History of the Archive


1. Formation of the archive

Currently, there is no information on the existence of a bishop’s archive begun before the 13th century. In 1283, a fire, caused by a Rusca faction that was against Bishop Giovanni de' Avvocati (1274-1293), destroyed the bishop’s palace and the annexed archive. This explains the almost complete lack of documentation prior to this date.
The presence of an archive within the bishop’s see is attested to in the first decades of the 15th century, when Bishop Francesco Bossi (1420-1434) gave the order to deposit the inventories of the assets of the ecclesiastical and charitable organizations there.

The "structure" of the archive – just as it has come down to us in part – was formed between the end of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th.
It was Bishop Filippo Archinti (1595-1621) who first promoted the recovery of documents from the past and placed them in «uno archivio di noce grande». Archinti himself stated that he placed

molte scritture, quali tutte ho messo insieme io, acquistate, comprate et fatto scrivere a mie spese, poiché alla venuta mia non trovai cosa alcuna di rilievo, et con molte altre scritture delli notari et cancellieri episcopali pertinenti alla Chiesa et mensa episcopale et molte altre tanto vecchie come moderne, tra quali vinti due fascietti di scritture fatte nelle mie visite, distinte a pieve per pieve, et altre diverse.

It was, therefore, his successor, Lazaro Carafino (1626-1665), who gave a more decisive push towards the creation of the archive. First of all, the bishop turned to the congregation of the council asking which documents they had in their possession. In the rescript of 18 December 1626, he gave himself the task of «ricuperar quelle [scritture] che ella pretende essere in mano di coloro che per i tempi hanno maneggiata cotesta sua cancellaria» on the basis of a decree, sent in attachment, «col quale la sacra Congregazione del concilio ha distinte e dichiarate le scritture che necessariamente devono restare et asservarsi ne gl'archivii e cancellarie episcopali». A few years later, at the synod of 1633, Carafino was able to state:

Nos, qui quamplurimas scripturas, magno cum dispendio et diligentia, in unum coegimus ad mensae episcopalis et totius ecclesiastici status utilitatem, illud etiam instituere eique locum particularem in palatio episcopali nostro assignare decrevimus. Quare, cum inibi asservari debeant quaecumque scripturae tam publice quam privatae ad ecclesiastica negotia quomodolibet spectantes et ne de iis reponendis in eodem archivio aliqua oriatur dubitandi controversia vel de scripturarum asservandarum qualitate praetendeatur ignorantia, rescriptum a sacra Congregatione concilii Tridentini reportavimus.

In eodem archivio, to which was assigned un locum particularem in the bishop's palace, cartularies were placed of the ancient diocesan notaries as well as "loose" documents – in part recovered, in part already present at the bishop's see – that were bound into volumes by the same bishop. A definite trace of this latter activity remains in the title page of some of these (the seven volumina magna and approximately fifty volumina parva of the mensa vescovile ; the two volumes of collation of the ecclesiastical benefits; the two volumes of the bonorum ecclesiasticorum; the volume «Varie scritture concernenti al stato et revolutione della Valtellina et contado di Chiavenna», marked "B", of the series "Cantoni svizzeri"; the so-called "Codice Ninguarda"; and the volumes of the bishop's visits).

In the mid-18th century, under the episcopacy of Giovanni Battista Mugiasca (1764-1789),the registry was reorganized, which had consequences for the production and ordering of the documents. With some «pensieri per il buon regolamento di cancelleria» the registers to compile were indicated with great precision: a general one for «tutte le spedizioni di cancelleria» and particular registers for the requests that are made to the diocesan administration, for the examination of «confessori semplici», for 'concorsi ai benefici', for marriage issues, and benefits. These registers are kept in a series called "Protocolli antichi (dal 1765)".
At the same time, there was a "recognition" of the documentation, placed in part in the archive, in part with the vicar general. For the archive, a «rubrica generale» lists the individual pieces (volumes and packages of loose sheets) or more or less homogeneous groups of pieces "marked" with a number, from 1 to 73, or with a letter of the alphabet, from "A" to "I". On numerous occasions we find the grouping of: notary protocols (indicated with «abbreviature di» and the name of the notary), bundles of papers with the generic name of «scritture» followed by the specification of the content (for example, «Scritture giurisdizionali de Svizzeri e Griggioni e Stato di Milano», «Scritture spettanti all'Opera pia», «Scritture attinenti ai feudi della mensa vescovile di Como»), «stati liberi», «atti delle visite pastorali», «atti civili», «ordinazioni», «pergamene antiche». Even for the papers of the vicar general an inventory was compiled: the «mazzi», primarily regarding relations with civil authorities, contained governmental circulars, letters of Carlo Giuseppe Count of Firmian (Governor of Austrian Lombardy from 1759 to 1782) for particular affairs, numerous files for the suppression of monasteries, colleges, confraternities, documentation regarding the Three Leagues and Switzerland. We do not know if this documentation continued to "reside" with the vicar; surely it became part of the Archive by the second half of the 19th century, when they were broken up and reordered by Giovanni Battista Gianera.

