The Church of San Rocco is one of the four plague churches in Venice, along with San Giobbe, San Sebastiano and the Salute. The church was built for the Confraternity of San Rocco, founded in the plague year 1478, with the mission to help the poor and the sick, particularly the people suffering from the disease.
San Rocco is the only Venetian church designed as a sacrarium for the remains of its titular saint, St. Roch, whose body is preserved within the high altar.
A church was standing on this place before 1485. The new church was built after a design by the architect Pietro Bon, starting with 1489.
In March, 1490, the left side-chapel of the presbytery was finished and ready to receive the remains of St. Roch, which were to be brought from San Silvestro.
A competition for the construction of the high altar was won in 1517 by Venturino Fantoni, who designed a reliquary-altar, developed in Venice by the sculptor-architects Pietro and Tullio Lombardo.
After 1680, the church was almost entirely demolished and rebuilt between 1726 and 1733 by the architect Giovanni Scalfarotto, who kept only the fifteenth century chancel and the ground-plan of the old nave.
The facade was built by Bernardino Maccaruzzi between 1765 and 1769.
The church’s facade is entirely of Istrian stone, and was completed before 1541 by Antonio Abbondi, known as Lo Scarpagnino. Its three bays, mounted on a raised base, are punctuated by two orders of detached columns, Corinthian on the first level, Composite on the second.
In the two lateral bays, there are four statues of saints and beatified Venetians. The central bay, crowned with an arched tympanum, houses the main door, with a lunette above, framed with a small tympanum on half-columns. At the second level, the wall’s stone surface is almost entirely occupied by a relief portraying St. Roch healing the plague-stricken, by Giovanni Morlaiter.
The interior we see today is the result of variations renovations over the course of the centuries.
The most important works of art in the church are Tintoretto’s paintings, with episodes from the life of San Rocco, made after 1549. Notable is also the monument of Pellegrino Baselli-Grillo and a statue of St. Roch by Bartolomeo Bon.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest waterbus station is San Toma, about 350 meters away from the church. If you need precise directions to the church, use the map below.