Federico Borromeo bigraphy, stories - Cardinal Archbishop of Milan

Federico Borromeo : biography

18 August 1564 - 22 September 1631

Federico Borromeo (18 August 1564 – 21 September 1631) was an Italian cardinal and archbishop of Milan.

Archbishop of Milan

On 24 April 1595 the Pope Clement VIII appointed Federico Archbishop of Milan, and consecrated him bishop on 11 June 1595 in Rome. During thirty-six years he gave the world an example of episcopal virtue, zeal, and dignity. He followed the example of his elder cousin in promoting the discipline of the clergy, founding churches and colleges at his own expense, and applying everywhere the reformed principles set by the Council of Trent.

In 1609 he founded the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a college of writers, a seminary of savants, a school of fine arts, and, after the Bodleian at Oxford, the first genuinely public library in Europe. Borromeo had the famous Saint Charles Borromeo statue erected in Arona, supported the development of the Sacro Monte of Varese (today a World Heritage site), and participated in the embellishment of the Duomo di Milano where he was to be buried. He is most notable for his efforts to feed the poor of Milan during the great famine of 1627-1628. He took part in eight conclaves. He died in Milan 21 September 1631.


Federico Borromeo appears as a character in Alessandro Manzoni’s novel The Betrothed (I promessi sposi), in which he is characterized as an intelligent humanist. In 1685 the citizens of Milan erected a marble statue of him next to the gates of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana.

While at the service of Federico Borromeo, Aquilino Coppini published in 1607 his book of sacred madrigals with contrafacta texts prepared by him, based on works by Claudio Monteverdi and others.


Federico Borromeo Federico Borromeo composed some 71 printed and 46 manuscript books written mostly in Latin that treat of various ecclesiastical sciences. His more known works are Meditamenta litteraria (1619), De gratia principum (1625), De suis studiis commentarius (1627), De ecstaticis mulieribus et illusis (1616), De acquirendo contemplationis habitu, De assidua oratione, De naturali ecstasi (1617), De vita Catharinae Senensis monacae conversae (1618), Tractatus habiti ad sacras virgines (1620-3), De cognitionibus quas habent daemones (1624), De linguis,nominibus et numero angelorum (1628).

Early life

Federico Borromeo was born in Milan as the second son of Giulio Cesare Borromeo, Count of Arona, and Margherita Trivulzio. The family was influential in both the secular and ecclesiastical spheres and Federico was cousin of Saint Charles Borromeo, the latter previous Archbishop of Milan and a leading figure during the Counter-Reformation.

He studied in Bologna with Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti and in 1580, at the age of 16, he asked to became a Jesuit. His cousin Charles Borromeo dissuaded him and sent him to the Collegio Borromeo of Pavia where he remained five years. In May 1585 he earned a doctorate in theology at the University of Pavia. After of the death of his cousin Charles, he was sent to Rome for higher studies, where he was strongly influenced by Philip Neri, Caesar Baronius and Robert Bellarmine. Federico Borromeo was created cardinal by Pope Sixtus V on 18 December 1587, at the age of only 21 years.

As cardinal, he participated in the papal conclaves of 1590, 1591, 1592, 1605, and 1623 (he was absent from the election of 1621). His attendance in the first conclave of 1590 at the age of 26 made him one of the youngest Cardinals to participate in the election of a pontiff.

In Rome Federico was not particularly interested in political issues, but he focused on scholarship and prayer. He collaborated to the issue of the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate and to the publication of the acts of Council of Trent.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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