<p>&#8220;Macabre Dance&#8221; fresco (by Paolo da Reggio CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)</p>
  • Europe /
  • Italy /
  • Bergamo

A religious order between salvation and suffering.

Montecchio, Oratory of the Dead
(by Mattis, CC BY-SA 4.0  Wikimedia Commons)
(by Mattis, CC BY-SA 4.0  Wikimedia Commons)
Heritage place of interest.

(by Mattis, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)

The route leads to Montecchio, where lies a tiny chapel of great symbolic value. 

Its name already confirms the strong presence of the order, but to increase the historical and artistic importance of the place are, the frescoes in decent condition inside. 

The confraternity was headed by a Minister General who was elected by all the representatives of the different schools, which already had their minister, rector and councillors. The representatives of the various schools met in assemblies, and the appointed Minister General occupied this position for a year. His duty was to visit all the schools scattered over the territory and decide where the following assembly should be held. All members of the brotherhood owed obedience to him. The other schools elected their representatives by nominating eight to twelve of those considered the best to be appointed councillors who were to select the first minister.

The movement was characterised from the outset by a strong religious fanaticism and had a certain following in the Bergamo valleys, where the normal difficulties of daily survival were compounded by the killings and devastation resulting from the contrasts between Guelphs and Ghibellines, behind which acted characters who found political cover for their ambitions in siding with one or other of the powerful of the moment.

The Church of the Disciplini or Oratory of the Dead was built in the late 14th and early 15th century and was probably a gathering school of the order’s members. However, in 1471 CE, the area was hit by a heavy flood, and the survivors decided to bury the dead where the parish churchyard is today. The church was later annexed to the cemetery. Over the centuries, all the frescoes were whitewashed and underwent considerable transformations that damaged the ancient paintings. In 1962, a restoration by the Soprintendenza restored the original frescoes and allows us today to appreciate, albeit partially, the chapel’s artistic uniqueness.

In particular, it is visible on the eastern facade, above the entrance, an image representing the Madonna and her faithful. Precisely in this image, it is possible to distinguish on the left side a group of hooded characters with the typical appearance of the “Disciplini”. 

They often wore hoods and simple clothes; generally, wool tunics cinched at the waist by a cord that ended with one or two pendants and was also used for flogging.

This particular fresco is a significant example capable of passing on an interesting facet of the movement of these followers in this valley.


1. Iseo, Oratory of San Silvestro

2. Pisogne, Santa Maria della Neve

3. Montecchio, Oratory of the Dead

4. Bienno, Santa Maria Annunciata