Entrepreneurship, trade, work ethics and sermons against usury and gaming houses: it was with an agenda similar to this that the Franciscan friar Bernardino came to be regarded as one of the key members of the clergy as regards our economic history. We cannot know for sure whether his visits to the Bergamasco region, from Gandino to Lovere, were prompted solely by a desire to preach from a religious basis, or were interventions of an economic nature, but we are certain that on his journeys from one place to another, the Saint did make a stop at Ranzanico.
It is most probable that it was the passage of Saint Bernardino of Siena through the countryside that inspired the profound devotion of the local population, which then dedicated an Oratory to him. The Oratory was finished at the end of the 1400’s thanks to the financial support of the Gardoni, a rich family of the area.
The church was built in a panoramic position along the track that connected Ranzanico and Endine in ancient times, on a natural terrace where the eye can embrace the entire lake in one sweeping gaze. On the inside of the church two dates accompany the frescoes on the walls: 1503 and 1517, two points of reference that are interlaced with the gothic-style subject-matter. The international gothic style was widespread in the Val Cavallina, where artists from Central Europe came after having worked in such places as the Tyrol and the Valle Camonica.
Saint Anthony of Padua and the Madonna Enthroned are featured in the great altarpiece of the Oratory, in which San Bernardino also appears. There has been an extensive restoration of the terracotta floor and coffered ceiling of the church, which one enters through a portal made of stone of Sarnico, the river-side town one encounters heading downhill towards the lower part of Lake Iseo.
Note the memorial stone on the 18th century portico of the church of San Bernardino, placed there in memory of the partisan resistance. Some of the most momentous and tragic pages in the history of the partisan resistance were written about events that took place in the Val Cavallina.