Redefining Beauty: Elena Cornaro Piscopia


Palazzo Loredan, home of Elena Cornaro Piscopia

Remarkable women have been thwarted throughout the centuries. One story that never fails to break my heart is the story of Elena Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman in the world to earn a university degree.


Watch this video to learn her story and why it pains me to tell it to you, or click on this link if you are viewing this blog on your phone: Elena Cornaro Piscopia video

But I shouldn’t open with that sad introduction to her life. Really, she should be lauded and applauded and remembered for her accomplishments. She was a deft mathematician, spoke numerous languages, was an accomplished singer and musician, studied philosophy, theology, astronomy, and so much more. After becoming a Benedictine oblate in her teens, she devoted her life to study and to doing good works for others, often giving her meals and clothing away to those less fortunate than her.

To tell her story, I’m standing in front of her family’s palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, the Palazzo Loredan.


Palazzo Loredan (Cornaro Piscopia)

One of Elena’s joys was to go with her Nonnina (her nurse Lorenza) to the nearby Church of San Luca to pray. It’s not too hard to picture her there.


S Luca


If you would like to learn a fuller story of her life, I have a chapter on Elena Cornaro Piscopia in my book A Beautiful Woman in Venice, which you can learn more about here:

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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1 Response to Redefining Beauty: Elena Cornaro Piscopia

  1. Nancy Schwalen says:

    I remember this story. What a beautiful palazzo.

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