The Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is one of the largest churches in Venice, and one of Italy’s most important Franciscan sites. The church, commonly known as the Frari, is located in the homonymous Campo dei Frari, in the sestiere of San Polo.
The first church built on this site dates back to the first half of the 13th century, when the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor received a piece of land in the area. Soon, the church proved too small and, in 1250, the papal legate, the cardinal Ottaviano Ubaldini, laid the first stone of a new larger church.
Around the year 1330, the architect Jacopo Celega began working on a third church, which was completed in 1396 by his son, Pier Paolo. The bell tower of the church was built in 1936, the Chapel of San Marco was added in 1420, the Chapel of San Pietro in 1434, and the facade was finished in 1440. The church was consecrated in 1492, and the portal, surmounted by three statues, work of Lorenzo Bregno, was built in 1516.
In the 19th century, the Franciscans were banished from the church, and they returned only in 1922.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The church has impressive dimensions, measuring 102 meters in lenght, 48 meters in width and 28 meters in height. The exterior, built of bricks in Venetian-Gothic style, is rather plain, like many other Franciscan churches. The interior has a Latin cross plan, with three naves, with ogival arches resting on six columns on each side.
The church houses 17 monumental altars, many tombs and funeral monuments of numerous personalities, including the composer Claudio Monteverdi, the painter Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), the sculptor Antonio Canova, as well as numerous doges, and many invaluable works of art.
Two of the most important paintings in the church are the Assumption of the Virgin on the high altar and Pesaro Madonna, both by Titian. Here, we can also find works by Antonio and Paolo Bregno, Girolamo Campagna, Donatello, Antonio Rizzo, Jacopo Sansovino, Giambattista Pittoni, Bartolomeo Bon and Alvise Vivarini.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is located in the center of the San Polo district, about 800 meters away from the Santa Lucia railway station. The closest vaporetto stop is San Toma, on the waterbus Lines 1 and 2, about 300 meters away. To find the church on foot, use the map below.