Carlo Rezzonico: a Venetian bishop who became Pope!

Apr 10, 2020 | architecture, art, famous characters, history | 0 comments

 

When you think about famous people born in Venice and universally known worldwide, you typically remember Marco Polo and Antonio Vivaldi. Or perhaps you recall Elena Lucrezia Corner Piscopia, the first woman in the world to graduate from a university along with Caterina Corner, Queen of Cyprus. Don’t you? Well, ask your Best Venice Guide who Carlo Rezzonico was and you’ll surely be amazed!

On 6th July 1758 he became Pope Clemens XIII, at a time when the Church was suffering in a complicated and difficult situation.

The Rezzonico family was from the city of Como in Lombardy (North-West of Italy). Documents report that they were skilled merchants but also dealers in international finance, skilled enough to become part of the Venetian nobility in 1687.

Carlo Rezzonico, portait by Anton Raphael Mengs, now in the “Allegory Nuptial Room” in Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice

Carlo Rezzonico, portait by Anton Raphael Mengs, now in the “Allegory Nuptial Room” in Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice

At that time, the Republic of Venice was engaged in one of countless wars against the Ottoman Empire. In order to garner economic resources to support the military effort, our Government decided to allow wealthy families to buy the title of “nobleman” paying the extraordinary amount of 100,000 ducats (the currency of that time). After this payment, the family was enrolled in the so called “Golden Book”. Rezzonico never had problems with money; that year, the 19-year-old abbot Abbondio, who loved gambling, lost about 40,000 ducats playing cards with Prince Livio Odescalchi, grandson of the Pope Innocent XI.

Giambattista Tiepolo’s fresco in the “Throne Room” in Ca’ Rezzonico, representing the “Golden Book”

Giambattista Tiepolo’s fresco in the “Throne Room” in Ca’ Rezzonico, representing the “Golden Book”

Such a combination: that Pope, just like the Rezzonicos, was from Como; actually, they were distant relatives and involved in the same business. This point could be useful to understand the ecclesiastic career chosen by Carlo and the final election to the papal throne.

Moreover, roughly in the middle of the XVIII century, the Rezzonico family bought in Venice a sumptuous Palace left unfinished by Baldassarre Longhena. The architect Giorgio Massari was chosen to complete and embellish it. He did an incredible job on the huge Palace facing the Gran Canal, which today is known simply as Ca’ Rezzonico, museum of the XVIII century in Venice.
Ask your Best Venice Guide to show you all its beauty and art treasures inside!

Façade of Ca’ Rezzonico Palace facing the Grand Canal

Façade of Ca’ Rezzonico Palace facing the Grand Canal

 

Ceremonial entrance staircase projected and built by Giorgio Massari

Ceremonial entrance staircase projected and built by Giorgio Massari

 

The ball room built by Giorgio Massari

The ball room built by Giorgio Massari

Carlo lived quite a short time in his Palace. In 1743, he became bishop in Padua and fifteen years later was elected Pope, dealing with continuous insidious attacks against the Catholic Church, engendered by the anti-religious winds of the Enlightenment movement.

Carlo paid for this poisoned climate with his life: he died on 2nd February 1769 of apoplexy, just before the consistory he had summoned in order to find a peaceful solution to the request of the abolition of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit), strongly advocated by the Bourbon Courts.

And the Palace on the Grand Canal? The Rezzonico family spent a lot of money, but enjoyed it so little. Less than ten years, in fact, considering that the whole family moved to Rome when Carlo became Pope.  

His Pontificate could have been the beginning of smaller opportunities for the entire family, but none of the members had male children. The last one, Prince Abbondio, died in Pisa in 1810, just after having erected by the hand of Antonio Canova the funerary monument to his great uncle Carlo, in Saint Peter’s Church, Vatican City, Rome.

Come and learn Carlo’s troubled story with more details. Contact me, the Ca’ Rezzonico museum is waiting for us!

Funerary monument to Carlo Rezzonico, Pope Clemens XIII, Saint Peter Basilica, Rome

Funerary monument to Carlo Rezzonico, Pope Clemens XIII, Saint Peter Basilica, Rome

Federica Gullino
federica.gullino@gmail.com
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