Hidden treasures

Elena Lucrezia Corner Piscopia: the first woman to graduate in the world

Big Names

Elena Lucrezia Corner Piscopia: the first woman to graduate in the world

Women in Venice are often distinguished by their courage and their unconventional choices and an excellent example is Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman to graduate in the world. 

Elena was born in 1646 and was the fifth of seven children of the noble John the Baptist Cornaro and Zanetta Boni from a lower-class. The father was a man of great culture and when he saw the abilities of his daughter, he encouraged her cultural growth in every way. Elena was taught by the best teachers of Greek, Latin, science, philosophy and theology, and she also learned Hebrew and Spanish from a rabbi. Well known among Italian scholars for her intellectualism, Cornaro was received in several Italian academies, and her fame also spread abroad.

After Elena held a public debate of philosophy in Greek and Latin in Venice, her father John the Baptist demanded that the University of Padua should award his daughter with a degree in theology. This was strongly opposed the bishop of Padua, claiming it was ‘a big mistake to allow a woman to obtain a Theological Title' and that ‘it would make fools of ourselves to the world'. This created a conflict between the bishop and Cornaro, which resulted in the compromise to allow Elena to graduate in philosophy. On 25 June 1678 Cornaro submitted her dissertation and was accepted into the College of Physicians and philosophers od the Study at Padua, although as a woman she could not exercise teaching. After having taken seriously ill she died in Padua, at just thirty-eight years.

Imagine that as well as there being a statue of her in Padua University (the ‘Bo') and a small plaque on a wall of the building where she was born on the Grand Canal (now the town hall of Venice), a crater of 26 km in diameter on the planet Venus has been dedicated to her and also in the Library of Vassar University in Poughkeepsie (NY) a stained glass window has been made to commemorate her.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

Latest posts

Venice: The reredos of the Chapter Hall of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice

Unknown places & works

When visiting the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice - perhaps one of the most significant monuments of the lagoon city - one is alwa...

View

Vicenza: The Odeon cinema in Vicenza, one of the oldest in the world

Historical Curiosities

Perhaps not everyone knows that in Vicenza there is one of the oldest cinemas in the world, still open today! Originally the hall was a...

View

Venice: The bells of St. Mark’s Bell Tower in Venice

Historical Curiosities

St Mark’s Bell Tower in St. Mark's Square is one of the symbols of Venice, but not everyone knows that the original building collapse...

View

Treviso: Carlo Scarpa’s Brion Tomb in Altivole

Big Names

Near Asolo, the reign of the queen Catherine Corner, there is a small village called Altivole... Its cemetery is renowned for containin...

View

Top posts

Venice: The Rialto Bridge in Venice and the Doge's daughter

Mysteries & Legends

There are many stories and legends related to the famous Rialto bridge on the Grand Canal in Venice, but few people know the one that h...

View

Venice: Campo delle Gatte in Venice

Unknown places & works

The names of the streets in Venice can be very unusual… For example, when you walk around the Castello district, you will come across...

View

Venice: The Doge Enrico Dandolo and the conquest of Constantinople

Big Names

The history of the Venetian Republic was inextricably linked to the Doge's charismatic personality, but also adventurers and traitors, ...

View

Venice: The three wellheads of the San Trovaso Church

Historical Curiosities

In the charming Dorsoduro district in Venice, there is the ancient church of Saints Gervasio and Protasio, called San Trovaso in Veneti...

View