Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Frari Church, Bellini and Jesus Christ, Superstar

There is a church in Venice called the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, built by the Franciscan brothers. Completed in 1338 it is usually referred to as the Frari church. It is second in size in Venice to St. Mark's. Below is a photograph of the church showing the main entrance. As you can tell it is made of brick, and is very plain on the outside. Inside, however, is a whole other story. There are three pieces of artwork that are original and done by the artists specifically for this church. They are in situ in the positions they were intended to be.

The first of these is behind the main altar, The Assumption of Mary, by Titian. Unfortunately both times we were there it was largely covered by scaffolding for cleaning. The photo shown here is off the web.
No photos are permitted inside the church. What we could see was brilliant, particularly the reds.

There is also a statue of John the Baptist, carved out of wood by Donatello in 1438. It is the only Donatello in Venice.

Giovanni Bellini painted an altarpiece for the sacristy in 1488. The center of the tryptych is Mary with the Christ child standing on her lap. This is a wonderful piece of art. The Christ child looks like a real baby, which most of the renaissance infant depictions of Christ do not. Mary also seems to be a real woman. Bellini has done a wonderful job with perspective to make it appear three dimensional. The frame is thought to have been made by Bellini.

The Frari is a working church; apparently two masses a day are said in he sacristy. We sat down to look at the Bellini and contemplate both the artwork and the meaning behind it. We had been sitting quietly for a few minutes when all of a sudden a band started playing quite close outside the church. I thought at first it was a school band practicing, but there were no starts and stops like in a rehearsal. They played a couple of Sousa marches and then came “Jesus Christ Superstar”. All this was a bit much when one is in a church contemplating the eternities and Jesus Christ. Just a bit of irony.

We went outside and followed the sound of the music to the back of the church where there is a small square, with another small church and a council hall. Lo and behold there was an Italian Navy band playing away with a number of passersby enjoying the music. We joined them and took some photos.

This little girl is running back to her parents after trying to get into or closer to the action.

The photo below shows the Navy honor guard. The brick building in the left background is the altar end of the Frari church; I believe the Bellini is in the sacristy behind the window to the upper left. No wonder we heard the music so well.

 After the band left a street musician showed up and proceeded to sing opera and some other Italian songs. We tried to convince Alan, the Old White Haired guy, to join in but he wouldn't. He claimed he had a cold. Oh, well. A good time was had by one and all anyway.


  1. Just got caught up on your posts. Wonderful pictures. It looks like you had a great trip.

  2. Great trip. More posts and photos to come.

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  4. the pictures look great. the day looked fun to.