“Do not look back.” After entering the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari through a side door, we received this instruction from Dr. Beall, as we processed to the back of the church. Fighting the temptation to look back, I repeated the instruction to myself in my head until Dr. Beall finally had us all to turn around. As I turned, I witnessed the illumination of church’s presbytery with natural light, streaming in through the tall Gothic windows. This effect was most striking at the center, where Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin (1515-18) was located, framed by the arch of the choir. It was as if I was observing the Assumption taking place before my very eyes. Processing forward, we stopped at the Pesaro Altarpiece, the Mausoleum of Canova, and the Mausoleum of Titian. Titian’s mausoleum included reproductions of five paintings in relief sculpture, and I surprised myself by being able to identify all five. In the sacristy, the three reliefs located on the Altar of Relics impressed me with how effectively they expressed the narrative of Christ’s crucifixion, deposition, and entombment. Exiting the church, I noticed four paintings (beautiful in both color and design) by Vicentino, an artist with whom I was unfamiliar. I resolved to learn more about him when I returned to the United States. Our next stop was the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
Here, I began truly to understand Tintoretto. While I considered his paintings of Biblical scenes to be beautiful by themselves when I had first seen them on PowerPoint Presentations the previous semester, observing them together in situ allowed me to appreciate Tintoretto’s precise placement of those paintings in the hall, their shared themes, and their combined effect. These factors enable sacred conversations between many of the paintings. My comprehension of so many of the depicted Biblical stories also left me with an enhanced appreciation for my Introduction to the Bible course. After lunch, we continued to another monumental palace on the Grand Canal, the Ca’ Pesaro, which now houses Venice’s Museum of Modern Art. The Church of San Stae, a church clearly influenced by Palladio, served as the final stop for the day. At night, we attended an evening performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at La Fenice, Venice’s famous, sumptuously decorated, and recently rebuilt opera house.
Following a performance of unexpected scenography and exquisite singing and musicianship, we traveled back to the hotel by way of Piazza San Marco, where we encountered acqua alta. While the unseasonable high waters required us to be more attentive to where we walked, ultimately we successfully navigated through the piazza and onto the hotel.