Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, commonly known as the “Frari”; is centrally located in the San Polo district and has an interior rich in art.

To give it its full title, the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, located in the rather small Campo dei Frari; is one of the most prominent churches in the city.   The  vast interior is richly decorated in sculpture and several of Titian’s most important paintings; celebrating the glory, wealth and achievements of the Republic of Venice.   Some regard it almost as a church-museum.



The Frari is a parish church of the Vicariate of San Polo-Santa Croce-Dorsoduro.  Other churches of the parish are San Barnaba, San Ludovico Vescovo, Santa Maria del Soccorso and Santa Margherita.  The Franciscans had been expelled from the church during the 19th century, the church was restored to the order in 1922.

The Basilica, which is in the form of a Latin cross, is a classic example of Gothic style which can be described as “Franciscan” because it avoids the pomp and ostentation of the spires, pinnacles and flying buttresses of Gothic style; while highlighting the harmony, beauty and simplicity of the lines. The name of the architect is unknown, because in 1369 many precious and ancient documents were burnt in a fierce fire, which destroyed most of the convent and part of the church.

The Basilica, externally is 102 metres in length by 32 metres in width.  The transept measures 48 metres and is 16 metres wide.  The height is 28 metres both from the central nave and from the transept.

This  imposing church is built of brick, and is one of the city’s three notable churches still mostly retaining their Venetian Gothic appearance.  In common with many Franciscan churches, the exterior is rather plain, even on the front facade.

The interior is notable for many very grand wall monuments to distinguished Venetians buried in the church, including a number of Doges and the painter Titian.

Many of these are important works in the history of Venetian sculpture and the many paintings include two large and important altarpieces by Titian, the Assumption of the Virgin (Left) on the high altar and the Pesaro Madonna.  It also contains the only rood screen still in place in Venice.  Titian, the most prominent 16th-century Venetian painter, is interred in the Frari.




The campanile, the second tallest in the city after that of San Marco, was completed in 1396.  Under the patronage of Giovanni Corner, the Chapel of San Marco was added in 1420.  The chapel of San Pietro next to the bell-tower was constructed between 1432 and 1434; by bishop Vicenza Pietro Miani.

The facade (Left) was not completed until 1440, with the cornice is surmounted by three statues (1516) by Lorenzo Bregno  The main altar was consecrated in 1469.  In 1478, the Pesaro family commissioned a chapel in the apse.  On 27 May 1492, the church was consecrated.







In 1234, Giovanni Badoer gave The Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (or Frari), some marshy land between the parishes of San Toma and San Stin.  In 1236, Doge Jacopo Tiepolo gave them some adjoining unreclaimed land, adjacent to the abandoned Benedictine abbey that they were using.

Work on the church was begun in 1250, extending the old abbey and consecrated in 1280.  It was much smaller than the one we see today and faced in the opposite direction.

The current three-nave church was begun shortly after, in 1340 and inverted the original orientation; thus placing the facade facing the piazza and small canal.  Construction was started under Jacopo Celega, but completed by his son Pier Paolo; taking a century to build.

Work was slow as the old church was still being used in 1415, but it was demolished shortly after this date to complete the east end of the nave; work having been begun at the west end.  The new church was finished in 1442, its facade having been finished around 1440 and consecrated in 1492, with the name of Santa Maria Gloriosa.  Its plan is attributed to Fra Scipione Bon, who has a tomb in the church.

The monastery dates from 1256, being renovated after a fire in 1390 and having two cloisters, one by Jacopo Sansovino and the other attributed to Andrea Palladio.



Facade.  The impressive facade of the Basilica, is split into three parts by simple pilasters in late Gothic style.  The central part of the facade is adorned with a portal with splays which are flanked by two precisely-worked white pillars.

At the top of the ogival arch, there is the Christ Resurrected by Alessandro Vittoria (1581).  On the left there is the Virgin Mary with the Child and on the right St. Francis, statues carved by Bartolomeo Bon (slightly after 1430).  In the lunette, the outline of the fresco of Gaetano Zompini (18th century) remains; representing the Virgin among the angels.

