Dionisio Dolfin was born in Venice in 1663. He did his studies by the Jesuits of the city and completed his juridical and literary education in Paris. In 1698 he was appointed coadjutor, with right of succession, by his uncle Giovanni, patriarch of Aquileia since 1657. The latter died in July of that same year and two months later Dionisio Dolfin got the official tenure of the patriarchate. His first provisions revealed great care of the pastoral activity, and he summoned an important synod that took place at Udine in May 1703. To leave a tangible mark of his presence Dolfin provided to widen the patriarchal palace and entrusted the architect Domenico Rossi with the direction of the works that drew out from 1708 to 1725. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo was commissioned for the embellishment of some halls of representation, where the painter worked on his frescoes between 1726 and 1729. One distinctive feature of Dolfin’s work was a constant action for cultural promotion. As a matter of fact he ordered to furnish a wide room to be destined to patriarchal library, whereas from the beginning he provided that the structure should be not only dedicated to a private use, but to the common interest, too. To that purpose an access to the library was opened directly from outside. In the triennial period 1709 – 1711 he was engaged with furnishing and embellishing this library, for which he had wooden shelves manufactured and surmounted by a balcony. Beyond his own private collection, the original endowment of books, about which no documental sources are left, was also much due to the testament legacy of his uncle Giovanni’s collection, a very learned literate and bibliophile, which he came by together with the books of his brother Marco, member of the Apostolic nunciature, after the latter died before his time, in 1704. Further on Dolfin himself destined a lot of money to the purchase of books and the management of the library he was very fond of, and he brought it to a consistency of around seven thousand publications. In 1722 he gave himself up to widening and revamping the seminary: here as well he had a new library built, for which in 1725 he called the young Tiepolo to paint some canvases that are nowadays unfortunately lost. In 1731 he founded the ‘Accademia di Scienze’, a meeting place of erudite men and scholars of the Patria del Friuli, open to both ecclesiastic and lay people, that pursued, among other things, the promotion of studies on local history. Dolfin died at San Vito al Tagliamento on 3 August 1734.
For further information see the entry Dolfin Dionisio, patriarca d’Aquileia written by Cristina Moro, in Nuovo Liruti, Dizionario biografico dei Friulani, 2, L’Età veneta, edited by C. Scalon, C. Griggio, U. Rozzo, Udine, Forum, 2009, 968-973.