Caterina Cornaro

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Gentile Bellini : Portrait of Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus , around 1500

Caterina Cornaro (born November 25, 1454 in Venice , † July 10, 1510 in Asolo ) was the last Queen of Cyprus from 1474 to 1489 .


Caterina came from the Corner family . She was the eldest daughter of the patrician Marco Corner (whose great-grandfather of the same name was Doge of Venice from 1365 to 1368 ) and his wife Fiorenza Crispo, a granddaughter of Francesco I Crispo , the Duke of Naxos . Caterina's family had business ties with Cyprus for generations; it produced sugar on the island and exported various goods to Venice.

Queen of Cyprus

James II of Lusignan came to the throne of Cyprus in 1463 after a successful dispute with his half-sister Charlotte . He was friends with Caterina's father and her uncle, who probably supported him financially, and chose Caterina to be his wife in 1468 . The wedding - in the absence of the king - took place in Venice on July 30th. The marriage was beneficial for both sides: while Venice was able to secure its trading rights and other privileges in Cyprus, Jacob was able to consolidate his rule, as his claim to the throne as an illegitimate was very controversial.

In November 1472, Caterina sailed to Cyprus, where she was married again to Jacob. Before her departure, she had been named a "daughter of St. Mark" - in this way Venice claimed a claim to the island in the event of Jacob's death. Just eight months later, the king died after a brief illness while Caterina was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, she gave birth to a son, for whom she took over the reign. Jacob III However, he still died as an infant (he was only around one year old), probably from an illness, but possibly also from poison.

Caterina has now been officially crowned Queen of Cyprus. However, her rule was not well established, and she was constantly advised and monitored in her government affairs by representatives of the Republic of Venice. The opposition supported by Genoa tried to persuade her to another marriage, in the hope of an heir to the throne, in order to protect the island from Venice's access. Venice, however, thwarted these plans: In order to be able to seize Cyprus, Caterina was asked to abdicate ; a fleet anchored off the island emphasized this. After the intervention of her brother Giorgio, she finally gave in and renounced the throne. Cyprus fell to the Serenissima in 1489 .


Gentile Bellini: The Miracle of the Cross on the Bridge of San Lorenzo (1500)

After her return to Venice she was compensated with the town and castle Asolo in northern Italy, where she took up residence for the next twenty years. She was allowed to keep the title and rank of queen, but in fact had no sovereign rights, but was under the supervision of the republic. Caterina resided surrounded by poets, scholars and artists. The humanist Pietro Bembo was an outstanding member of their circle . His book Gli Asolani is a dialogue among courtiers about love, in which he addresses one of the central themes of the Renaissance, the reflection on an idealized and spiritualized love according to the concept of the Florentine Marsilio Ficino .

Caterina died on July 10, 1510 and was buried in the church of Santi Apostoli . From there, her body was transferred to the Church of San Salvador in 1584 , where her family had purchased places for burial sites. In front of her grave monument there, a floor plate with a Latin inscription, which describes her as the Queen of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia, marks the place of her burial. The central relief of the monument shows Caterina after her forced abdication in 1489 together with the Doge Agostino Barbarigo presenting her crown to the Republic of Venice, the prerequisite for her return.

Caterina Cornaro in art and literature

Caterina worked as a patron in Asolo and commissioned the construction of a summer palace. The young Giorgione probably also belonged to her circle , who according to Vasari painted a portrait of Caterina, which has not survived. Tuzio Costanzo , the longtime condottiere of Caterina, commissioned Giorgione with the altarpiece in Castelfranco Veneto . She was portrayed by Gentile Bellini (1429–1507) around 1500 ( Szépművészeti Múzeum , Budapest). The painting “The Miracle of the True Cross” by the same artist ( Accademia, Venice ) from 1500 also probably shows her as a kneeling figure on the left in profile. A picture of Paolo Veronese (or his sons) in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie shows Caterina Cornaro handing the crown of Cyprus over to the Doge of Venice. The Austrian history painter Hans Makart painted “Venice pays homage to Catarina Cornaro”.

Her life was the subject of five operas, e.g. B. by Franz Lachner (Katharina Cornaro, 1841, libretto by de Saint-Georges), Donizetti (Catharina Cornaro, Naples 1844), Jacques Fromental Halévy (La reine de Chypre) and Michael William Balfe (The daughter of St. Mark, 1844 ). In 1875 the Viennese writer Anna Forstenheim wrote a drama “Catarina Cornaro”. She also plays an important role in Thomas Mielke's novel “Gold for the Kaiser”. Charlotte Adams published a novella "Catarina Cornaro" in Harper's new monthly magazine 57, 340 from 1878. In the radio play "Caterina Cornaro" by Marie Luise Kaschnitz , a Venetian councilor says that they will "have her painted by Master Tizian ". This alludes to Titian's painting of Caterina Cornaro in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Her castle in Potamia (Cyprus) is falling into disrepair today.


  • JMJL de Mas-Latrie: Histoire de l'Île de Chypre sous les princes de la maison de Lusignan. Paris 1852-1853.
  • Jetta Sachs-Collignon: Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus. Munich 1998
  • L. Comacchio: Splendore di Asolo ai tempi della Regina Cornaro. Castelfranco Veneto 1969

Individual evidence

  1. Scene 2
  2. ^ Kaschnitz, Marie Luise: Caterina Cornaro . RUB 8731, p. 69 ("Autobiographical Afterword")
  3. ^ Di Cesnola, LP Cyprus: Its Ancient Cities, Tombs, and Temples, 2015.

Web links

Commons : Caterina Cornaro  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Jacob III Queen of Cyprus