The Church of St. Mary of the Rocks is a tiny chapel in the woods outside Beram in Istria. It is so remote that you would never discover it without guidance, but its very remoteness is what has protected the magnificent frescoes that dance on the walls.
What to See at Beram Church
The interior of the church is covered in frescoes, including a portrait of Saint Martin, the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, and other conventional subjects. The frescoes were commissioned by Beram Confraternity of St. Mary, so most are dedicated to the lives of Mary and Jesus.
But the star of the show is a "dance of death" painted by Vincent de Kastav in 1474. In this version of the dance macabre, Skeletons walk in procession from right to left, led by a skeleton playing bagpipe.
There are ten characters in the painting, each accompanied by Death. After the leader march the pope, the cardinal, the bishop, the king, the queen, the innkeeper, the child, the maimed, the knight, and finally the merchant, who stands by a table covered with goods.
Normally the order in a dance of death painting complies with social hierarchy, but here the innkeeper, the child and the maimed come before the knight. Another unusual feature is that the skeletons do not wear the usual shroud; they are naked, with protuberant thighbones in place of a pelvis.
In addition to the bagpipe-playing leader, four other skeletons play some wind instrument, and one plays the mandolin. The merchant, who is last in joining the dance, tries to bribe Death by pointing at his money, but of course his efforts are futile.
To visit the frescoed interior, pick up one of the church's keepers in Beram and drive to the chapel in the woods so she can unlock it.
Quick Facts on Beram Church
|Names:||Beram Church · Church of St. Mary of the Rocks|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||45.250000° N, 13.900000° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Beram Church|
- "The Best Churches." Frommer's Croatia, 1st ed. (Frommer's, 2006).
- Beram, Dance of Death - La danse macabre
- Beram - Pazin Tourist Board
- Photos of Beram Church - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Beram Church, Croatia
Below is a location map and aerial view of Beram Church. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.