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: 'Duri i banchi!': the meaning of a famous motto in Venice

Figures of speech

The Venetians are a people of workers, proud and deeply attached to their city, and for these reasons, they never surrender to hardship...


Venice: Coronavirus is not (fortunately) Venice’s new plague

Historical Curiosities

As recently as a month ago the Coronavirus or COVID-19 started to affect our lives causing much disruption. It appeared precisely in ou...


Venice: History of the Queen of Venice Carnival: Frittella!

Local Traditions

It is Carnival time...and what could be better than biting into a soft and tasty Venetian frittella? Frittella, ‘fritoea or fritola...


Venice: The legend of Melusina and the stone heart of Sotoportego dei Preti

Mysteries & Legends

February: the feast of lovers is approaching and you are thinking of relishing magical experiences together with your better half in Ve...


Top posts

Chioggia: The Valley of the Seven Dead Men

Mysteries & Legends

Halloween is just around the corner: have you already got into the fascinating terrifying aura of the scariest party of the year? No ye...


Venice: The stone heart of St Mark’s Basilica

Unknown places & works

If you are visiting St Mark’s Basilica and have just abandoned the wonderful vision of the Pala d'Oro (which is a must-see), just a f...


Venice: Map of Venice, what to know before you leave

Did you know that...

Did you know that Venice is not a single large island but rather a collection of 117 small islands linked together by over 400 bridges?...


Verona: The roman walls of Verona

Historical Curiosities

Verona has always been considered a city of considerable importance from a military point of view: being at the mouth of the Adige Vall...