The Altar of the Relics

Dettagli dell'Opera

Year: 1711
Placing: Sacristy
Technique: Marble

Work Description

The present baroque altar was erected to adorn the marble tabernacle (now on the left of the iron door which opens into the Basilica) which contained the ampulla with the Precious Blood of Christ. In a crystal vase there is a small amount of balm which was mixed with a few drops of Christ’s blood collected by Mary Magdalene. The relic, which was highly worshipped in St. Christine’s Church in Constantinople, came into the possession of Melchiorre Trevisan, Fleet commander, in 1479. Upon returning from the Orient he donated it to the Frari church (19th March 1480). It was commissioned by F. Antonio Pittoni of the Frari Convent and, as can be read in the inscription on the black marble at the base of the altar, was completed in 1711. The three bas-reliefs are in Carrara marble, carved by the Venetian Francesco Penso alias Cabianca (circa 1665-1737). The dramatic and animated postures of the characters, which crowd the scene of the Crucifixion, are remarkable: Christ, at the centre of the scene is flanked by two thieves, one of whom is bent over having died on the cross. The scene of the horse, in the foreground, grabs the observer’s attention as the frightened horse’s frolics throw the Roman soldier off balance. The Madonna, who has fainted, is held up by one of the pious women, while another mourns Christ. In the scene of the Deposition the distraught group of people is wider at the base of the sculpture and pinnacles at the top with the man who is clambering up the ladder in order to lower the lifelessbody of Christ using a sheet. In the scene of the Entombment, whiletwo men are moving the marble slab which stands over the tomb, another couple of men lay Christ to rest on a sheet. The Mother mourns her dead Son. Six angels surround the scene, located at the centre and in the corners. At the top of the golden canopy an angel holds the sudarium with the outline of the face of Christ, while two angels, on either side, hold the pendant lamps. These wooden statues are the work of the great sculptor from Belluno, Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732).

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