Scuole Grandi of Venice

The Scuole Grandi (literally "Great Schools", plural of: Scuola Grande) were confraternity or sodality institutions in Venice, Italy. They were founded as early as the 13th century as charitable and religious organizations for the laity. These institutions had a capital role in the history and development of music. Inside these Scuole were born at the beginning of 16th century the first groups of bowed instrument players named "Violoni".[1]

Membership and responsibilities

Unlike the trade guilds or the numerous scuole piccole, the Scuole Grandi included persons of many occupations, although citizenship was required. Unlike the rigidly aristocratic Venetian governmental Great Council of Venice, which for centuries only admitted a restricted number of noble families, membership in the Scuole Grandi was open to all citizens, and did not permit nobles to gain director roles. Citizens could include persons in the third generation of residency in the island republic, or persons who had paid taxes in Venice for fifteen years.

The Scuole Grandi proved to be one of the few outlets for non-noble Venetian citizens to control powerful institutions. Their activities grew to encompass the organization of processions, sponsoring festivities, distribution of money, food and clothing to poorer members, provision of dowries to daughters, burial of paupers, and the supervision of hospitals.

Structure and physical layout

The Scuole Grandi were regulated by the Procurators of Venice, who set forth a complex balance of elected offices, mirroring the structures of the republic. Paying members could vote in the larger Capitolo, which in turn elected 16 members to a supervisory Banca: a chief officer, Vicario (first deputy), Guardian da Mattin (director of processions), a scribe and twelve officers known as the Degani (two for each sestiere). A second board, known as the Zonta was meant to examine the accounts of the Banca.

Typically the main building consisted of an androne, or meeting hall for the provision of charity; the upper floor contained the salone used for meeting of the Capitolo and a smaller room, the albergo, used for meetings of the Banca and Zonta. They often had an affiliated hospital and church. The Scuola often sheltered relics, commissioned famous works of art, or patronized musicians and composers.

List of Scuole Grandi

By 1552, there were six Scuole Grandi:

The Scuola Grande dei Carmini was the last of its kind to be recognized as a Scuola Grande in 1767 by the Council of Ten.


  1. Pio, Stefano. Viol and Lute Makers of Venice 1490 -1630. pp. Chap. III.


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