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Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

A unique religious landmark can be found standing in the very heart of Venice – it is called the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and was built by Franciscans in the 15th century. Today the temple is located in the San Polo area on the square of the same name. The building is also often called simply the Frari.

History of the Frari

In the far 12th century, a religious movement emerged in Umbria that altered the future of the entire country. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the new doctrine, preached life in poverty and simplicity. His followers received a piece of land for construction in 1231. This is how a church and a monastery of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari appeared.

The second structure just like the first one was too small to accommodate an increasing number of parishioners. The third one, the last version of the church appeared by 1443. In 1492, the basilica was consecrated in honor of the Assumption of the Virgin. Restoration of the old Gothic church was carried out in the early 20th century.

Cathedral interior

The gothic style of the church and its bell tower is quite characteristic of the Italian religious medieval architecture. The interior decoration is not luxurious because the basilica used to belong to the Franciscan Order. However, you can find many paintings and sculptures depicting saints in here.

  • Titian's "Ascension of the Virgin Mary", "Madonna of Pesaro" and the triptych of the Madonna and Child with saints painted by Giovanni Bellini are the most famous artworks in the basilica.
  • A wooden statue of John the Baptist by Donatello that dates back to the 13th century and depicts Christ, is also something the church is proud to own.
  • At the church, there is Titian’s Tomb. The artist himself wished for it to be his place of rest.

Sights to see

Ca' Granda dei Frari

The former monastery Ca' Granda dei Frari is located to the right of the church. It existed for more than 6 centuries. It is known for its size since has more than 300 rooms. Two of his apprentices became Roman popes – Sixtus IV and Sixtus V. From 1810 the monastery had served as the barracks, later it became the state archive. Nowadays, Ca' Granda dei Frari is considered to be the largest historical archive in the world.

Cloister of the Holy Trinity

The gallery called the Cloister of the Holy Trinity can be found near the monastery. It was designed by architect Andrea Palladio. The building contains many sculptures of the Holy Trinity. In the middle of the gallery, there is the well of Giovanni Trognon. During the drought in 1792, the well did not dry up, and everyone was allowed to use it.

Bell tower

The bell tower of the basilica is 70 meters high. It was built by architects Jacopo and Pietro Paolo Delle Masegne in 1396. The observation deck of the bell tower offers a picturesque view of Venice.

Fun facts

  1. The Frari Cathedral houses one of the greatest relics of Venice – the “Holy Blood of Christ”. According to legend, Mary Magdalene received a crystal vase with holy blood after the Crucifixion of Christ. The vase was brought to the Apennine peninsula from Constantinople in 1480.
  2. Here you can find an unexploded bomb dropped on the building by Austrians in February 1918.

How to get

To reach the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, take a vaporetto to the San Toma stop.

Opening hours: from 09:00 to 18:00.

Admission: free.

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