Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

( Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari )

The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, commonly abbreviated to the Frari, is a church located in the Campo dei Frari at the heart of the San Polo district of Venice, Italy. It is the largest church in the city and it has the status of a minor basilica. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

The imposing edifice is built of brick and is one of the three notable churches in the city that retain most of their Venetian Gothic appearance. In common with many Franciscan churches, the exterior is rather plain, even on the front facade. The exterior features a bell tower that was repaired in the early 2000s for structural problems.

The interior is notable for many tombs and works of art that accumulated in the centuries after it was built. It contains many very grand wall monuments to distinguished Venetians buried in the church, including a number of Doges. Many of these are important works in the history of Venetian sculpture, in...Read more

The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, commonly abbreviated to the Frari, is a church located in the Campo dei Frari at the heart of the San Polo district of Venice, Italy. It is the largest church in the city and it has the status of a minor basilica. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

The imposing edifice is built of brick and is one of the three notable churches in the city that retain most of their Venetian Gothic appearance. In common with many Franciscan churches, the exterior is rather plain, even on the front facade. The exterior features a bell tower that was repaired in the early 2000s for structural problems.

The interior is notable for many tombs and works of art that accumulated in the centuries after it was built. It contains many very grand wall monuments to distinguished Venetians buried in the church, including a number of Doges. Many of these are important works in the history of Venetian sculpture, including that by Donatello. Paintings in situ include two large and important altarpieces by Titian, the Assumption of the Virgin on the high altar and the Pesaro Madonna in a chapel. The basilica also contains the only rood screen still in place in a church in Venice, a vestige of the Venetian Gothic architecture that preceded Venetian Renaissance architecture.

The first historical information about organs in the Frari basilica dates back to the fifteenth century. In 1483, a chronicle of the convent refers to the existence of a "perfectum" organ. In service for more than thirty years ranging approximately from 1593 at least until 1629. Girolamo Diruta (1586-1589) and Giovanni Picchi are among the most famous organists of the basilica during that period.

An engraving depicting the choir of the basilica made by Father Vincenzo Coronelli in 1708, shows that the basilica then had two organs on the perimeter wall of the choir that were facing one another and placed sideways on the choir stalls.

The left organ was probably built by Giovan Battista Piaggia in 1732, this instrument could therefore be one of his first works. The activity, known up to now, of this Venetian organ builder extends, in fact, from 1740 to 1760, the organ he built for the Venetian church of San Giovanni Evangelista dates back to that date and has remained almost unchanged; the latter therefore served as a term of comparison to validate the attribution of that of the Frari and, above all, to allow its reconstruction in 1970. In fact, after Gaetano Callido had built the front organ (1795), this instrument was progressively abandoned, so as to reach the early seventies almost completely stripped of the metal rods.

The organ on the right was built by Gaetano Callido in 1795 or 1796. Almost uninterrupted documentation from then until the early decades of the twentieth century provides information confirming that, unlike the other organ in the pair, this instrument was entrusted to qualified organ builders for ordinary maintenance and, from time to time, the organ on the right was restored with substantial respect for its authenticity.

Problems regarding restoration of the two ancient organs was faced in 1969. Following construction of new organ with electropneumatic transmission (1928) by Mascioni, an organ located in the apse close to Titian's Assumption, use of the Callido organ decreased so much over time that between 1929 and 1969 there were no maintenance interventions on the original pared organs.

The restoration of the pared organs was unequal. Given the good condition of conservation and integrity of the right organ, an intervention of extraordinary maintenance was all that was needed. While a more radical intervention was needed for the left organ that called for a reconstruction in the strictest sense, since there were seven façade pipes, all the internal mechanics, nine wooden pipes, and a bellows were missing. For this reconstruction all the surviving elements were used and, on the basis of these, also making comparisons with the organ of San Giovanni Evangelista, the measures of the pipes were established.

The restoration made it possible to appreciate again the round and robust sounds of the Callido organ and the transparent and delicate timbre of the Piaggia organ, closer to Renaissance sound models. Eventually, the instruments were tuned in unison, in order to be played together. After more than thirty years, a new revision work was promoted, which was completed in the months of April and May 2004.

Thanks to the availability of two organs placed on two opposing choirs that was typical of a musical style in vogue in Venice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the practice of the double choir is restored in the basilica of the Frari. It is the last surviving example in Venice - and one of the rare examples in Italy - of two choirs with functioning historical organs.

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