Morata, Fulvia Olympia (1526–1555)

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Morata, Fulvia Olympia (1526–1555)

Italian scholar. Name variations: also seen as Olympia Fulvia Morata. Born in Ferrara in 1526; died in Heidelberg, Germany, on October 25, 1555; buried at St. Peter's Church, Heidelberg; daughter of Fulvio Pellegrino Morata; had at least two brothers and two sisters; educated at home by her brothers, in Latin atthe court of Ferrara by Chilian Senf, and through selfstudy; married Andrea (or Andrew) Grunthler.

Selected works:

orations, letters, and poems, published as Opera Omnia (1580).

Fulvia Olympia Morata received much of her early education from her brothers, one an expert in Greek, the other an expert in medicine and philosophy. She probably also learned from her father Fulvio Pellegrino Morata, a humanist scholar, who was duke of Ferrara for a time. Soon she began to pursue study on her own, with great success in philosophy, theology and literature. While still in her teens, she was writing in Latin and Greek, emulating the classical literary styles and composing critical philosophical essays. Her early poetry describes her enthusiasm for learning. While still young, she was welcomed at the court of Renée of France (1510–1575), duchess of Ferrara, as a companion for Renée's daughter, Princess Anne of Ferrara . In the court at Ferrara, the young girls were both tutored in Latin by the scholar Chilian Senf.

Morata left the court for a few years to care for her dying father, and when she returned the situation was much altered. Princess Anne was gone, having married Francis, later the 2nd duke of Guise. Moreover, the Roman Inquisition of 1542 made religion a matter of such controversy that denizens of the court were not allowed to read scripture. Morata's father was a Calvinist, and though her own views were not strictly Calvinist, within the court she had befriended a group of people, including her Latin tutor, who had unorthodox religious views. Also among these was a German medical practitioner, Andrea Grunthler, whom she married.

Because of the religious hostility, Germans who had come to the court in the hope of finding Italian wives and settling in Italy were compelled to return home. Grunthler, with whom Morata was much in love, went ahead to secure a position in Schweinfurt, Franconia, as physician to a garrison of Spanish troops, after which she and her younger brother joined him. For a time while in Schweinfurt, she was able to continue her studies, which had become wholly focused on religion. She missed her mother and sisters very much, and they maintained steady correspondence despite the unreliability of the post. She also wrote to other Italians in exile and hoped that the other members of her family would join her to avoid religious persecution.

Anne of Ferrara (1531–1607)

Duchess of Guise. Name variations: Anne of Este or Anna d'Este; Anne d'Este-Ferrare; Anne of Guise. Born in 1531; died in 1607; daughter ofRenée of France (1510–1575) and Ercole II (1508–1559), 4th duke of Ferrara and Modena; sister ofLucrezia d'Este (1535–1598) andEleonora d'Este (1537–1581); married Francis (1519–1563), 2nd duke of Guise; married Jacques, duke of Geneva; children: (first marriage) Henry (1550–1588), 3rd duke of Guise; Carlo also known as Charles (1554–1611), duke of Mayenne; Louis (1555–1588), 2nd cardinal of Guise; Catherine of Guise (1552–c. 1594, who married Louis de Bourbon, duke of Montpensier); and three others; (second marriage) Charles Emmanuel (b. 1567), duke of Nemours; Henry, duke of Nemours and Aumale.

After a few years, however, Morata and her husband found themselves in the middle of a war. In 1553, the margrave Albert of Brandenburg, on one of his plundering expeditions, took possession of Schweinfurt and was in turn besieged by the Protestants. Half of the populace of Schweinfurt died. Morata's health suffered from the hardship of the war and the horrifying escape from Schweinfurt; as well, all her books and papers were lost. By the time Morata and Grunthler were rescued by Duke Erbach, she was wearing only an undershirt given her by another refugee. The duke secured Grunthler a medical position at Heidelberg, but Morata was very weak by that time. She died, age 29, just a few months after her arrival in Heidelburg. A monument to Morata, by Guillaume Roscalon, was financed by her childhood friend Anne of Ferrara, who had become duchess of Guise, and her friend Curione published what remained of her works and letters. They were also collected and published in monograph form by Caroline Bowles Southey , wife of poet Robert Southey, in 1834.


Bainton, Roland Herbert. Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1974.

Kersey, Ethel M. Women Philosophers: a Bio-critical Source Book. NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.

suggested reading:

Gearey, Caroline. Daughters of Italy, 1886.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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Morata, Fulvia Olympia (1526–1555)

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