Valentino Baldissera, scholar, expert in local history, priest and benefactor
Another well-known citizen of Gemona is Valentino Baldissera. Born on 20 June 1840 in San Tomaso di Majano, to Baldassare, originally from Gemona, and Elisa Modesti, he died in Gemona on 26 June 1906 while working in the town archives.
Valentino Baldissera was sent to the prestigious Roman College of the Jesuits in Rome, but a death in the family caused him to interrupt his studies, which he completed upon returning to Gemona, in the Seminary in Udine. Ordained a priest in 1863, Baldissera had to give up his work ministering to the faithful due to his changeable health, spending his time on his own education and travelling for some years in Italy and possibly also abroad.
The considerable legacy he inherited from his maternal grandfather, Antonio – who had administrated the property of the Counts of Colloredo and written unpublished historical memoirs – allowed him to spend almost all of his time on his studies, without any economic worries.
As honorary inspector of monuments, Baldissera also supervised the restoration of paintings by Pomponio Amalteo in the city museum.
In 1891 he was awarded the Cross of Knight of the Kingdom, and in 1893 he was given the title of Royal Honorary Inspector of Monuments in the area including Gemona, Tarcento and Moggio, granted by the royal family for his merits in his restoration work, during the 1880s, of the coffered ceilings painted by Pomponio Amalteo, in the church of San Giovanni Battista at the time. He is also responsible for the idea of setting up a town museum, for which he began collecting funds and artworks.
He published about a hundred volumes, primarily historical memoirs and writings about the artistic treasures of Gemona, still essential references for study in the field. In 2006, to mark the centennial of his death, Glemonense Civic Library was named after him.
Anecdotes of Gemona
The curious affair of “One hundred and ten masses in exchange for an art collection”.
Valentino Baldissera, archivist and librarian, the first to come up with the idea of establishing the Civic Museum of Gemona, was at the centre of a curious affair we might call “Saying one hundred and ten masses in exchange for an art collection”.
This is what happened: in 1903, upon the death of the painter Fantoni, referred to in Gemona simply as the Artist, his wife inherited the painter’s valuable collection of paintings. According to the documents, “the priest Don Valentino Baldissera, a lover of paintings and an amateur painter himself, made it known to the widow that if she were willing to give up the collection of paintings she had inherited, he would say one hundred masses for the soul of her late husband, and that his purpose in doing so would be to donate them to the Town to begin an art collection, to which other benevolent donors might later add”.
The widow accepted his proposal, but only on the condition that had add another ten masses to the hundred he had already offered!!! But as fate had it, Don Valentino Baldissera died before he could say all one hundred and ten masses; at this point, it became necessary for the mayor at the time to intervene and settle the issue, collecting the sum required to “compensate” the widow Fantoni for the masses that had not been said.