Giovanni Dolfin was born in Venice on 22 April 1617, the first-born of seven children. He attended juridical studies at the University of Padua, probably with the aim to enter the ecclesiastic career. After graduating he soon took part in Venetian public life by being in charge of prestigious posts: as early as in his thirty threes he was elected senator. In 1651 he was proposed as the Serenissima’s ambassador to the court of France, but he was obliged to ask for his dismissal due to family commissions. His diplomatic abilities and his promptness were noticed by the patriarch of Aquileia Girolamo Gradenigo who applied for, and obtained, Dolfin’s appointment to his coadjutor in March 1656. Since then Dolfin’s ecclesiastical posts quickly careered: on 23 June 1656 he was ordained bishop to the see of Tagaste. While being in Rome, in October 1657, he got the news about Girolamo Gradenigo’s death, who had led the patriarchal see for only eleven months. Thus on 29 December 1657 Dolfin got the tenure of the Church of Aquileia. As a patriarch he took much care of the pastoral activity: among his most relevant actions, one should undoubtedly remember his visit to the whole diocese and, above all, the convocation of two synods, in 1660 and 1669. The large number of commissions connected with the responsibility of his ecclesiastical ministry did not stop his literary creativity that brought him to compose a version of the tragedy Medoro in 1659 that achieved widespread success. He also wrote three famous tragedies, Lucrezia, Cleopatra, Creso, and successful philosophic-scientific dialogues in prose and verses. In 1667 he was appointed cardinal and became member of the ‘Accademia della Crusca’ owing to his artistic merits. In 1698 his brother Daniele died, who was his coadjutor appointed to follow him on the patriarchal cathedra, and thus his nephew Dionisio was appointed to that charge. A few months later, on 20 July 1699, Giovanni Dolfin died on the age of eighty two years.
For further information see the entry Dolfin Giovanni, 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, 973-976.