Oratorio dei Morti in Bergamo, Italy - Atlas Obscura

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Oratorio dei Morti

At the entrance of this chapel is a fresco commemorating the dead from the plague outbreak of 1630. 

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Sometimes referred to as the Oratorio dei Morti di Peste del 1630, this chapel was erected in memory of those that died of plague in the year 1630. 

The history of this church goes back to the year 1044, when a deed was drawn mentioning a church dedicated to San Lorenzo, which indicated that this church was one of the oldest in existence at the time. Unfortunately, the original structure was destroyed to make place for a new fortification during the 16th century. While the old one was being destroyed, a new one was being constructed. Completed by the end of the 16th century, the new church of San Lorenzo alla Boccola is the very same structure that has survived to this day.

History, however, took a sharp turn during the next century. An outbreak of plague that had spread throughout Europe finally reached Italy and, between 1629 and 1631, this pestilence claimed at least 280,000 lives—with some estimates putting the figure to 1 million.

In memory of those that died of plague, the Oratorio dei Morti was built next to the church of San Lorenzo alla Boccola. Above the door, it is believed that a semi-circular lintel used to frame a fresco by Vincenzo Bonomini. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, all that was left of this artwork were faint blotches, and it was decided that a new fresco should replace it. A young artist by the name of Emilio Nembrini undertook this mission, and the new fresco was unveiled in 1936.

The new monochromatic fresco is dominated by two main figures, Death and the dead, which are standing on each side of a slate that bears the following text: “resting here from the church move the bones of our brothers pray to their souls solace light and peace.” Although punctuation is not present, the meaning is quite straightforward.  To complete this somber composition are leaves, wreaths, skulls, and reclining pillars.

Know Before You Go

The main door to the chapel is usually closed, but it is possible to enter this place of worship through the adjacent church of San Lorenzo alla Boccola.

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June 22, 2023

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