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Confraternities (religious brotherhoods), were secular groups who came together in order to pursue penitential charitable works. They sometimes had their own buildings - foundations, invariably attached to religious institutions which could be of considerable opulence (see the entry for Scuola).

They were significant patrons of the arts. Cima's 'Incredulity of Saint Thomas' is one of the numerous altarpieces in the National Gallery commissioned by them. Artists also worked to decorate confraternity buildings and painted banners which were used when the members took part in processions; the works here by Lippo di Dalmasio and Bergognone may have formed part of such banners.