Given his reputation as one of the world’s most notorious libertines it may (or indeed, perhaps, may not) come as a surprise to learn that Casanova was initially destined for a career in the Church. In 1737, at the age of 12, he enrolled at Padua University to study Law, a valuable qualification for someone with priestly ambitions, graduating at 16 (although there is some scholarly debate about the veracity of this). In addition to Law, Casanova studied Philosophy, Chemistry, Mathematics and Medicine. He himself would have preferred to follow Medicine but the Church was deemed by his family to be more respectable, especially for a child from a theatrical background. Thus, in 1740, dividing his time between Padua and Venice, he became an Abate. This was the first rung on the ladder towards the priesthood. The seriousness with which he followed his calling can be gauged by the degree to which he struggled against the sins of the flesh. He was a striking, intelligent and witty young man who at this time kept the company of the cream of Venetian society. He was thus not without offer or opportunity. It was not until he was seventeen that he was successfully seduced by the two sisters Nanetta and Marta Savorgnan, sixteen and fifteen respectively. But this did not derail his plans for the Church. In 1743, briefly, he became secretary to Bernardo de Bernardis, bishop of Martirano and in 1744, in Rome, he secured a position under the powerful Cardinal Acquaviva and even had the privilege of an audience with Pope Benedict XIV. He was, by now, however, beginning to have his doubts over his suitability as a member of the clergy. Since his encounter with the Savorgnan sisters he’d had several other love affairs, including one with a supposed castrato called Bellino. Thus, at the age of nineteen, he finally abandoned his priestly ambitions.
‘The Prologue’, and chapters 1 and 2 of ‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ are now freely available here.
6 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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