BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA GLORIOSA DEI FRARI, VENICE
The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venetians usually just call this famous church "I Frari." That's because it was built by the Frari (Venetian dialect for frati, or "brothers") of the Franciscan order. Built in the 13th/14th–century Gothic style (and rebuilt in the middle 1400s), the church is plain and cavernous in the style typical of the simple Franciscans but does house two Titian masterpieces (which are actually in short supply here in the master's hometown). The more striking of the two is the Assumption of the Virgin, over the main altar, glowing with gold and painted in 1518. In his Madonna di Ca' Pesaro, on the left aisle, Titian's wife posed for the figure of Mary, then died soon afterward in childbirth.
The church's other masterworks are Giovanni Bellini's 1488 Madonna and Child triptych, in the sacristy (take the door on the right as you face the altar), and the only work by Donatello in Venice, a very human-looking painted wood St. John the Baptist in the chapel just to the right of the main altar. In the centre of the church, the carved marble rood screen and 124 elaborate wooden stalls of the Monk's Choir beyond are both late 15th century.
The large and stylish tombs of two famous Venetians are also here. Just inside the door to the left is a monumental pyramid honouring the Italian sculptor Canova, who died in 1822 after leading the neoclassical revolution in art (his mummified heart is preserved in a porphyry urn). Ironically, this tomb design was adapted, by Canova's students, from a monument the sculptor had intended for Titian (who died in 1576 during a plague), located right across the nave. However, the great painter's memorial—also designed by Canova's pupils—ended up instead as a classical-style archway topped by the winged lion of St. Mark.
TIPS ON VISITING
- Planning your day: Visiting the church only takes about 20 minutes, but it makes for a cool and relaxing respite from the jostle and crowds of Venetian alleys and famous sights, so you might want to just sit and relax on a pew.
- In the summer high season, volunteers sometimes offer free tours in English; check ahead of time.
- Go ahead and buy the €10 Chorus Pass rather than pay the separate, €3 admission (visit just three more churches—of the 16 covered—and it'll pay for itself).
- Take a tour: If you want a guide along to explain what you're seeing.
WORKS OF ART IN THE FRARI CHURCH
- Giovanni Bellini, Madonna and Child with Ss. Nicholas of Bari, Peter, Mark and Benedict, the sacristy altarpiece
- Giambattista Pittoni, Hagar in the desert, Oil on Canvas, sacristy
- Bartolomeo Bon's workshop, figures of the Virgin and St. Francis on the west front
- Antonio and Paolo Bregno, tomb of Doge Francesco Foscari in the chancel (attributed; may actually be by Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino)
- Lorenzo Bregno
- tomb of Benedetto Pésaro above the sacristy door
- tomb of Alvise Pasqualino on the west wall
- Girolamo Campagna, statuettes of St. Anthony of Padua and St. Agnes on the water stoups in the nave
- Marco Cozzi, choir stalls in ritual choir
- Donatello, figure of St. John the Baptist in the first south choir chapel, Donatello's first documented work in Venice
- Tullio Lombardo, tomb of Pietro Bernardo on the west wall (attributed; may actually be by Giovanni Buora)
- Antonio Rizzo, tomb of Doge Niccolò Tron in the chancel
- Jacopo Sansovino, damaged figure of St. John the Baptist on the font in the Corner Chapel
Works of Art by Titian
- Assumption, the altarpiece of the high altar and the largest altarpiece in Venice
- Pesaro Madonna on the north wall of the nave
- Paolo Veneziano, Doge Francesco Dandolo and His Wife Presented to the Virgin by Ss. Francis and Elizabeth in the sacristy
- Alessandro Vittoria
- figure of The Risen Christ on the west front
- figure of St. Jerome on the south wall of the nave
- Alvise Vivarini, St. Ambrose and other Saints in the north transept chapel, his last work
- Bartolomeo Vivarini
- St. Mark Enthroned in the Capella Corner in the north transept
- Madonna and Child with Saints, altarpiece in the third south choir chapel
Burial monuments in the Frari, originally designed by Canova for the tomb of Titian
- Francesco Barbaro (1390–1454) (humanist and senator)
- Pietro Bernardo (d. 1538) (senator)
- Antonio Canova (only his heart is buried here; the tomb, realised by his disciples, is based on the drawing of Canova himself for an unrealised tomb for Titian)
- Federico Corner
- Doge Francesco Dandolo (in the chapter house)
- Doge Francesco Foscari (d. 1457)
- Jacopo Marcello
- Claudio Monteverdi (one of the greatest composers of the 17th Century)
- Beato Pacifico (founder of the current church)
- Alvise Pasqualino (d. 1528) (Procurator of Venice)
- Benedetto Pésaro (d. 1503) (general)
- Doge Giovanni Pesaro
- Bishop Jacopo Pésaro (d. 1547)
- Paolo Savelli ( condottiere) (the first Venetian monument to include an equestrian statue)
- Titian (d. 1576) ( Renaissance painter)
- Melchiorre Trevisan (d. 1500) (general)
- Doge Niccolò Tron