Level with the aisles, there are three circular windows in white Istrian stone.  The one in white on the left, bears the lion of Venice and the lily of Florence in the etched cornice; to indicate that the chapel of the Fiorentini is on the inside.  The one on the right is smaller and in two colours and bears the figure of St. Anthony; indicating the chapel of the same name on the inside.

Campanile (Belltower).  The Romanesque bell tower is 69 metres high (224 ft) and is the second highest in Venice after San Marco.  From the top you can get an amazing and rare view of the city and the isles of the Lagoon.


Construction was started by the Venetian Jacopo Celega (1361) and completed by his son Pier Paolo in 1396.

The inside has two flues linked by a ramp which was used to take building materials up to the top.  It appears as if one bell tower is inside the other.  The ‘inner’ tower is illuminated by large rounded windows; whereas small single-light windows let a weak light filter through.

The tower is made of terracotta apart from the white stones which separate the three orders, columns, arches of the belfry and the smaller columns of the loggia.  In 1490, it was damaged by lightning and the cusp was changed.  The current polygonal drum coping replaced the lead pyramid, that was similar to that of the San Marco bell tower.

It was restored in 1871 after subsidence, with the foundations further reinforced in 1903.  It now has an electro-mechanical bell system.

















The church is in the shape of a Latin cross and has three naves with a transept.

Twelve almighty columns, symbol of the apostles, hold up the “sky” of the Basilica, composed of beams, ribbing, keystones with figures, webs and ogives; which harmoniously intertwine, overlap and intermingle.

The six polygonal chapels in the apses extend along the length of the entire transept; whereas the aisles are separated from the central nave by six couples of two-order pillars crowned with capitals with hook-like leaves, on which are set the ribbed cross vaults.  The fifth couple, at the entrance to the choir, are tri-lobate pillars.

In the central apse, there are elegant poly-style pilasters instead of the circular pillars.  The impression of ‘height’ is slightly reduced by the twin order of wood panelled “tie-beams”, giving stability against settlement.

Dominating the centre of the church is the dark wood of the monumental monks’ choir (a rare survival in Venice).  The space is outlined by the presence of the artistic choir placed in the middle of the church.

124 choir stalls feature fine carving and marquetry by Marco Cozzi, depicting views of an ‘ideal city’.  This choir is separated from the nave by a carved marble screen of 1475, an early work from the workshop of Pietro Lombardo.

The nave features some  visually overpowering tombs, the prize going to the one for Doge Giovanni Pesaro, designed by Longhena; with the four huge moors bent under a weight of allegorical figures, under a canopy of carved ‘brocade’.

The unusual pyramidal tomb to Canova, is a far calmer and eye-catching.   Its design was copied by his pupils from the memorial Canova created for Maria Christina, daughter of Empress Maria Theresia; found in the Augustinerkirche in Vienna.

His heart is preserved in a barely-visible porphyry urn behind the sinister open door.   The rest of him is buried in Possagno, although a finger said to be in the Accademia.

Opposite is the tomb of Titian (erected by the Emperor of Austria in the 19th century) and a few altars along Vittoria’s statue of Saint Jerome, is said to depict Titian at 90.  According to the parish records of San Canciano, he died in August 1576 of a fever.  He was buried here despite the fact that funeral services were prohibited during times of plague for fear of contagion.  The plague restriction also probably being the reason that his desire to be buried in his hometown was not observed.

From the Chapter House beyond the Sacristy, it’s possible to glimpse the Cloister of the Holy Trinity (below), one of the two cloisters of the original convent which has housed the Venetian state archives since 1814; after a post-suppression period of use as barracks.  The other is called the Cloister of Saint Anthony and both are usually closed to visitors.











