The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is a majestic Gothic church. Known to many as the Frari, it's the largest among Venice churches. It's also a perfect example of Franciscan architecture with its Venetian Gothic appearance. The exterior of the church might be plain, but it is the inside that matters. The massive church is home to many valuable paintings and sculptures. It is also a burial site of some Doges and artists.
Getting to the church
Compared to some other churches, this church has an excellent position on the Venice map. You can find the Basilica in the San Polo neighborhood, on the Campo dei Frari. As almost anywhere in Venice, you can get here by a vaporetto (a water bus). The closest stop is S. Toma, which is about 3 minutes walking distance from Santa Maria Gloriosa. If you are enjoying the best of Venice in the nearby San Marco neighborhood, you can walk to the Basilica. It’s pretty close to the world-famous St Mark’s Basilica. Cross the Rialto Bridge; from there, it will take about 15 minutes. The church is open daily, even on Sundays.
History & architecture of Santa Maria Gloriosa
In 1231, Doge Jacopo Tiepolo donated the land on behalf of the city to the Franciscan friars. The construction began in the same year and lasted until 1338. Later, some improvements and extensions resulted in the modern look of the church. One of Basilica's most impressive elements is a 70-meter high bell tower, second in height only to St Mark's. Not many churches have such an impressive campanile. Its construction ended in 1396. And only in 1492 Santa Maria Gloriosa was consecrated under the current name.
The internal structure of the church has a Latin cross plan with three naves. The chapels and the intricate stained glass windows are very impressive. The facade is mostly brickwork, and most of the building is from Istrian stone and terracotta. Those in architecture and design will notice the regalzier technique on the walls. In the 1500s, it was a widely used technique in the Veneto region, used for churches and other buildings too.
Inside the church
Santa Maria Gloriosa is the place to visit if you'd like to see treasured art pieces of Venetian artists. Here you can also find wall monuments and burials of notable Venetians, including a few Doges and Titian. He had left a considerable legacy in the church. Many come to see his altarpieces, The Assumption of the Virgin and The Pesaro Madonna. Another painting not to miss is Virgin and the Saints by Giovanni Bellini, found in the Pesaro Chapel. Enjoy Martirio di Santa Caterina by Jacopo Palma il Giovane on the Pesaro altar. There are paintings by Bartolomeo Vivarini and sculptures by Donatello. Jacopo Marcello and Beato Pacifico monuments are also essential to the church.
When visiting Santa Maria Gloriosa, many people pay attention to the organ. In the center of the main hall is a marvelous stereophonic pipe organ. Next to it is a carved and inlaid wooden choir, which seats about a hundred people. The church is part of a larger monastery complex. It works as the State Historical Archive with documents from the golden age of Serenissima. The monastery has magnificent cloisters, three of which are open to tourists. We at veniceXplorer, cherish such cultural heritage and recommend you to take your time exploring it.
Things to do in the area
San Polo sestiere is the smallest one out of Venice districts. Yet, there are plenty of exciting things to see and do. Many people come here because of the Rialto Market, where you can buy the most delicious produce in the city. That's where you can also find the Pescheria - a marketplace with the freshest fish. When visiting the Basilica, don't forget the nearby churches like Chiesa di San Polo or Santa Maria dei Carmini. There is also the Leonardo da Vinci Museum if you seek to explore more history and culture. To spice up your Venice visit with something fun and unique, we recommend the nearby Creature di Gomma. It's a museum with various vintage toys on display.