Lodovico Priuli, from a dogal family, designated in his will, dated May 3rd, 1569, a sum of money for the purpose – in honour of the first twelve Companions of Christ – of building a home to host twelve elderly men without wives or children. The men would be provided with an annual sum of twelve ‘ducati’ (the Venetian golden coin), along with some flour and wood for cooking and heating.
The institution was dedicated to the donor’s patron saint, St. Ludovic de Toulouse. A small church or ‘oratorio’ with its own chaplain, was also provided for in the will. However, from the beginning, the institution was administered by a laical body whose first chief was Priuli’s widow, Marietta Venier. A diffidence towards the Roman Church was traditional in the Venetian Republic.
For four centuries the eldest man in the Priuli family was governor of the hospice.
At the turn of the last century the Priuli line ran out and the property of the Ospizio Priuli was later transferred to a public institution, ‘IRE’ that concerns itself with several similar charities. These institutions, dedicated to lending assistance to the poor were rather diffuse in the ancient Venetian Republic
The Ospizio still exists today and continues to host twelve poor men. The original home has been rebuilt though, due to decay. The Oratorio, the only surviving part of the original XVI century building, had been closed since the sixties, following the death of the last chaplain.
Nuova Icona rediscovered the Oratorio in 1996, wrapped in deep oblivion under fabulous, huge cobwebs. The Oratorio has been given a new purpose that conserves its original character of a spiritual space. The Oratorio di San Ludovico under the artistic direction of Nuova Icona, is now the showcase for new contemporary art creations from very different expressions. (Approximately 70 sq.metres of exhibition space). The greatest possible degree of freedom is allowed for the span of its programmes, following the tradition of the liberal private patronage that created the original institution four centuries ago.
The Oratorio belongs to the historical heritage of IRE, Venice.