The headquarters of the confraternity of St. Roch is not so much a complex of buildings as a network of urban spaces connected one to another in a single grand design that evolved between the end of the fifteenth and the second half of the sixteenth centuries.

The urban environment
The locality chosen by the Confraternity of St. Roch for the construction of their headquarters and a church for the celebration of masses and the preservation of the Saint’s body was still a peripheral neighbourhood of the city in the fifteenth century. It was situated in fact on the border between a vast system of chiovere (a Venetian term for the large open spaces used for the processing of unrefined wool) and an area only recently reclaimed at the intersection of the Frescada, Muneghette and San Pantalon canals. Here, in the thirteenth century, the largest Franciscan community in Venice had settled, building over the course of the next two centuries the basilica and monastery of the Frari.

The Confraternity settles in

The acquisition and change of use of the monastery’s former cemetery, at the rear of the Frari basilica, and the subsequent construction of the Church and Scoletta di San Rocco (1489-1509) are signposts to the leading role that the newborn Scuola di San Rocco aims from the outset to play in this peripheral area, already on its way to becoming one of the focal points of Renaissance Venice. And in fact the building of the Church and the Scoletta will transform a largely undefined space into a campo that over the next decades will become the image and emblem of the Confraternity.

In counterpoint to the Frari basilica.
The building of the new Scuola, begun in 1517, was a leap in scale relative to the Scoletta, reproducing architecturally the large social ambitions (and the wealth) of the confraternity. The subsequent completion of the canal façade (1524-27) and the refurbishment in monumental style of the façade facing the campo (c.1536) were further steps of visual self-assertion in relation to the urban context, which will reach completion only in the 18th century with the reconstruction of the façade of the church along the same lines.

In the meantime, though, the development of a wide fondamenta on the Rio della Frescada overlooked by the imposing Castelforte residential block rounded off the disposition of a discrete urban complex comprising a series of monumental constructions and their service buildings, with interconnecting calli, open spaces, and covered passages, visibly linked by the solemn annual processions between church and Scuola.