Cardinal and leader of Catholic reform; b. Milan, Aug. 18, 1564; d. Milan, Sept. 22, 1631. Federigo, son of Giulio Cesare and Margherita Trivulzio, was orphaned early in life and oriented toward an ecclesiastic career by his renowned cousin, Charles borromeo, in whose footsteps he followed. Having completed his studies at Bologna and Pavia with a doctorate in theology (1585), he resided in Rome in the service of Sixtus V, who made him a cardinal (December 1587). He was friendly with Caesar baronius, Robert bellarmine, joseph cala sanctius, and Philip neri.
After being appointed to the See of Milan, he resided there as a leader of reform and patron of learning from 1601 until his death. He held a provincial council and 14 diocesan synods, made regular visits to the parishes, constructed churches, established colleges and academies, and built a picture gallery and, one of his most important achievments, the Ambrosian library (1609). At the conclave of 1623, he received 18 votes, but was opposed by the Spanish party.
His interest in mystical problems and his correspondence with certain sisters, such as Caterina Vannini, a former courtesan who entered the convent, caused diverse comment. Borromeo was highly regarded because of his courage and generosity during the famine of 1627–28 and the plague of 1630. His writings, though unpublished, are listed by C. Cantù—La Lombardia nel secolo XVII (Milan 1832, appendix D).
Bibliography: f. rivola, Vita di Federigo Borromeo (Milan 1656), contemporary and detailed. p. bellezza, Federigo Borromeo (Milan 1931). m. pettrochi, Omaggio a Federigo Borromeo: L'uomo e la storia (Bologna 1940). p. misciattelli, Caterina Vannini: Una cortegiana convertita senese e il card. Federigo Borromeo alla luce di un epistolario (Milan 1932), and the reply by a. saba, Federigo Borromeo e i mistici del suo tempo. Con la vita e la corrispondenza inedita di Caterina Vannini da Sienna (Florence 1933). g. galbiati, Federigo Borromeo, studioso umanista e mecenate (Milan 1932); Enciclopedia Italiana di scienzi littere ed arti (Rome 1929–39) 7:512–513, with bibliog. g. moroni, Dizionario de erudizone storico-ecclesiastica (Venice 1840–61) 6:60–62. c. eubel et al., Hierarchia Catholica medii (et recentioris) aevi. 3:52, 240; 4:237. p. paschini, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1912–) 9:1281–83.