COMO, ITALY (anc. Comum), a city and episcopal see of Lombardy, Italy, the capital of the province of Como, situated at the S. end of the W. branch of the Lake of Como, 30 m. by rail N. by W. of Milan. Pop. (1881) 25,560; (1905) 34,272 (town), 41,124 (commune). The city lies in a valley enclosed by mountains, the slopes of which command fine views of the lake. The old town, which preserves its rectangular plan from Roman times, is enclosed by walls, with towers constructed in the 12th century. The cathedral, built entirely of marble, occupies the site of an earlier church, and was begun in 1396, from which period the nave dates: the façade belongs to 1457-1486, while the east of the exterior was altered into the Renaissance style, and richly decorated with sculptures by Tommaso Rodari in 1487-1526. The dome is an unsuitable addition of 1731 by the Sicilian architect Filippo Juvara (1685-1735), and its baroque decorations spoil the effect of the fine Gothic interior. It contains some good pictures and fine tapestries. In the same line as the façade of the cathedral are the Broletto (in black and white marble), dating from 1215, the seat of the original rulers of the commune, and the massive clock-tower. The Romanesque church of S. Abondio outside the town was founded in 1013 and consecrated in 1095; it has two fine campanili, placed at the ends of the aisles close to the apse. It occupies the site of the 5th-century church of SS. Peter and Paul. Near it is the Romanesque church of S. Carpoforo. Above it is the ruined castle of Baradello. The churches of S. Giacomo (1095-1117) and S. Fedele (12th century), both in the town, are also Romanesque, and the apses have external galleries. The Palazzo Giovio contains the Museo Civico. Como is a considerable tourist resort, and the steamboat traffic on the lake is largely for travellers. A climate station is established on the hill of Brunate (2350 ft.) above the town to the E., reached by a funicular railway. The Milanese possess many villas here. Como is an industrial town, having large silk factories and other industries (see Lombardy). It is connected with Milan by two lines of railway, one via Monza (the main line, which goes on to Chiasso - Swiss frontier - and the St Gotthard), the other via Saronno and also with Lecco and Varese.
Of the Roman Comum little remains above ground; a portion of its S.E. wall was discovered and may be seen in the garden of the Liceo Volta, 88 ft. within the later walls: later fortifications (but previous to 1127), largely constructed with Roman inscribed sepulchral urns and other fragments, had been superimposed on it. Thermae have also been discovered (see V. Barelli in Notizie degli scavi, 1880, 333; 1881, 333; 1882, 285). The inscriptions, on the other hand, are numerous, and give an idea of its importance. The statements as to the tribe which originally possessed it are various. It belonged to Gallia Cisalpina, and first came into contact with Rome in 196 B.C., when M. Claudius Marcellus conquered the Insubres and the Comenses. In 89 B.C., having suffered damage from the Raetians, it was restored by Cn. Pompeius Strabo, and given Latin rights with the rest of Gallia Transpadana. Shortly after this 3000 colonists seem to have been sent there; 5000 were certainly sent by Caesar in 59 B.C., and the place received the name Novum Comum. It appears in the imperial period as a municipium, and is generally spoken of as Comum simply. The place was prosperous; it had an important iron industry; and the banks of the lake were, as now, dotted with villas. It was also important as the starting-point for the journey across the lake in connexion with the Splugen and Septimer passes (see Chiavenna). It was the birthplace of both the elder and the younger Pliny, the latter of whom founded baths and a library here and gave money for the support of orphan children. There was a praefectus classis Comensis under the late empire, and it was regarded as a strong fortress. See Ch. Hulsen in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie, Suppl. Heft i. (Stuttgart, 1903), 326.
Como suffered considerably from the early barbarian invasions, many of the inhabitants taking refuge on the Isola Comacina off Sala, but recovered in Lombard times. It was from that period that the magistri Comacini formed a privileged corporation of architects and sculptors, who were employed in other parts of Italy also, until, at the end of the 11th century, individuals began to come more to the front (G. T. Rivoira, Origini del l'architettura Lombarda, Rome, 1901, i. 127 f.). Como then became subject to the archbishops of Milan, but gained its freedom towards the end of the 11th century. At the beginning of the 12th century war broke out between Como and Milan, and after a ten years' war Como was taken and its fortifications dismantled in 1127. In 1154, however, it took advantage of the arrival of Barbarossa, and remained faithful to him throughout the whole war of the Lombard League. After frequent struggles with Milan, it fell under the power of the Visconti in 1335. In 1535, like the rest of Lombardy, it fell under Spanish dominion, and in 1714 under Austrian. Thenceforth it shared the fortunes of Milan, becoming in the Napoleonic period the chief town of the department of the Lario. Its silk industry and its position at the entrance to the Alpine passes gave it some importance even then. It bore a considerable part in the national risings of 1848-1859 against Austrian rule. (T. As.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)