Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari was the first of two churches built by the Franciscan friars in Venice. Very simple, austere yet one of the most delightful of the Venice churches, this should be added to your must see list while in Venice Italy. The church, dating back to the 13th century, is in the San Polo district of Venice and facing onto Campo dei Frari.
I mentioned that the church dates back to the 13th century but this is not entirely true. The original church built by the Franciscan Friars in the 13th century was actually rebuilt in the 14th century and this is the church we see now.
Outside the church does not appear particularly striking and is in fact rather austere which was in keeping with the Franciscan principles.
You won’t find any ostentation here but nonetheless there is a certain beauty and something special about this church.
Of all the Venice churches this is the least photogenic. When you see it you will understand that it looks far lovelier than it appears in photos - particularly photos taken by me!
The bell tower is important too in that it is the second highest in Venice – only that of San Marco is higher.
Perhaps it is just my upbringing and having attended a Franciscan church for most of my childhood that makes it seem special to me but I doubt it. Most of my friends and family have also found this to be a strangely moving place.
On entering the church the first impression is breathtaking. Twelve pillars, representing the apostles, divides the nave from the two aisles. The interior of the church contains some great artistic treasures ranging from the 12th to the 18th centuries.
Some of the highlights include:
• Titian’s work, The Assumption, which dominates the altar has to be the highlight. Overpowering and huge it is certainly impressive.
• Perhaps even more beautiful is Titian's other work, La Pala Pesaro, commemorating the victory of the Venetian fleet over the Turks.
• The Gothic wooden choir stalls which are still to be found in very few Venice churches.
• The tombs – particularly that of Antonio Canova which is said to only contain his heart.
• Donatello’s sculpture of John the Baptist dating from 1438.
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Santa Maria Gloiosa dei Frari