Campo San Nicola da Tolentino, usually known as the Tolentini, is a popular spot for university students and workers who wish to relax after a long day with a prosecco on the steps of the church, looking out onto the open space before the canal. The inside is one of the most lavishly and richly decorated in Venice; in 1780, the priests of the church handed over all their silverware to a mysterious man called ‘Romano’ who claimed to have invented a new method for cleaning jewellery. He was never seen again.
The imposing gothic Church of the Frari was built in the 13th century by Franciscan friars, hence the name. It is one of the largest and longest churches in Venice, and holds a great number of unique works of art, first and foremost a painting of the Holy Mary’s Assumption by Tiziano.
The Franciscan order, founded after Saint Francis of Assisi, preached a simple lifestyle which is replicated in the simple monochromatic exterior of the church, where by contrast the entrance archways in white marble acquire even greater splendour. The friars themselves would live and pray in the convent adjacent to the main entrance of the church; since the fall of the Venetian Republic this huge building became the Archives of the State, where the secrets of Venice’s history are kept in 12 million volumes or, if you like, 78 km of book-shelving. A good idea of the vastness of the place can be had from the bridge, which also gives the best view of the church and the campo.
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