Above left: the Cloister of the Holy Trinity

Above right:  Monument of Paolo Savelli, Frari by Vincenzo Abbati (1857)



1-Counter facade

2-Chapel of the Crucifix

3-Canova Monument

4-Doge Pesaro Monument

5-Chapel with Pesaro Madonna by Titian

6-Chapel of San Pietro

7-Chapel of San Marco

8-Chapel of the Milanesi

9- Chapel of San Michele

10-Chapel of the Franciscan Saints

11-Choir and Organ



13-Doge Tron Monument

14-12th century Crucifix


15-Assumption of Virgin, main altarpiece by Titian (and main organ)

16-Monumento al Doge Foscari

17-Chapel of San Giovanni Battista

18-Chapel of Father Kolbe

19-Chapel of Bernardo

20-Dead Christ

21-Altar of the Sacristy with Giovanni Bellini’s Frari Triptych


23-Altar of the Relics

24-Entry to Sala del Capitolo and Convent

25-Wall of right transept

26-Jacopo Marcello Monument

27-Altar of Santa Caterina

28-Altar of San Giuseppe da Copertino

29-Altar with Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

30-Titian Monument

31-Altar of Sant’Antonio da Padova



Below left: High Altar with  “Assumption of the Virgin” by Titian.

Below right: Madonna and Child with Saints by Bartolomeo Vivarini.


  • Assumption of the Virgin by Titian.
  • Titian, Pesaro Madonna on the north wall of the nave.
  • Antonio and Paolo Bregno, tomb of Doge Francesco Foscari in the chancel (attributed; may actually be by Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino).
  • Lorenzo Bregno, tomb of Benedetto Pésaro above the sacristy door.
  • Girolamo Campagna, statuettes of St. Anthony of Padua and St. Agnes on the water stoups in the nave.
  • Marco Cozzi, choir stalls in ritual choir.
  • Donatello, figure of St. John the Baptist in the first south choir chapel, Donatello’s first documented work in Venice.
  • Tullio Lombardo, tomb of Pietro Bernardo on the west wall (attributed; may actually be by Giovanni Buora).
  • Antonio Rizzo, tomb of Doge Niccolò Tron in the chancel.
  • Jacopo Sansovino, damaged figure of St. John the Baptist on the font in the Corner Chapel.
  • Palma il Giovane, Martyrdom of St. Catherine from Alexandria / Martirio di santa Caterina d’Alessandria (1590-1595).
  • Paolo Veneziano, Doge Francesco Dandolo and His Wife Presented to the Virgin by Ss. Francis and Elizabeth in the sacristy.
  • Alessandro Vittoria.
  • Giambattista Pittoni, Hagar in the desert, Oil on Canvas, sacristy.
  • Bartolomeo Bon’s workshop.  Figures of the Virgin and St. Francis on the west front.   Figure of The Risen Christ on the west front.  Figure of St. Jerome on the south wall of the nave.
  • Alvise Vivarini, St. Ambrose and other Saints in the north transept chapel, his last work
  • Bartolomeo Vivarini.  St. Mark Enthroned in the Capella Corner in the north transept.  Madonna and Child with Saints, altarpiece in the third south choir chapel.



Below Left: Monument to Canova.

Below Right:  Monument to Titian.








Francesco Barbaro (1390–1454) (humanist and senator).

  • Pietro Bernardo (d. 1538) (senator)
  • Antonio Canova (only his heart is buried here; the tomb, realised by his disciples, is based on the drawing of Canova himself for an unrealised tomb for Titian).
  • Federico Corner.
  • Doge Francesco Dandolo (in the chapter house).
  • Doge Francesco Foscari (d. 1457).
  • Jacopo Marcello.
  • Claudio Monteverdi (one of the greatest composers of the 17th Century).
  • Beato Pacifico (founder of the current church).
  • Alvise Pasqualigo (d. 1528) (Procurator of Venice).
  • Benedetto Pésaro (d. 1503) (General).
  • Doge Giovanni Pesaro.
  • Bishop Jacopo Pésaro (d. 1547).
  • Paolo Savelli (condottiere), the first Venetian monument to include an equestrian statue.
  • Titian (d. 1576) (Renaissance painter).
  • Melchiorre Trevisan (d. 1500) (General).
  • Doge Niccolò Tron.












Please click on the links below, to see my other related posts on wonderful churches in Venice:

St Mark’s Basilica

Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Santa Maria della Salute


Back to The Blog Post page: HERE


The Frari’s Official Website in English: HERE



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