Don Alberto Rocca Lectures on the Cultural Project of Federico Borromeo, Founder of Milan's Ambrosiana Library and Art Gallery

Author: Brandon Cook

Reverend Doctor Alberto Rocca LecturesThe Reverend Doctor Alberto Rocca

On Tuesday, April 11th, the Medieval Institute hosted a lecture by Reverend Doctor Alberto Rocca, current director of the Pinacoteca and also the Director of the Classe di Studi Borromaici at the Accademia Ambrosiana. In the lecture, entitled “The Cultural Project of Federico Borromeo,” Don Rocca presented the history of Milan’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana and the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana art museum, founded in 1607 and 1618, respectively, by Federico Cardinal Borromeo (1564-1631). Don Rocca’s spirited talk noted that Cardinal Borromeo, the ward and cousin of the renown St. Charles Borromeo, was a well-educated figure of the early modern period and that his cultural program for the Pinacoteca reflected his studies in philosophy and theology as well as the “Christian Optimism” of his Roman mentor St. Filippo Neri and the newest early modern methods of historicism developed by Cesare Baronio. Rocca further emphasized that Borromeo intended the Ambrosiana to be a “gift to the city of Milan and a gift to the world.” Borromeo devoted his immense wealth to the creation of such an institute, to which the founding documents of the Ambrosiana, listing Borromeo’s many donations and purchases of costly manuscripts and his commissions of exquisite works of art, all attest. The lecture was followed by a reception in the Byzantine Reading Room.

Prior to his talk at the Medieval Institute, Don Rocca gave a lecture at the Snite Museum of Art on Sunday, April 9th, on the historic conservation of the cartoon for Raphael’s School of Athens, one of the Western world’s most heralded Italian renaissance frescoes painted in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican. This summer the Medieval Institute will also host a course in diplomatics (the science of reading medieval documents) taught by Don Rocca’s colleague and the current director of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Rev. Can. Dr. Federico Gallo. See our summer courses page for more information on the course and about how to register for it.

The Medieval Institute maintains a unique and ongoing relationship with the Ambrosiana. We have an extensive collection of microfilms and other materials that reproduce the holdings of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (read more). To visit its extensive collection of microfilms and other materials that reproduce the holdings of that library here at Notre Dame, contact the Institute’s librarian, Dr. Julia Schneider.

Originally published by Brandon Cook at on April 24, 2017.