<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.

Bienno, Santa Maria Annunciata
Heritage place of interest.
(by Luca Giarelli, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Dance of the Death of the Disciplini Oratory, Clusone, Province of Bergamo, Region of Lombardy, Italy (by Zairon CC BY-SA 4.0 via WikiCommons)
Heritage place of interest.

The last destination is the church of Santa Maria Annunciata in Bienno, with the renowned presence of the Disciplini, also here present through the theme of the “Dogma of death” in a fresco that suggests the triumph of the latter over seven characters hit by arrows from a figure that symbolises precisely the death. 

This macabre iconography, in some cases, anticipates the Black Death of 1348 CE, which decimated the European population by filling cities with corpses; in others, it is a direct consequence of it. Before the fateful plague, the dogma or “triumph of death” is more connected with the theme of the Last Judgement, sometimes correlated with a representation of Paradise and Hell linked to Dante’s description. On the other hand, in the later works, death itself begins to appear ”gratuitously”, decimating the population in a desolate vision not necessarily connected with the theme of salvation but rather re-elaborations of a terrible collective experience.

In the so-called “triumphs”, death is usually represented as a skeleton armed with a scythe that strikes different categories of people, emphasising how kings, popes and ordinary people are equal before it.

Apart from the artistic peculiarity, these frescoes hand down a cultural value, capable of narrating a critical vision of the society of that time. This view allows us to know history better and, therefore, humanity.

Bienno is an incredible and exemplary medieval village where it is recommended to walk and linger among ancient corners and alleys to breathe the authenticity and the history of past centuries.

The order of the “disciplines” can be seen as a theme that offers a very interesting key to the unfolding of the events of the late medieval period. Thanks to these paintings, we better understand the view of the population and the consequences of suffering and hunger brought by the incessant hardships. 

Moreover, this concept allows us to understand the mental struggles of the average person of the past. This religious uniqueness lies at the basis of an intricate psychological pattern due to ideals, social positions, and political situations caused by a peculiar relationship between time and place.


1. Iseo, Oratory of San Silvestro

2. Pisogne, Santa Maria della Neve

3. Montecchio, Oratory of the Dead

4. Bienno, Santa Maria Annunciata