The very first years of his life
Antonio Rosmini was born on 24 March 1797 in Rovereto, a city of ancient cultural and religious traditions. He belonged to a noble and good living family from the Lombard-Venetian region, then an Austrian dominion. He was the second born of Pier Modesto and Giovanna dei Conti Formenti of Biacesa near Lake Garda.
Of his birthday he wrote “God enabled me to see the light on the vigil of the feast of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, and showed by this that he wished to give her to be my mother and protectress, which I have always experienced, though I have always been a most ungrateful suppliant and son. May I now be able to begin to correspond with love towards my most dear mother, and love her as I aim to do for eternity. Amen. Then, the goodness of God, who loved me first, blessed me by seeing to it that, on the day of the same month, on March 25th the feast of the Annunciation by the Angel to the Virgin Mary, I should be reborn in the saving waters of Holy Baptism, administered in the Archpriest’s church of S. Marco in Rovereto….”
His ancestors haled from the Val Brembana and moved to Rovereto in 1442, where they were notable for both civil and military offices, becoming one of the most distinguished families of the city. Antonio’s grandfather added Serbati to his name, on account of a legacy through his mother’s family.
In a profoundly religious environment Tonino’s infancy was a peaceful one, under the care of his mother, a sensible and intelligent woman. His friend Niccolò Tommaseo, who knew her personally, said some years later: “Your mother is the most unusual woman I have ever known. Her prudence, her modesty, her kindness, her piety, her love for her children, her gentleness, astounded me, enchanted me and aroused in me the deepest veneration and wonder.”
Tonino had a sister Margherita, three years older than him, who would enter the Canossian Sisters, and a brother, Giuseppe, a year younger. The first two were very alike in character, but the brother was quite different and Tonino patiently lavished his attention on him.
His paternal uncle, Ambrogio, was important in the life of young Antonio; he was a lover of the fine arts, a painter and architect of good taste. The child was very close to him and he was the confidant of his little secrets. Antonio held him to be one of his teachers.