history which goes back for centuries.
Comacina Island became important for strategic and religious reasons
at the time of the barbarian invasions, starting with the war between
Greeks and Goths. In 539, troops of Burgundiands and Alemannics ventured
as far as Northern Italy. In 569, the ruthless Uraja conquered Milan;
the wealthiest inhabitants of Como and the nearby villages gathered
their riches and took refuge on the Island where they resisted against
the barbaric enemies, as the last bulwark of Christian world to defend
liberty. In a short while the small surface of the Island was covered
with houses, churches and fortifications. That was the time the Island
was known as Cristopoli (City of Christ).
During Middle Ages both the Island, known as Isola Comense or Cumana,
and the nearby mainland achieved a great economical and political importance
with the help of the bishop of Como. In 1118 a 10-year war between Como
and Milan broke out; the Island formed an alliance with Milan, which
defeated the enemy in 1127.
Como later rose again under Barbarossa's protection and in 1169 soldiers
from Como, with the help of the three parishes of Dongo, Gravedona and
Sorico, invaded the Island bringing death and ruin. In a decree of 1175
Barbarossa declared that no houses, churches or fortresses were ever
to be built on the Island.
Since then, nobody has lived there because of the curse Bishop Vidulf
cast on it: "No longer shall bells ring, no stone shall be put
on stone, nobody shall be host, under pain of unnatural death."
The Island was given by the bishop to the Vacana family. In 1914, after
the events which occurred in Belgium at the beginning of World War I,
the owner, Augusto Giuseppe Caprani, decided to bequeath the island
to His Majesty Albert I King of Belgium as a token of solidarity. In
May 1920 the King of Belgium donated the Island to the Italian State
to make it a retreat for Belgian and Italian artists. It was then put
under the supervision of Brera Academy.
Cottages were built to accommodate artists and scholars and the Island
became a cultural pole in Como area.