Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Elena Lucrezia Piscopia Cornaro

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 4
Elena Lucrezia Piscopia Cornaro

by Edward Aloysius Pace


A learned Italian woman of noble descent, born at Venice, 5 June, 1646; died at Padua, 26 July, 1684. Her father, Giovanni Battista Cornaro, was Procurator of St. Mark's. At the age of seven she began the study of Latin and Greek under distinguished instructors, and soon became proficient in these languages. She also mastered Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Arabic, earning the title of "Oraculum Septilingue". Her later studies included mathematics, philosophy, and theology. In 1665 she took the habit of a Benedictine Oblate without, however, becoming a nun. In compliance with her father's wishes she entered the University of Padua and after a brilliant course of study received the doctorate in philosophy. The degree was conferred 25 June, 1678, in the cathedral of Padua in presence of many persons eminent for learning and rank. Elena was a member of various academies and was esteemed throughout Europe for her attainments and virtues. The last seven years of her life were devoted to study and charity. She was buried in the church of Santa Giustina at Padua and her statue was placed in the university. Her writings, published at Parma in 1688, include academic discourses, translations, and devotional treatises. In 1685 the University of Padua caused a medal to be struck in her honour. In 1895 Abbess Mathilda Pynsent of the English Benedictine Nuns in Rome had Elena's tomb opened, the remains placed in a new casket, and a suitable tablet inscribed to her memory.

Biographies (in Italian) by DEZA (Venice, 1686); LUPIS (Venice, 1689); BACCHINI (Parma, 1688); more recently, DE SANTI (Rome, 1899); ABBESS PYNSENT, Life of Helen Lucretia Cornaro (Rome, 1896). For an account of the bibliography see Civiltà Cattolica (Rome, 1898-1899), 17th series vols. IV, V; BAILEY, A Daughter of the Doges in Amer. Cath. Quart. Review (Philadelphia, 1896), XXI, 820.

E. A. PACE