Cornaro crest

Cardinal Patriarch Federico Cornaro (G-17)

Born: 16 November 1579, Venice

Died: 5 June 1653, Rome


CARDINAL PATRIARCH FEDERICO BALDISSERA BARTOLOMEO CORNARO, a member of the Cornaro della Regina branch of the family in its S. Polo line, was the son of Doge Giovanni Cornaro (G-12) and the brother of Doge Francesco Cornaro (G-19). Federico began his studies in Rome, presumably in the household of his uncle Cardinal Francesco Cornaro (G-11). Upon the death of his uncle, 1598, Federico returned to Venice and received his degree in law from the University of Padua.

He returned to Rome as Chierico di camera to Pope Clement VIII. In 1622 he became Bishop of Bergamo and was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Urban VIII, 1626. His appointment as Cardinal raised a political furor in Venice because of the Republic's prohibition on children of a Doge accepting Papal appointments. Ultimately, the appointment was approved by the Venetian Senate, but the Senate subsequently refused to approve Federico's appointment as Bishop first of Vicenza and later of Padua. Following his father's death, however, he was made Patriarch of Venice, ascending to that office in 1632 and serving until 1644.

Several notable artistic works commemorate Federico's period of service as Patriarch, including Giuseppe Heintz' grand portrayal (now in the collection of the Museo Correr, Venice) of the Patriarch's arrival to assume possession of the Cathedral of S. Pietro di Castello and Girolamo Forabosco's altarpiece (c. 1642, now lost) for a chapel in the adjacent palace of the Patriarch. Formal portraits of Federico as Patriarch include works by Domenico Tintoretto (now lost), Tiberio Tinelli (also now lost) and Bernardo Strozzi (shown above, now in the collection of Museo Ca' Rezzonico, Venice).

In 1644 Cardinal Federico resigned as Patriarch and moved his residence to Rome. There he commissioned, 1647, the religious monument that has insured his memory in the history of art: the Cornaro Chapel in the Church of S. Maria della Vittoria with its central sculptural portrayal of the Ecstasy of S. Teresa di Avila, the celebrated masterwork of Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. The central figures are flanked by two panels portraying Cardinal Federico and other Doges and Cardinals of the Cornaro family as observers of the scene.

In the period from 1500 to 1789 nine members of the Cornaro family served as Cardinal, for a combined total of 150 years of service.

1997-2004 C. I. Gable