Artistic Assets

The Ufficio Inventariazione Beni Culturali Ecclesiastici (Ecclesiastical Cultural Heritage Inventory Office) of the Diocese of Como was established by bishop Alessandro Maggiolini by decree on 1 September 2000 (prot. 608/2000).
Its purpose is to provide knowledge of, protect and assist with the utilization of the artistic assets of the diocesan parishes.
The distinctive character of ecclesiastical cultural assets in Italy is the so-called "museo diffuso": «un museo che esce dai suoi confini, che occupa le piazze e le strade, le grandi cattedrali come le chiesette di montagna, in ogni angolo, anche il più remoto [...]. Non c'è artista che non vi sia documentato, non c'è tecnica o stile o tipo di manifattura che non vi abbia testimonianza, non c'è singolarità regionale o locale che non si proponga con pezzi di eccellenza» (A. Paolucci).
The history and configuration of the diocesan territory of Como demonstrate in a totally special way this uniqueness, nevertheless the number and value of its artistic asset still awaits an up-to-date and systematic definition.

The project of the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana

The Conferenza Episcopale Italiana (CEI) has promoted and coordinated the ecclesiastical inventory of cultural assets for Italian dioceses since 1996, in accordance with the regulations of the canonical law code (can. 1283.20). Therefore, it has established an Ufficio Nazionale per i Beni Culturali Ecclesiastici (National Ecclesiastical Cultural Heritage office) and Information Technology Service, allocating to the project a part of the funds from the IRPEF (Personal Income Tax) "Otto per Mille" programme.

The inventory-taking project primarily regards artistic assets and historic furnishings (paintings, sculptures, furnishings, vestments, etc.) because they are numerous and those most at risk. Subsequently, inventory will be taken of architectural real estate assets (churches, seminaries, palaces, etc.)
The inventory of the works in the archives, libraries and museums is, on the other hand, done at the same time by specialists from sector associations: AAE, ABEI and AMEI.

The programme set up by the CEI Information Technology Service for the compiling of the inventory follows the criteria provided by the Istituto Central per il Catalogo e la Documentazione (ICCD) of the Ministry for Cultural and Environmental Heritage; at the same time, however, a series of a religious, ecclesiastic and catechetical character is expected, which can be used to highlight the intrinsic significance of the sacred objects.
The results of the cataloguing will be made available to the public entities responsible for preparing the cultural heritage catalogue, in line with the principle of collaboration between Church and State (agreed upon on 18 February 1984).
A copy of the files will be provided to the parishes, as a document to promote the knowledge and development of their artistic assets, in order to provide more profitable and targeted protection.

The project for the Diocese of Como

1. Offices and hours

The Ufficio Inventariazione Beni Culturali Ecclesiastici of the Diocese of Como is located at the Centro Studi "Nicolò Rusca" (via Baserga 81, Como).
Integration with the Seminary Library and the Historic Diocesan Archive makes multi-disciplinary research with great potential possible. Currently, the data gathered can be consulted only with the authorisation of the Director.

The office
is equipped
with its own phone line (031 3388139)
fax number (031 3388150)
operator (porter’s lodge of the seminary 0313388111)
e-mail address (

The office is open every Wednesday and Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 12:30p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

2. Staff

The diocesan inventory of the parish’s cultural assets is the fruit of a project involving the collaboration of persons in various roles and with different responsibilities.
The staff responsible for the diocesan inventory-taking of Como includes:
  1. A Diocesan Manager, appointed specifically by the bishop: don Andrea Straffi, priest since 1992, parish priest of Palanzo (Faggeto Lario - Como), with a university degree in Cultural Heritage Sciences from Università Cattolica in Brescia. He is responsible for «planning, programming, coordinating, permanently updating and utilizing the inventory; he maintains relations with the parish priests and with the managers of the diocese belonging to the same ecclesiastical region, other offices of the CEI, the superintendencies and other public bodies; the transmission of a copy of the inventory to the Ufficio Nazionale per i Beni Culturali della Conferenza Episcopale Italiana and the competent superintendency » (CEI document on Diocesan Projects).
  2. A scientific committee, composed of university professors, art historians, local history scholars, who coordinate the entire project and indicate cultural (exhibitions, publications, conventions) and research opportunities.
  3. A group of filing clerks, who are responsible for taking inventory, working in the parishes in direct contact with the works; this group is composed of university graduates with a degree in the humanities, specialized in art history.
  4. Photographers who assist the filing clerks and are specialized in the sector of photographing works of art; an initial collaborative effort has been undertaken with Studio Aleph in Como.
  5. An auditor: a specialist who is responsible for controlling the work of the filing clerks; the auditor position is performed by Dr. Eugenia Bianchi.
  6. A information technology technician, Marco Colonna, who manages the information hardware and software.

3. Operating programme

  1. General operating programme. The ecclesiastical inventory takes existing inventories into consideration and integrates them. More specifically, it tends to complete, as far as possible at its level, the inventories realized by the superintendencies. Therefore, the first operation to be carried out to programme the diocesan inventory consists in identifying recent inventories (deposited with the diocesan Archives or elsewhere), the inventories done by superintendencies, regions, provinces, municipalities, mountain communities, etc. A copy of these inventories is deposited with the office. The inventory, which involves all of the ecclesiastical bodies within the bishops jurisdiction, primarily regards ecclesiastical bodies that have not been inventoried. Amongst these priority is given to bodies at risk, like churches located in isolated areas, unified parishes, parishes with limited pastoral care, parishes located in areas in which sufficient security conditions do not exist. Particular attention is also given to those works which, for security reasons, have been transferred from their original locations to others that are more secure (parish house, the bishop’s palace, museums, banks).
  2. Pastoral programme. The ecclesiastical inventory of cultural assets is carried out by experts selected by the bishop and is an important pastoral action tool for the diocese and for each ecclesiastical body, especially for the parish (Orientamenti CEI, 1992, no. 22). In essence, the inventory makes it possible to analytically understand the characteristics, size and state of preservation of the cultural assets, for which each parish is responsible before canonical and civil authorities, assets that are entrusted to the care of each parish community. Moreover, the inventory facilitates the proper use of the assets and indicates the need for any restorative and protective interventions.
    Finally, the inventory makes it possible to use the assets through catechistic and cultural iniatives, exhibitions, studies and publications.