A subsequent change in the ordering of the documents occurred with the registry’s adoption of a classification system, in 1828, that divided the documents into nine titles (respectively clero, beni ecclesiastici, istituzioni canoniche, matrimoni, seminari e istruzione, confraternite, contenzioso, circolari, indulti). The documents were registered with the indication of the title of reference and a progressive number within each year. The series of associated protocol registers has come down to us complete (to these we must add a register-index from 1828 to 1878 and 4 registers of indices for the years 1839-1842).

In the first half of the 19th century there was a significant depletion in the documentation, following a regulation on the role of notaries dated 17 June 1806 that provided for the delivery to the «Archivio generale notarile» of «tutte le abbreviature» of the notaries who had worked for the bishop and the curia. Consequently, a good part of the papers recovered during the bishoprics of Archinti and Carafino were now at the State Archive of Como, while the volumes that had been bound in that period were left in the Archive of the diocese.

2. Reorganization of the 19th century

Col lungo volgere dei secoli [l'Archivio] venne mano a mano a disordinarsi talmente che ora è divenuto quasi inservibile e reclama un completo e ben meditato riordinamento.
We are at the end of 1889, and the capitular vicar, Giacomo Merizzi, informed the Royal General Treasurer’s Office of the vacant benefices of Lombardy on what was being done to put an end to this disorganization, caused - as it was written - «in massima parte [dal]l'obbligo, ingiunto dal governo italico ed eseguito nel 1812, di concentrare nell'Archivio notarile provinciale tutte le matrici e gli originali degli atti de' notai».
First of all, in the reorganization of all of the documentation, the papers were divided into three funds: that of the 'mensa vescovile' (mensa vescovile) – which had already been put in order in the mid 19th century -, that of the dell'Opera pia Gallio – which still have to be studied in the current state of organization – and that of the diocesan administration, entrusted to the deputy registrar Giovanni Battista Gianera, who starting in 1887, «in ore fuori d'ufficio», began the reorganization, «avendo per criterio direttivo di ripartire gli atti per ordine di materia, tempo e luogo».
If it is difficult to indicate the work carried out in those three years (1887-1889); more precise, on the other hand, was the total work carried out by Gianera in the more than forty years of his presence at the curia, first appointed deputy registrar and then registrar (1892-1933). In brief, his intervention was composed of:
  • the formation of a section called «Sezione documenti» - including the two current series "Parrocchie" and "Istituzioni canoniche" – with material coming in part from the files of the Vicar General, in part from the papers already registered under one of nine titles, with the addition of contemporary files;
  • the setting up of a system to reorganize all of the documentation of the Archive. The new system of classification largely preserved the division by subjects of the protocol introduced in 1828 and, with a more precise subdivision of each title into classes (indicated as «fascicoli» in the drafts of the system), he "re-entered" other series of the Archive and the "papers" of the Vicar General that were not inserted in the «Documenti» section. This reorganization was only completed in part, and traces of it remain in the formation of some of these classes united with the remaining documentation of titles I, V, VI, VIII, and IX.
Other series that may date back to Don Gianera are the «Cantoni svizzeri» and «Monasteri antichi soppressi» (now merged in the «Religiosi» series), created with the documentation already present in the general inventory of the diocesan administration of the second half of the 18th century, with papers coming from the Vicar General and subsequent additions.

A document contemporary with Gianera's reorganization tells us that the archive of the mensa vescovile and of the diocesan administration – generally named «archivio delle temporalità della mensa vescovile» and «archivio spirituale della curia vescovile» - were preserved in two different places: the first – perhaps because it was deemed of greater importance since it served for the everyday management of the assets, and for the presence of the oldest documents – in a «ampio scaffale presso la cancelleria», the second «in ampio salone a tre locali adiacenti, con centinaia di mazzi e cartelle». On 22 January 1924 Bishop Alfonso Archi (1905-1925), responding to the circular on archives of 15 April 1923, sent to the ordinaries of Italy by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, indicated that the two archives were located «in locali adatti, al primo piano, custoditi a chiave, forniti di protocolli e indici generali, nonché di cataloghi particolari delle materie più importanti».

During the subsequent bishopric of Alessandro Macchi (1930-1947), when Giovanni Baserga was the registrar and archivist, this location was already deemed to be no longer suitable:

Una cura particolare dedicò monsignor vescovo all'archivio vescovile, che dalla stanza dove era, inadatta, oscura e tutto affastellato, volle collocare in ambiente migliore per luce e maggior ampiezza. Con felice sistemazione trovò locali più acconci per disporvi il copioso materiale, colla sua importante sezione storica riguardante la Valtellina e le lotte religiose coi Grigioni, come pure la sezione degli atti di visita dei vescovi comensi. Anzi per dare maggior agio di consultazione agli studiosi volle in archivio vescovile fossero riposti anche due altri fondi archivistici di valore eccezionale e cioè quello della mensa vescovile, che possiede codici interessantissimi, e quello della fabbrica del duomo con tutte le sue pergamene e codici quattrocenteschi.

In the official ecclesiastical bulletin of March 1936, within the «Regole per la curia vescovile di Como», the organization of the archive was presented, divided into an ancient and current part. The latter presents the nine titles of the protocol of 1828, with the addition of the title X for the ecclesiastic court and title XI for the Ordinations.

A few months after his entrance into the diocese, Bishop Alessandro Maggiolini (1989-) provided for the general reordering of the areas and equipment, starting the work of taking inventory of the archive funds and arranging for the re-opening of the documents to regular consultation by scholars.