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: Mars, Adam and Eve: the Doge's Palace celebrates their return

Unknown places & works

After four years of delicate restoration work, the three fifteenth-century statues by the great artist Antonio Rizzo will be exceptiona...


Romano D' Ezzellino: Why do they say ‘If you can't sleep, count sheep’?

Figures of speech

It all started in Romano d’Ezzelino in the province of Vicenza when Ezzelino da Romano, who suffered from insomnia, hired a storytell...


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: Fave dei Morti: the Venetian cookies of All Souls Day

Local Traditions

As tradition dictates, every year, on the day when the deceased are commemorated (November 2), in Venice it is customary to prepare ‘...


Top posts

Padua: Why do people say ‘Rimanere in braghe di tela?’

Historical Curiosities

Have you ever wondered where the popular expression ‘Rimanere in mutande’ o ‘Rimanere in braghe di tela’ comes from? It is a wa...


Venice: The Last Supper by Veronese at the Gallerie dell'Accademia

Historical Curiosities

The twelve rooms of the Gallerie dell'Accademia host many works of art from the Veneto Region and the city of Venice made by renowned a...


Treviso: The ghost of Bianca di Collalto

Mysteries & Legends

On the night between October 31 and November 1, telling a scary ghost story is a must... We have one related to the castle of Collalto,...


Padua: Prato della Valle in Padua

Historical Curiosities

Probably only the inhabitants of Padua and a few other people know of a particular record their city is boasting about: having the larg...