In the San Polo neighborhood, along the Rio dei Frari, you’ll find the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Known simply as ‘Frari’, this minor basilica is attached to the former Franciscan Monastery (now the State Archives). It’s one of several churches in Venice that houses masterworks of art.

Though not covered by the Museum Pass, the admission price is low enough to make this an affordable addition to your Venice itinerary. It’s also a great opportunity to explore one of the city’s less crowded neighborhoods.

Exterior and Architecture

The simple Italian Gothic structure, primarily dating back to the 15th century, was built on the site of two previous 13th-century Franciscan churches. It is reportedly much larger than its predecessors. The basilica’s bell tower, or campanile, from the late 14th century, is said to be the second tallest in Venice, after the one in Piazza San Marco.

Interior and Artwork

Despite being a rather plain Franciscan church, Frari holds a remarkable collection of art and sculptural work. As you stroll beneath the vaulted arches and wooden rafters, you’ll see several eye-catching marble tombs and monuments, as well as an impressive selection of paintings, most of which remain in their original spaces.

Some notable works include:

  • The pyramid-shaped tomb of sculptor Antonio Canova to the left of the entrance, which he designed as a monument to Titian, yet it’s his own heart that’s encased in it.
  • Titian’s actual tomb, a grand triumphal arch designed decades later, is located across the nave on the opposite wall.
  • Other imposing monuments and sculpted works, such as the tombs of Doges Francesco Foscari (right of the high altar), Giovanni Pesaro (south wall of the nave), and Nicolò Tron (left of the high altar).
  • The 15th-century choir stalls in the center of the building.
  • Donatello’s 15th-century wooden statue of John the Baptist in the Fiorentini Chapel, right of the high altar.

The most notable paintings here are dramatic masterworks of the Italian Renaissance, including:

  • Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child with Saints Nicholas, Peter, Mark, and Benedict, ca. 1488 (an altar triptych in the Sacristy)
  • Titian’s Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro, ca. 1490 (south wall of the nave)
  • Titian’s magnificent masterpiece, the Assumption of the Madonna, 1518, at center stage above the high altar

Surrounding Area

After visiting Frari, take a moment to enjoy the square out front, the Campo dei Frari, which offers a picturesque view of the canal and bridge. You can also stroll through the surrounding neighborhood in the San Polo sestiere, one of the oldest areas of Venice.

Nearby Attractions

  • Scuola Grande di San Rocco, a historic building known for its impressive collection of paintings by Tintoretto
  • Scuola dei Calegheri in Campo San Toma, a historic guild house showcasing Venetian craftsmanship

Getting There and Ticket Information

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is located at San Polo, 3072, about a 10-minute walk from Ca’ Rezzonico and a 12-minute walk from the Rialto Bridge. Adult admission is €3.00 and is not covered by the Museum Pass.

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