Some weeks ago, I’ve been invited to Italy to follow the start of the Orobie Ultra Trail, the first Ultra Trail in the world starting from the Alps Orobie and arriving in the splendid medieval town of Bergamo. The mountains all around Clusone give it its stunning beauty and make it a perfect location for a start of a Ultra Trail; the sunny highland where it is located, the forests of the Orobie Mountains surrounding the village, the Presolana Massif.
Meeting point for the press was in Clusone, an Italian town in the province of Bergamo, Italy; located in the Val Seriana, it received the honorary title of city on 15 May 1957 with a presidential decree which ratified a Napoleon’s promise of the year 1801. The name in local dialect (Bergamasque) is Clüsü: probably from the Latin Clausus – closed place, referring to the location of the city: in the middle of a valley; according to a second hypothesis, supported by the historian Bortolo Belotti, the name is coming from Latin word Ecclesia, that got an incremental suffix.
After the start, me and some colleagues from Italian Press (Gazzetta dello Sport, Runner’s World Italia, Eco di Bergamo, Montagna Express) had chance to meet the mayor, Dr. Paolo Olini, who introduced to us a local guide for a quick city tour.
First stop was the basilica and the Oratory of Disciplini, which has a fresco on the facade from the 15th century with the Triumph of Death on top and a macabre dance of great interest in the lower register.
Painted by Giacomo Borlone de Buschis in 1485, it portrays a triumphant Death, personified as a living skeleton with a cloak and a crown. At her feet are the bodies of a pope and an emperor, surrounded by snakes, frogs and scorpions. She stands on a sepulchre around which figures of a cardinal, a bishop, a king and a philosopher are offering her gifts. She is flanked by two skeletons who fire against other characters at the side, one with a bow and another, on the right, with an early arquebus.
Three inscription and cartouches decorate the painting. On the left of the Queen Death they say:
Ognia omo more e questo mondo lassa – chi ofende a Dio amaramente passa (Everyone dies and this word lets – Who offend God bitterly goes)
On the right:
O ti serve a Dio del bon core non avire pagura a questo ballo venire. Ma alegremente vene e non temire(For the love of God don’t have fear to come at this dance. But joyfully you come and be happy)
The lower inscription is in Latin:
… Amus crucem omnes diligamus Deo devote serviamus cum omne reverentia
Other sections of the cycle include the Meeting of the Three Alive and Three Dead Menand a Danse Macabre. The latter marching skeletons with characters of lower rank than the ones in the Triumph. Unfortunately, time and human hands have caused portions of the mural to fall away, but the remaining brightly colored paints and their Draconian message refuse to die.
The basilica is located in a dominant position over the area, and the south side towards the city has a portico with arches and columns that overlook a spectacular staircase, decorated with balustrades and four large statues of the evangelists. Then a quick visit to the near Museum, with other paintings from the same artist representing Jesus Christ’s life.
Then we moved to the Clock Tower, symbol of the city. The local mathematician Pietro Fanzago designed this mechanical marvel in 1583 and it is still working today with almost all the original pieces. The clock face is not just exquisitely decorated. In fact, the external circle is divided into 24 parts instead of 12, while its hands turn anticlockwise, so that it’s not only indicating the current time, ma the position of the Sun; you can also see numerous information about zodiac signs, days, months, moon phases and sun phases, along with the duration of light and night hours. A Mayor’s daily assignment is to charge the clock every day.
But in order to discover all the stories behind this city and its monuments, we do suggest to plan a visit there.
For more information: http://www.comune.clusone.bg.it