenth century and were soon established in every parish church of the city, then 70 in number. Historians like to read this movement as an early sign of the stirrings towards Church Reform of the period, and soon enough this pious reverence for the host as the bodily substance of Christ came to stand in aggressive contrast to the denial of Lutherans and Protestants. The prime purpose of the Holy Sacrament scuole, however, like that of all the scuole, was to care for the unfortunate among their number and to ensure the decent burial and, through masses, afterlife of their members; and in particular in their case to distribute the Sacrament to the sick. A comparable mariegola shows precisely this, a man in bed with the host being brought to him; the illumination accompanying this mariegola recalls instead a devotional altarpiece, being fixed on the worship of the host. The chalice with the host was the universal emblem of these scuole, appearing for instance on the box or banco in the church in which each kept their paraphernalia, including their mariegola.
While such mariegole follow a common pattern, derived from state documents, of an illuminated frontispiece followed by an endowment text, they are all different, all individually