Though not officially founded until the year 1594, the Scuola Grande dei Carmini traces its roots to 1286, when the institution was established as one of the earliest civic and charitable confraternities in Venice. Work on the Scuola Grande continued from 1626, when the order expanded its original building, through 1668, when it acquired a second building to accommodate its growing needs. The confraternity commissioned Baldassare Longhena to redesign both structures and produce a single, unified façade for the two buildings. Longhena, whose work in Venice (including the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute) made him one of the period’s most celebrated architects, worked on the project until his death in 1682. Construction continued under Longhena’s associate, the architect Antonio Gaspari. Works by contemporary Venetian painters and sculptors decorate interior spaces, and nine ceiling canvases by Giovanni Tiepolo, completed in 1739, adorn the scuola’s Sala Capitolare.
How We Helped
Beginning in 1971 and continuing through the end of the decade, WMF undertook extensive repairs of the Scuola Grande’s structure and its decorative program. A conservation team restored the scuola’s 52 paintings, its roof and walls, and ornamental metalwork. Conservators also repaired much of the wooden cabinetry and cornices found throughout the upper floors, and cleaned the building’s façade. Later, WMF led efforts to damp-proof the scuola’s floors and staircase to protect against water damage and, in the late 1970s, worked on a small chapel within the building, before fully restoring the scuola’s ceilings.
Why It Matters
The Scuola Grande dei Carmini, like many of the great Venetian scuole, reflects the long tradition of civic engagement and the rich artistic legacy that modern Venice has inherited. At Carmini, this tradition includes not only paintings and architecture, but decorative craft, carpentry, and metalwork from some of the city’s finest artisans. The building, with its range of artistic treasures, also suggests the importance of religious life in 17th- and 18th-century Italy, and the historical interconnectedness of religious and artistic functions. By engaging in a comprehensive and substantial restoration of the scuola building, WMF reaffirmed the importance of the monument as a living marker of Venice’s historic past and enduring artistic tradition.