The Basilica dei Frari is located in Venice and is situated in the heart of the city.
It is not just a church, but one of the most fascinating Venetian sites rich in masterpieces.
One of the first stops under ‘What to see in Venice‘.
Also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, this majestic Franciscan church is a veritable treasure trove of works of art, providing an insight into the cultural and religious importance of Venice over the centuries. Every corner of this church is rich in history and beauty and allows anyone who visits it to immerse themselves in a unique experience.
The Basilica dei Frari, works and curiosities of a Venetian treasure
The Basilica dei Frari dates back to the 13th century and, although its current structure is the result of several interventions over the centuries, its predominant architectural style is Venetian Gothic, characterised by an imposing and slender façade.
Inside, the aisles and choir are enriched by a series of ornate chapels and a magnificent wooden ceiling, one of the basilica’s distinctive features.
THE WORKS OF THE BASILICA OF THE FARI
There are not only the museums of Venice to visit but also the churches, rich in masterpieces and charm.
The Basilica dei Frari houses an impressive collection of works of art by some of Italy’s most famous artists such as Titian, Donatello and Bellini.
Among the must-see masterpieces are three that are genuine masterpieces, which you may not have known are still here, in the place for which they were made.
The first masterpiece not to be missed is Titian’s ‘The Assumption’.
This is the famous painting that Titian made in 1516 at the behest of Brother Germano, superior of the Frari Convent. It is one of Titian’s most beautiful works depicting the moment when the Virgin Mary ascends to heaven and the apostles are stunned by the event.
This work consecrates Titian as a great artist not only in Venice. It is one of the great masterpieces of art history.
The second work is also by Titian, but it is the ‘Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro‘, made between 1519 and 1526, moving the main figure of the Virgin and Child from the traditional central to the side.
It was the Pesaro family, the owners of the famous Ca’ Pesaro palace, today’s Gallery of Modern Art, who commissioned the painting from Titian, and it is the presence of Jacopo Pesaro, bishop and commander of the galleys that won the battle against the Turks at Santa Maura (1503), who introduces us to the work as he looks at it from inside the painting, accompanied by other members of the family.
The perfection of this work and the power of colour make this painting one of the most important masterpieces in the history of art.
The third work to be admired when entering the Frari Basilica is Donatello’s ‘Saint John the Baptist’.
This bronze sculpture, unique among Donatello’s works in Venice, is considered one of the best examples of Donatello’s style. The figure of St John the Baptist, with its intense expression and detailed drapery, captures the attention of visitors.
At the bottom one can see the signature of the master and also the date 1438: ‘Opus Donati de Florentia anno MCCCCXXXVIII’.
The fourth unmissable work in the Basilica dei Frari is the ‘Madonna with Child and Saints’ by Giovanni Bellini.
This fascinating work of the Venetian Renaissance was commissioned by three members of the Pesaro family, leading to the creation of one of Giovanni Bellini’s most intense works. The artist places the Virgin in the central panel while holding the blessing Child.
The Madonna’s gaze is gentle, but the two angels at the Virgin’s feet, holding a flute and a lute in their hands respectively, are also extraordinary.
IL LIBRO SULLE OPERE DELLA BASILICA DEI FRARI
If you want to learn more about the works of the Frari Basilica, I recommend reading the book Canova, Titian and the Church of Frari in Venezia in the 19th century, which contains many interesting facts about the masterpieces to be admired inside the Basilica and the artists.
The book is in a bilingual edition (Italian and English).
THE MONUMENTS OF THE BASILICA OF THE FARI
The Basilica dei Frari is much more than just a church. It is a place steeped in history, culture and spirituality, enchanting visitors with its majestic architecture, the priceless works of art it houses and its monuments. Indeed, every glimpse, every detail of the basilica tells stories of brilliant artists, profound faith and a city that has left an indelible mark on the history of art.
Here are the most important monuments to admire inside the Basilica dei Frari.
The Monument to Canova is one of the most important in neoclassical art.
Based on a design and model that Canova had prepared for the Titian Monument in 1794, it is presented as a pyramid with an open door set above three steps, on the right of which are the personifications of painting, sculpture and architecture weeping, followed by children with lighted torches. On the left is an angel (the genius of Canova) with a torch extinguished and the lion of Venice. Above the door two angels hold the image of the sculptor surrounded by the serpent, the symbol of immortality.
However, Canova’s body is not inside this monument but in Possagno (in the province of Treviso) in the artist’s hometown. It was the artist’s heart that was placed inside this monument, in the Basilica dei Frari in Venice, while his right hand was placed in a container entrusted to the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice.
The Titian Monument is the other great monument to be admired.
Before his death in 1576, Titian had asked to be buried at the Basilica dei Frari at the foot of the altar of the Crucifix for which he was preparing his last work, the Pietà, which was finished by Palma il Giovane.
It was, however, Canova who, in 1790, conceived the Titian Monument, which was never realised but adapted to become his monument.
The Emperor of Austria, Ferdinand I°, then decided in 1838 to take up the idea of creating the monument to Titian that we now see inside the Basilica.
The work was commissioned to Luigi, Pietro and Andrea Zandomeneghi, who inserted five bas-reliefs recalling the painter’s most significant religious works, two of which are kept inside the building.
WHY VISIT THE BASILICA OF THE FRIARS
If you visit Venice, entering the interior of the Basilica dei Frari is a must.
Admiring the masterpieces of Titian, Donatello and Giovanni Bellini, standing before the funerary monuments of two masters of art, and being enchanted by the majestic architecture of this building, is an experience that will leave an indelible impression in your memory.
Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Basilica dei Frari and be captivated by its timeless beauty. Venice will welcome you with open arms, offering you a journey into the past that will leave you spellbound.
If you are passionate about art, history and architectural beauty, plan your visit to the Basilica dei Frari on your next trip to Venice. Prepare to be transported to a world of wonder and discover a unique cultural heritage. Let the Frari Basilica enchant you with its artistic and spiritual magnificence.
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