The Baschenis and the Dance of Death

The Baschenis And The Dance Of Death title=

The Baschenis family from Averaria, a village near Bergamo, plays a central role in the history of Trentino fresco painting.

When and whereIn the history of Trentino fresco painting, the Baschenis family plays a central role. They came from Averaria, a village near Bergamo. For over seventy years, from about 1470 to about 1540, about ten members of this family , father and son, uncle and cousin, grandfather and nephew, worked in Trentino (Giudicarie, Rendena, Sole, Non and Molveno valleys) as well as in their land of origin.

Baschenis: works and characteristics of their painting

Their paintings are very uniform, in many cases it is quite difficult for experts to distinguish from one another. It is an art poor in perspectives, shades and anatomic drawings of bodies, but it is rich in colours, faith and desire to make churches more suitable for worship.

Iconography: saints, martyrs and the 
From an iconographical viewpoint, their store of knowledge is quite standardized. The saints proposed are always the same: saints of simple faith, well characterized by their attributes. The martyrs Catherine, Agatha, Lucy and Barbara with the wheel, the breast, the eyes, or the tower. Francis with stigmata, Antony with a little pig and a pilgrim’s staff, Martin cutting his mantel in two, Sebastian wounded by arrows, Lawrence with a grill, Rocco with sores.

Then, of course, there are the local saints. Vigilio with clogs and the “Blessed” Simonino covered with wounds and with a white scarf around his neck. On the background there are majestic Crucifixions and on the walls many depictions of the Last Supper. On the apsidal vaults the four Evangelists and the four Fathers and Doctors of the Church are originally but so often represented, that these eight saints are probably another constant element in Baschenises’ iconography.

The Dance of Death

everyone has the same destiny...The most important fresco is certainly “The Dance of Death” which occupies the top of the south wall of the San Vigilio Church, in Pinzolo, for a length of 20 metres. It is the work of Simone Baschenis da Averaria (BG). The painter finished his work on 25.10.1539.

The “Dance of Death” is a popular representation of a fundamental idea: everyone has the same destiny, everyone must die. Other death dances can be found in many locations throughout Northern Europe and Italy. A part of another “Dance of Death” by Baschenis is visible on the western wall of St Stefano Church in Carisolo.

The “Pinzolo Dance” can be divided into three parts: a group of skeletons forming a type of orchestra to accompany the dance; then a crucified Christ, and, invited to take part in the ball, are eighteen couples who represent religious and civil authority and the different social classes; finally St. Michael and Lucifer who are collecting, respectively, the souls of the good and those of the sinners. Underneath each figure there is a rhythmic folk comment.

In front of death, we are all equal

THE BATTUTI CONFRATERNITYDocumentary sources and “istrumenti di disciplina” found in the San Vigilio cemetery, confirm how life in Pinzolo at that time was profoundly shaped by the presence and practices of the
Confraternita dei Battuti or “Fredaya de li Batuti”.
It was a religious congregation composed by laymen dedicated to a spirituality made up of long
prayers, severe penitences and social and charitable actions (the Confraternity was only
dissolved in 1820).
Its activities shed light on the history of Pinzolo’s culture, religiosity, and society: a certain vivacity and independence of the laity, with respect to the authoritativeness of the church, was accompanied by a new sensitivity to the earth condition and a renewed centrality of man in society, through the priority of its existential needs over those of the community. According to tradition, Confraternity would have commissioned the 16 th century frescoes, especially the two macabre dances, which can be seen on the exterior facades of San Vigilio (Pinzolo) and Santo Stefano (Carisolo) churches.

Churches and sanctuaries frescoed by the Baschenis

THE CHURCHESRendena Valley and Giudicarie, possess a rich sacred heritage, represented by the numerous
which rise majestically in each of their small villages.
Most of these sacred buildings are embellished by the works of the Baschenis.

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