Oratorio Mortis et Orationis - Confraternita dei Neri
Church in Monterosso al Mare
Situated in the main square of the town, adjacent to the church of San Giovanni Battista, is the oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri Mortis et Orationis. Also referred to as the oratory of Santa Maria di Porto Salvo, it was constructed in the 17th century in the Baroque architectural style. The façade is a notable feature, displaying a dual-tone plastering of black and white stripes that was restored in 1922. Access is gained via a short flight of steps leading to a simple portal, flanked by two smaller side portals. Above the entrance, a lunette showcases a depiction of a skull superimposed on two crossbones along with the inscription “Mortis-et-Orationis Confraternitas.” The upper section of the façade is adorned with a centrally placed three-light window, while two sets of small semi-columns with Corinthian capitals rise on the sides, aligned with the side portals.
Within the interior, the decorative theme resonates with that of the façade: amid stucco decorations and frescoes, skulls and skeletons catch the gaze of the faithful, serving as a reminder of life’s transient nature. A statue of Sant’Antonio Abate is also present, originating from the vanished convent dedicated to the saint, which existed around the year 1000 on the Mesco promontory.
The Brotherhood of the Blacks held a significant role during the 16th and 17th centuries, primarily focused on providing burial services for the less fortunate individuals. At that time, it was common for many people to lack the financial means to afford this final act of charity. The turbulent wars and famines of that era led to the demise of numerous individuals, often left to their own devices. The activities of the brotherhood, also known as “The Company of Death,” extended to forty hours of prayer and adoration of the consecrated host. As a result, the organization adopted the name Mortis et Orationis. In 1560, with the recognition of Pope Pius IV, the brotherhood gained the right to receive alms, construct churches and oratories, and establish new brotherhoods.
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