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If we give credit to the thesis by which the mane of Griante comes from the Celtic Griant - Tir, its foundation should date at least 500 years before Christ. For sure, in Roman era Griante was already settlement of some importance if in 383 a.C. the Bishop of Como decided to give to the Christian Community of Griante the relics of the Saints Nabore and Felice, he had from Saint Ambrose. Many roman archaeological items and some gold coins of the same period were rescued in different places of the village, which now are preserved at the archaeological museum of Como. Between the end of 1400 and all through the 1500, Griante was in the middle of the turmoil caused by the many hordes of soldiers of ventures, Lanzkenechts (Germans), Grisons (Swiss), Lutherans, French and Spanish, all fighting endless bloody wars on Italian soil to conquer the Dukedom of Milan.

In 1521, in the Castle of Griante, ended his eventful life Giovanni del Matto (John the Crazy), from Brenzio. At first, he was a soldier of venture in the Venetian army at Bergamo, but at the death of his father, Antonio del Matto, a fierce pirate and brigand, he took over his father’s place and became a pirate. For many years he frightened the inhabitants of the along shore villages as well as those of the nearby valleys. Politically, he was allied to the Grisons (Swiss) in the war against the French who contended the Spanish and the Germans the dominion of the Dukedom of Milan. In the end, he was given the command of a column of soldiers of venture, Lanzkenechts (Germans) and stranded Italians who were suppoused to re-conquer Como from the French. Betrayed by the Lanzkenechts, he was defeated at Borgovico but, somehow, he managed to escape and sought refuge in his castle at Griante. He was followed by the French and the people of Como who were determined to finish once end for ever with this troublesome man. They set the castle under siege and after a few days of fierce battle, they conquered it: John the Crazy and his brother were captured and had their head cut off at the foot of the only tower still standing in the castle yard after the assault. An old tale tells that in stormy nights their bloody ghosts used to appear on top of the tower (which was pulled down in 1856), screaming their complaint for their sins, nevertheless frightening the poor inhabitants of the village. Someone affirms they had recently seen the ghost of a man, wrapped up in a black cloak, wandering over the lake in a stormy night

Ponchielli, in his Life of Saint Ambrose refers to a church in Como area, which was built in 383 a.C. in memory of the Saints Nabore, and Felice, in order to preserve the relics of the two Martyrs Saint Ambrose gave to the Bishop of Como. As in that time the only church dedicated to the Saints Nabore and Felice was the one in Griante, we might as well assume that the Parish church, in its most ancient parts, dates at least to that period. Some proofs of the existence of a primitive Oratory can be found in the Parish Books. In them it is reported that in 1692, while digging the central nave of the church, in the southern side of the structure were discovered the ancient foundations, which were built in the classical roman way. Inside the church it is possible to admire two paintings by Bellotti depicting the Martyrdom of the Saints Nabore and Felice of the18th century, a painting of the Last Supper by Gaudenzio Ferrari or by one of his closer attendants, a painting depicting a Madonna Assunta by the Titian’s pupil Alessandro Maganza, dating 1597.

The building is composed of three distinct parts, clearly built in different periods, which most ancient parts date back to the Romans. As a matter of fact, it seems that on that spot there was a roman military guard place with a watchtower and annex facing south, and a detached small house for the soldiers facing north. Here, during some digging to restore the building, were found some roman miscellaneous items and some gold coins of the roman period. In early Middle Ages, the two primitive buildings were joined together to form the archaic nucleus of the church. Only later, after the rescue of the statue of the Holy Virgin in 1628, the door in the northern wing was opened and the church was enlarged to give shelter to the increasing number of devotes, while the front porch was added during the following century.

It is one of the many continental Anglican Churches under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Gibraltar. It was built on the project of the Milanese Architect G. Brentano, in Pseudo-Gothic style and it was consecrated in 1891. The mosaic decoration was added in 1927. Unfortunately, the stained window glasses were destroyed by one of the very few bombs dropped in this area during the 2nd world war.

The villa was built for the Marquis Clerici from Milan at the beginning of 1700. Later in the same century, it became property of the Earl Sommariva from Lodi who, in 1856 sold it to Princess Marianna, wife to Albert of Prussia and mother of Carlotta. She gave it to her daughter Carlotta as a wedding present when she married Prince George of Sachsen. Today the villa belongs to the Italian State and it is open to the public from Spring to Falls from 9.00 to 6.00 p.m. It is both a Museum and a Botanical garden. Inside the villa it is possible to admire some paintings by Vikar, Lordon, Hayez and Migliara. Among the sculptures there are works by Canova, Thorwaldsen and Acquisti. Its botanical garden is famous all over the world for the blooming of the azaleas (end of April - beginning of May).

It was built in 1899 on the spot where there was a medieval tower identical to the one still standing at the end of Griante heights, toward Menaggio. For ten years it has been the residence of Konrad Adenauer, the great German Chancellor. He used to come to Griante at least two times a year, but gradually it became his second Chancellor Office. Here came to visit him all the important Politicians from all over the world, and in this villa it was conceived the idea of the European Union. Nowadays it belongs to the Konrad Adenauer foundation and it is equipped for conferences and seminaries. It is also a hotel, which gives to its guests the opportunity to spend unforgettable holidays in a historical residence with all modern facilities.


Texts by Bina Battistella Fraquelli
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