Oliviero Carafa  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Oliviero Carafa (1430 – 20 January 1511) was an Italian Cardinal and diplomat of the Renaissance. Like the majority of his era's prelates, he displayed the magnificent way of life that was expected of a prince of the Church. As a man of affairs he set an example of conscientiousness for his contemporaries.

Patron of arts

Carafa's income was estimated at 12,000 ducats a year. In Naples he brought the High Renaissance to the city in the richly decorated Succorpo in the crypt of the cathedral, designed to contain the relics of Saint Januarius in a sufficiently magnificent manner that it could serve also as his own mortuary chapel; it was commenced in 1497 and completed in 1508. In Rome he established himself in a palazzo of the Orsini in the Parione, where he may have employed Donato Bramante to remodel the structure, which was replaced in the late eighteenth century by Palazzo Braschi. Carafa was an intellectual patron of Renaissance humanists and assembled a great library that was resorted to by scholars. He carried on Torquemada's patronage of printing, at the first printing press in Italy, established by Torquemada at Subiaco. In his household his nephew Giampietro Carafa, later Pope Paul IV, received a thorough training in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. There in 1501 the battered Roman marble dubbed "Pasquino" by the Romans was unearthed, and set upon a pedestal at the corner of Piazza di Pasquino and Palazzo Braschi, on the west side of Piazza Navona. He devoted himself to the patronage of art and, as Cardinal Protector of the Dominican order from 1478, benefited generously the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva; for the decoration of his chapel at its associated priory, organized about the theme of the Annunciation, he employed Filippino Lippi in 1488; for the painter, who had made his reputation in Florence, it was his first large-scale fresco. In the altarpiece, Lippi depicted his patron, kneeling, his lean, bony face, long sharp nose and narrow lips in profile, with his patron Saint Thomas Aquinas standing by.

When Bramante arrived in Rome, his first architectural commission came from Carafa, the cloister at Santa Maria della Pace.

During the last years of his life, which coincided with the pontificate of Pope Julius II, Carafa was regarded as a wise counsellor of the Church. He died on 20 January 1511. His tomb is in the Carafa Chapel of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

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