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St. John the Baptist

The holy water stoup was donated to the church by Daniele Giustiniani. The stoup was converted into a christening font by placing on top a marvellous marble statue of St. John the Baptist, one of the most inspired works of Jacopo Tatti known as Sansovino. Experts state that the work was commenced between 1534-1537 and was completed before 1540. On the marble is the inscription: “Iacobus Sansovinus Florentinus faciebat”. Mariacher states: “The refined taste for detail and technical perfection is strikingly clear to the naked eye, not only in the human body but also in the natural elements such as the tree trunk, the woolly skin covering the Saint and the details etched with extreme finesse”.

Altar of St. Peter

On the left side of the nave there is the Chapel of St. Peter, also known as Emiliani Chapel due to its being erected upon the commission of the Bishop of Vicenza, Pietro Emiliani, between 1432 – 1434. On the altar rests the marble altarpiece (3.85 metres x 3.13 metres) with the Virgin and nine saints, divided into two orders and sculptured by the school of the Dalle Masegne (1432). In the upper order, from left to right, there are: St. Lucy, St. Catherine of Alexandria, the Virgin and the Child, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Clare. In the lower order: St. Jerome, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter the Apostle, St. James the Great, St. Francis of Assisi.

St. John the Baptist

For the chapel of Fiorentini, Donatello made the only Venetian piece of art created by the great master: St. John the Baptist. Above the statue there is a Latin inscription, taken from an antiphony celebrating the precursor, which states the following: «Inter natos mulierum non surrexit major Joanne Baptista». (Among those who were given birth to by a woman, none were as great as John the Baptist). The statue by Donatello, 1.55 m tall, was placed on the chapel’s altar in 1438. It can be said that Donatello, in realising this sculpture, sacrificed form for expression, a significant example of the new Renaissance culture. Mortified by penance and dressed in a shaggy animal skin and mantle thrown over his shoulders, the saint holds a scroll, between his tapering fingers, which states: “Ecce Agnus Dei”. The admonishing power of the Baptist is conserved in his animated look and raised arm. On the plinth there is the signature of the artist and the date, 1438: “Opus Donati de Florentia anno MCCCCXXXVIII”.

Equestrian monument to Paolo Savelli

The equestrian monument was erected by the Serenissima for Paolo Savelli, General of the Venetian troops, who died of the plague in 1405 during the siege of Padua. This Roman noble was given a solemn State funeral and was buried in the Frari Basilica. This was also due to the fact that he had consistently contributed to the construction of the webs of the transept. The equestrian monument is composed of a marble urn on which stands the General on horseback. The architectural structure dates to around the mid 14th century (probably the work of Rinaldino of France due to the strong resemblance between the Madonna of this urn and that of the Madonna Mora at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua) whereas the more classical decoration of the sarcophagus, in the cornice, in the corbels with the coat of arms held by two lion heads, but above all in the sculptures, can be traced to Tuscan school around the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th century i.e. the transition between Gothic and Renaissance style. Above, on a imposing golden wood horse, there strides the wooden statue of Savelli whose face is full of life. He is wearing luxurious clothes (the same sort that were found in the sarcophagus). The sculpture was presumed to be of the hand of the Sienese, Jacopo Della Quercia (1367-1438), but is more likely to be the work of a Tuscan sculptor active in Venice during the first quarter of the 15th century.


On the right of the wrought iron door is an intriguing clock in a wonderful wooden case carved by Francesco Pianta the younger (17th century). The clock is carved in a single block of cherry wood and represents the allegories of time. In the two doors of the outer case, decked with parchment, is the detailed description of the meaning of all of the carvings of the clock: from the passing of time to the seasons, to the time span of the life of man.


The crucifix, well visible from afar, hangs over the entrance of the choir. Traditionally, there was a Calvary hanging above the choir screen: in fact, beside the Crucifix, there are the sculptures, made with Istrian marble, of the Madonna and Saint John the Evangelist. Recent studies attribute this work to a Venetian craftsman. It is very likely that – thanks to his beauty and relevance – this crucifix was taken as a pattern for many others in Venezia and the Veneto region.

The Choir

In the centre of the the church the observer finds himself before the beauty and magnificence of the choir. Unlike many other churches, the choir of the Frari remains in its original position. It was built in the same period as that of the one erected by the Canozi in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua (1462-1469). It was completed in 1468 by Francesco and Marco Cozzi of Vicenza, as specified in the Gothic inscription on the outside of the last stall towards the sacristy end (see photo 166 on pg. 107). The perfect distribution of the sections, the elegant dimensions of the stalls and the layout of the spires render this choir worthy of closer examination. The observer must have been astounded by the effect of the magnificent decorations when the guilding was new and gleamed gloriously in the foliaged friezes, in the arches and folds of the twin order shell-shaped niches with blue stripes. There are 124 stalls, 50 of which are in the upper row, 40 in the middle row and 34 in the lower. It is 4.50 metres tall, 13.70 metres wide and 16 metres long. The 50 upper stalls are decorated with double order of panels. The upper panels, with intricate frames, portray the figures of Saints carved in typical Gothic style tinged with German influence. The lower panels are inlaid with buildings, calli, campi and wells in perspective and foreshortened. The rest of the choir is bursting with an array of geometric shapes, each of which is carefully carved down to the last detail. Among the carvings there are some fine examples which look like portraits of persons who have posed for the artist.

