One of the great places to explore when visiting Venice is the Franciscan church of Santa Maria dei Frari (St. Mary of the Friars, commonly known as the Frari Church).
As with many things in Venice, the Frari Church is an old building. The church was originally constructed between 1236 and 1338, then rebuilt in Gothic style two centuries later. It’s considered a minor basilica and is dedicated to the Assumption of St. Mary, Mother of Jesus.
While the church is well known for its spacious architecture, it is best known for the many fine monuments and terrific works of Venetian Renaissance art it displays. This beautiful art is still situated exactly where the artists knew it would be placed and where it has been resting for centuries, and is largely what makes this Venice’s second most popular church (fabulous St. Mark’s Basilica obviously being the most visited and popular).
The exterior of the church is plain, in the manner of the Friars, and this post focuses on its beautiful interior features. These are, in no specific order:
Unique to all of Venice’s churches, the choir remains at the center of Frari and has not been moved. The choir is beautifully detailed and is worth a careful look. It was completed in the 15th century and has 124 finely sculpted and inlaid stalls.
Titian, the most prominent 16th century Venetian painter, contributed two altar paintings to this Cathedral (see below). It was his request that he be interred in the Frari, a request that was honored. Several hundred years after his death this magnificent and massive monument was constructed, capped with the iconic winged lion of Venice.
This is the newest monument in the church, dating to the 19th century. The artist had created this pyramid as a tomb for Titian, but the monument chosen for the painter is shown above and Canova’s was passed over, so he sold it to the family of an Austrian princess in Vienna (which is where I saw it for the first time 10 years ago). This is a reproduction created by Canova’s students to honor their teacher. Canova’s body is buried elsewhere, but his heart rests within an urn in the monument.
There are a number of other interesting monuments and paintings in the Frari church, including the Monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro, which includes four dark-skinned Moors hard at work in its design. The Tomb of Doge Francesco Foscari, the longest serving Doge lived at a time when Venice’s power was at its peak, his reign coincided with the beginning of the Renaissance. More interesting artwork can be seen in the slideshow attached below (Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow):