Borgia, Stephen

, a learned Roman cardinal, was born of a noble family at Velletri, in 1731; and as the second son of the family, was from his birth destined for the clerical dignities. In youth he appears to have been studious, and particularly attentive to historic and diplomatic science, and modern and ancient languages. In 1770, he was appointed secretary to the congregation of Propaganda, the purposes of which are to furnish missionaries to propagate Christianity, on popish principles; and into this | college children are admitted from Asia and Africa, in order to be instructed in religion, and to diffuse itj on their return, through their native countries. A more fit person could not be selected than Borgia, as he had both zeal and learning. In 1771, the abbe Amaduzzi, director of the printing-house of the college, procured the casting of the Malabar types, and published some works in that language, as well as in those of the Indians of Ava and of Pegu. By the care of this new secretary also, an Etruscan alphabet was published, which soon proved of the highest benefit to Passeri: for, by its means, this celebrated antiquary, in the latter part of his life, could better explain than he had ever done some Etruscan monuments of the highest interest. About this time he began to lay the foundation of the family museum at Velletri, which, before 1780, exhibited no less than eighty ancient Egyptian statues in bronze or marble, many Etruscan and Greek idols, numerous coins, inscriptions, &c. To form some idea of the total of this museum, it may be observed that only a small part of it, relative to Arabic antiquity, was the subject of the description which, in 1782, was published under the title of “Musaeum Cusicum.” He had long before this published “Monumento di Giovanni XVI. summo Pontifice illustrate,Rome, 1750, 8vo. “Breve Istoria dell‘ antica citta di Tadino nell’ Umbria, &c.” ibid. 1751, 8vo. “Dissertatione sopra un‘ antica Iscrizione rinuentanelP Isoladi Malta nell’ anno 1749,”Fermo, 1751, and “Dissertatione FUologica sopra un' antica gemma in* tagliata.

About 1782, he gave a new proof of his attention to the interests of learning and religion, on the following occasion. An island, near Venice, is inhabited by Armenian monks; and those fathers make no use of any language but their own, printing rituals and devotional books in Armenian, and carrying on a considerable commerce in such books through the East. No one, however, had thought of going to pass some time among these fathers, with a view of learning their language, until Borgia, foreseeing the advantages that might result from it, sent one Gabriele, a Capuchin, to spend some time with these monks in learning the Armenian; and afterwards engaged him to go on a mission to Astracan, to preach in Armenian, and to avail himself of that opportunity to compile an Italian-Armenian, and Armenian-Italian Dictionary, | father Gabriele fulfilled these injunctions, and, on his return, he delivered the Dictionary into the hands of the librarian of the Propaganda.

In 1788 he published his “Vindication of the rights of the Holy See on the kingdom of Naples,” 4to, a work now of little importance, and relating to a dispute which will probably never be revived. On the 30th of March, 1789, he was promoted to the rank of cardinal, and about the same time was appointed prefect of the congregation of the Index; and, what was more analogous to his pursuits, he held the same office in the Propaganda, and in the congregation for the correction of the books of the oriental churches. After these promotions, he continued to be the liberal patron of all who had any connection either with his offices or with his literary pursuits, until Italy was inTaded by the French, when, like the greater part of his colleagues, he was involved in losses and dangers, both with respect to his fortune and to his pursuits. He forfeited all his benefices, and was near witnessing the destruction of all the establishments committed to his care, especially the Propaganda. He was soon, however, extricated from his personal difficulties; and, by his timely measures, the invaluable literary treasures of the Propaganda were also saved. He was allowed a liberal pension from the court of Denmark, and he soon obtained the removal of the establishment of the Propaganda to Padua, a city which, being then under the dominion of the emperor <?f Germany, was thought to be sheltered from robbery. Here he remained till the death of pope Pius VI. after which he repaired, with his colleagues, to Venice, to attend the conclave j and, a new pope being elected, he returned to Rome. When the coronation of the emperor of France was ordered, cardinal Borgia was one of those individuals who were selected by the pope as the companions of his intended journey to Paris, but having caught a, violent cold on his way, he died at Lyons, Nov. 23, 1804. Cardinal Stephen Borgia was not much favoured by nature with respect to person. He was so clumsy, and his motions so much embarrassed, as to have little of the appearance of a person of birth and rank. He was far, also, from being nice in his house or equipage. These little defects, however, were compensated by the superior qualities of his mind. From, the time of Alexander Albani, no Roman cardinal had so many distinguished connections | and correspondents in every part of Europe: and a great similarity (elegance of manners excepted) was remarked between the character of that illustrious prelate and his own. The Borgian ms. so called by Michaelis, is a fragment of a Coptic-Greek manuscript, brought by a monk from Egypt, consisting of about twelve leaves, and sent to cardinal Borgia. The whole of it is printed in “Georgii Fragmentum Graeco-Copto-Thebaicum,Rome, 1789, 4to. 1

1

Athenaeum, vol. V,.—axii Oaomasticon.—Rees’s Cyclopedia, art. Borgian ms.