Marble ‘septo’ of the choir

The front of the choir is enshrouded by an Istrian stone ‘septo’, added in 1475 when Giacomo Morosini was Procurator of the church. In the stone panels are the busts in relief, emerging from foliage, of the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Testament. From the left and up above the observer can view: Abraham, David, St. John the Baptist, Enoch, Jonah, Jacob, Elisha, Daniel, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah. The last one on the right, containing the inscription: «Soli Deo honor et gloria», portrays Morosini. On the side facing the bell tower: Samuel and Habakkuk; on the opposite side: Isaac and Ezekiel. Beneath the ambos are the four Doctors of the Church: St. Gregory the Great and St. Jerome on the left, while on the right, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. Above the crowning, with an arch in the middle and two ambos on either side, there are the statues of eight apostles and St. Anthony and St. Francis attributed to Vittore Gambello known as Camelio (1460 circa – 1537). The Virgin and St. John, by the same sculptor, are positioned on top of the grand central arch and flank the stark Crucifix attributed to a Venetian carver. Underneath the two ambos, there are bas-reliefs portraying the four Doctors of the Church, which, together with the busts of St. Bernardino and St. Ludovico of Anjou (sculpted on the sides of the two gracious pillars which support the arch) are the work of Pietro Lom bardo. The rest is the work of his workshop.

The Mausoleum dedicated to Titian

Titian died in Venice on August 27, 1576. He had asked to be buried at the Frari at the foot of the Altar of the Crucifix which was the focus of his last piece of work, The Pietà, left unfinished and completed by Palma the Younger. Towards the end of the 18th century, many artists wanted to erect a monument in memory of the artist. The project was commissioned to Canova in 1790. The project was never completed due to the fall of the Republic of Venice and lack of funds. In 1838, while visiting Venice, the Emperor of Austria, Ferdinand I, was struck with the idea of erecting a monument in memory of the great artist who had worked at the court of his forefathers. The monument is in Carrara marble. The centre is dominated by the statue of the artist crowned with a laurel wreath. Nearby is the universal nature and the genius of knowledge with the statues of Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Art and Architecture. Five bas-reliefs recall Titian’s most important religious works: in the centre of the masterpiece is the Assumption on the left the Martyrdom of St. Peter from Verona, a splendid piece of artwork for the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, destroyed during a fire; and on the right the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, now located in the Gesuiti church. Above the entablature are the following sculptures: on the right the Visitation, while on the left the Deposition from the Cross. On the top of the monument is the Lion of St. Mark clutching the shield with the Hapsburg Coat of Arms. On the base, to the left of the monument, is an old man sitting down with a tablet bearing the inscription: “EQUES ET COMES TITIANUS SIT CAROLUS V – MDLIII”.

St. Anthony from Padua

In December 1441, after having completed the construction of the church, the friars granted the space in the right aisle to the Scuola di S. Antonio, which moved here in 1439 from San Simon Grando. The space extends from the facade to the first column nearest to the entrance of the central doorway. It was established that “a sumptuous altar could be erected… along with a round window in stone and glass up above ”. The present altar was built in 1663 using funds collected by the “Confraternity of St. Anthony”. It replaced the original wooden altar of which remains only the statue of the Saint by Giacomo di Caterino of S.Salvador, carved in 1450. The project of this monumental work is by Baldassarre Longhena (1598-1682), but the work, as the contemporary F. Vincenzo Coronelli states, was mastered by Giuseppe Sardi (1621- 1699) and the help of talented artists working in Venice. The altar is rich with marble sculptures and statues which centralise the figure of the Saint, surrounded by angels, and symbolic figures of the theological and cardinal virtues. The altar fills the entire space offered by chapel width-wise whereas length-wise it touches the point of the arch where the Christ Resurrected stands. Four large white Carrara marble composite columns frame the statue of the Saint. Faith and Hope, on either side, and Christ Resurrected on top, are the work of Bernardo Falcone of Lugano (†1694). Above Faith and Hope are Charity and Prudence and, on the pediment, Justice and Meditation. Up above, resting on the curvilinear tympanum, Temperance and Fortitude. These were all sculpted by the Flemish Giusto le Court (1627- 1679).