Cornaro, Elena Lucrezia Piscopia

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Poet and philosopher; b. Venice, June 5, 1646; d. Padua, July 26, 1684. Because she was born into the Cornaro Piscopia branch renowned for political and commercial affairs in Venice, Elena enjoyed the remarkable distinction, in contrast to many women of her day, of being formally educated. Besides classical Latin and Greek, she knew Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish. Her family's influence and prestige gained her admission to the University of Padua, and she received the degree of doctor of philosophy in 1678. She also exhibited skill in mathematics and acquired a considerable reputation among her contemporaries as a poet. Much of her poetry dealt with ascetical or spiritual topics and was lauded for both its contents and its lyrical qualities. This high evaluation of her writing, however, has not persisted, and she may be regarded as of only minor importance in the field of ascetical literature. In 1688, the University of Padua published her works. Her personal fame was enhanced in her lifetime by many pious and charitable undertakings. She was received as an oblate of the Order of St. Benedict at 17, and at her early death, she was entombed in the Benedictine convent in Padua.

Bibliography: v. s. marzolo, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia (Milan 1925). v. redlich, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765)(1966)2 3:57.

[p. d. smith]