A brief history
The Scuola di San Rocco, or School of St. Roch, the patron saint of plague victims, began in 1478 as a Scuola dei Battuti (flagellants’ association) and after various vicissitudes it built its first independent headquarters near the Frari at the end of the century. These consisted of the small building to the right of the church, today known as Scoletta or “little school”, and the church dedicated to St. Roch for the proper preservation of his body, which the Scuola had acquired in 1485.
The deep veneration for this saint, to whom people turned during the frequent, terrible plague epidemics, visiting his tomb and imploring him to heal them, and at the same time leaving abundant alms, caused the Scuola to grow rapidly, so that during the 16th century it became the richest of the Venetian confraternities.
In 1789 it received the title of “Arch-confraternity” from Pope Pius VI, and it was the only one of the old Great Scuole to survive the fall of the Republic. All the others were in fact suppressed by Napoleonic decree in 1806. For our Scuola the order was revoked, although on that occasion it did lose most of its assets, which consisted of huge sums of capital deposited in state coffers, houses, shops and land. It did however retain, as it still does, the ownership of the buildings of the Scuola, the church and the Scoletta.
Today the brotherhood, with its over 300 male and female members, is still active, and substantially still continues the same charitable works as of old, as well as looking after its notable artistic heritage.