Scuola Grande dei Carmini
This is the last of the confraternities in Venice. It was named the large school or leading school by the Council of Ten in 1767. It was the confraternity of devotees to the Virgin of St Carmel and the building is similar to those designed by Longhena. It houses works of art from the 1600s and 1700s among which are a series of paintings by Gian Battista Tiepolo.
It was founded in 1594 as the “Confraternity of lay people under the Glorious Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel” by Bernardin Soardi. He was from Bergamo originally and was known as a ‘tellarol’ or a fabric merchant. In reality the school or confraternity, also known as Pizzocchere dei Carmini, has begun three centuries before in the church of St Mary of Carmel (or the Carmini as it is known) under the tutelage of the Carmelite fathers.
At the beginning it was mainly made of women. They wore a scapular, a type of pendant made out of material with one image of Jesus and another of the Madonna. They produced the scapulars and gave them out to the faithful. Their work was in supporting each other both spiritually and economically in the Faith, of collecting and distributing alms to the poor and sick and participating at their funerals and giving dowries to young girls for marriage or for taking vows in the convent.
The church of Santa Maria del Carmelo was deemed too small for the thousands of faithful and in 1625 buildings adjacent to the church and the nearby campo Santa Margherita were bought. Work ws begun under the design of Cantello. The facade was designed by Longhena. He had to work on pre-existing structure and so could not give his best.
The interior is enriched by frescoes among which the paintings on the ceiling of the Capitolare Room, by Tiepolo. The room was the meeting place where the brothers approved, discussed and elected the confraternity. The paintings, created between 1739 and 1749 show the theological and cardinal Virtues and other fruits of the Spirit. All refer to the Virgin Mary with angels and cherubs bearing the scapular , a symbol of devotion with the rules of the confraternity written on them. In the centre is a large painting showing "The Apparition of the Madonna of Mount Carmel to St Simon Stock as she presents him with the scapular.”
Other works of art in are those by G. B. Piazzetta, Zompino, Menescardi in the Sala dell’Archivio (Archives Room) and Padovanino in the Sala dell’Albergo (Hotel Room), which was given that name because it gave accommodation to pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land.
Napoleon’s famous edict of 1806 closed down the confraternity temporarily and its most easily transported works of art were taken away. The larger pieces were left and remain for us today. This building, a noteworthy example of artistic and architectural Venetian heritage opens its doors to many concerts and operas throughout the year.
Address: 2617, Dorsoduro – 30123 Venezia
Opening times: every day from 10 to 5
Entrance: adults 5€, students 4€, children 2€