The Frari church is one of the most impressive in Venice with artwork and architecture that show off more than five centuries of culture and history of the Serenissima. While there was a small Franciscan church on the spot in the 1200, the current Gothic structure was begun in 1340 and completed more than a century later in 1443. The results are breathtaking, making the Frari, as it is called, second only to St. Mark's Cathedral in terms of grandeur. The bell tower is also second in height to the campanile of San Marco.

The massive brick-built Gothic church is deliberately plain on the exterior in keeping with Franciscan austerity, but inside it is bright and breathtaking. The soaring apse has tall Gothic-pointed windows through which light floods in. The aisles are topped by high cross vaults.

The church is a repository for some of Venice's defining artwork. Such artistic heavy-hitters as Titian, Bellini and Donatello are represented here, along with many more talented Venetian artists. Titian completed The Assumption of the Virgin and Madonna di Ca' Pesaro for the church; it is said that his wife was the model for the Madonna in the latter and that she died not long after its completion in childbirth. They are perfect in their display of spatial perspective. These together with the triptych by Bellini are considered defining pieces of Venetian Renaissance art. There is a fine carved wood sculpture of St. John the Baptist by Donatello, a marble monument to Titian, sculptures and monuments to various Venetians and doges, and the incredible tomb for sculptor Antonio Canova. The marble pyramid and accompanying sculptures were designed by Canova himself for a tomb for Titian, which he hadn't completed. His pupils and assistants used the designs to create this funerary tribute to their master.

If you see only one church beyond St. Mark's, it should be this basilica!

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Address in Venice:

Campo dei Frari.