France and Naples were enemies, and now Alexander was allying himself against Alfonso’s family in Naples. How Pope Alexander VI Hosted Orgies, Kept Multiple Mistresses, And Bribed His Way To The Top. The Pope. over to Spain, no matter where they were located. Arsenic was a well-known and effective method of silencing one’s enemies at the time. German School/Getty ImagesKnown as the “Borgia Pope,” the papal rule of Alexander VI was tainted with criminal exploits perpetrated to benefit the Borgia family. Pope John XII (955 to 964) Attaining the title of pope at age 18, John XII was quickly deemed lazy … This set Rodrigo up for a future ascension to the papacy. Spain was given exclusive rights to all newly discovered and undiscovered lands in the region west of the line. While the Borgias are now synonymous with deviance, there may be more to the story. In addition to his own misdeeds, his family’s notorious story abounds with illicit affairs and assassinations, including rumors of incest and fratricide between Pope Alexander VI’s own children. © Copyright 2021 by Factinate.com. They considered several cardinals, including Rodrigo Borgia, Giuliano della Rovere (later Pope Julius II), and Ascanio Sforza. Then Ferdinand sought to ally with Spain, but Spain refused. Pope Alexander VI was born Rodrigo de Borja in Xàtiva, near Valencia, Spain to a family of Spanish nobles. In 1502, tired of serving Cesare, a handful of his commanders staged a rebellion. In 1493, when she was 13 years old, she married the Lord of Pesaro, Giovanni Sforza, but it didn’t last long. That the pope’s mistress might have stood in for the Virgin Mary herself was far too scandalous for even the most lecherous cardinal to handle. During this time, the Church encouraged the residents of Rome to confess their sins by passing through the “Holy Doors” opened in Rome’s basilicas. However, even cardinals who could normally be swayed shook their heads at the French interfering with Vatican matters. Giovanni refused to turn against his uncle to support the Borgias, betraying the purpose of the political marriage Alexander arranged. However, at the time of the annulment, Lucrezia is believed to have been pregnant. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery. Who could fail to be horrified by the…terrible, monstrous acts of lechery that are committed openly in his home, with no respect for God or man? During this marriage, she became a respectable duchess. The sale of Cardinalships was a major source of cash, so too was the sale of indulgences. Tired of Pope Alexander’s meddling, Portugal decided to bypass the pope and negotiate directly with Spain for land in the New World. Rodrigo Borgia had two famous mistresses: Vannozza dei Cattanei and Giulia Farnese, both married noblewomen. Lucrezia may not have been the mother at all, and the child could have been from Pope Alexander’s relationship with an unknown woman. Lucrezia may have warned Giovanni of his impending doom, and Giovanni fled to Milan in disguise. Cardinal Sforza had proved his worth by playing an influential role in supporting Alexander’s election. The patriarch of the long-maligned family was Pope Alexander VI, who used the power of the Vatican to further the ambitions and wealth of his own family. On October 30, 1501, Pope Alexander VI and his son, Cesare, held what’s become known as the Banquet of Chestnuts at the Apostolic Palace, the pope’s official residence. Lucrezia Borgia, the pope’s daughter whose three marriages were used to build powerful alliances. His temporal powers made him head of the papal states with territories in central Italy, and he governed his kingdom much like any other Renaissance sovereign. At the time of the Pope's death, five Cardinals were present, along with bishops, grooms, and members of his papal curia. Known for his appetite for bloodshed, Cesare was even widely believed to have been behind the murder of his own brother Giovanni, though some historians now believe Giovanni may have been killed by a jealous lover. This meant he was not only allowing a woman to preside over the affairs of the Catholic Church, but the illegitimate daughter of a pope no less! The conclave took three unsuccessful divided votes. Lucrezia’s close relationship with her father, and her habit of standing in for him when he was unable to attend to papal affairs, gave her easy access to the food and drink of his foes. Some modern historians believe Alexander VI has been unfairly besmirched in the historical record, claiming that he was the victim of a smear campaign by Pope Julius II. He also carved out fiefdoms from land in the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples for his own children to preside over. Relationships with Vanozza dei Catanei and Giulia Farnese. Whether this wild party actually occurred has been disputed by modern Vatican historians, yet it remains part of the lore surrounding the Borgias. The astrologer failed to specify how many misfortunes were about to hit him—and it was a lot. On August 11, 1492, at 61 years of age, Rodrigo was elevated as Pope Alexander VI. Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. On 4 May 1493 Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), an Aragonese from Valencia by birth, decreed in the bull Inter caetera that all lands west of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Castile, although territory under Christian rule as of Christmas 1492 would remain untouched. This practice quickly made an enemy of Ferdinand I, the King of Naples. Alexander himself began a longstanding formal rite of opening the Holy Doors to mark the beginning of the Jubilee year, a tradition still practiced to this day. The culprit is still a mystery, though a jealous lover, Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, and Juan’s brother Cesare Borgia were all suspected. Alexander ruined Giovanni Sforza’s life and reputation—and the spurned man might have sought revenge. Wikimedia CommonsPope Alexander VI’s outrageous indiscretions during the Renaissance have made him a notorious figure in the church’s history to this day. Not much is known about Borgia's childhood, but by about 1489, she was living with her father's third cousin Adriana de Mila and her father's new mistress Giulia Farnese, who was married to Adriana's stepson. At the meeting, he executed his former trusted commanders. He abandoned the now-infamous Borgia Apartments for corresponding rooms on the next floor up. It could have been cantharidin, a powder made from blister beetles that causes chemical burns. Lucrezia Borgia, meanwhile, was reputedly a conniving vixen who enjoyed poisoning her enemies. This all seemed remarkably convenient for Alexander, so it’s little wonder most people assumed the Pope himself poisoned the cardinal. Pope Alexander VI died in 1503 after a mysterious disease caused his body to bloat and become discolored. He agreed to send his son Cesare to Naples with the French army as an insurance policy, essentially making Cesare a prisoner. In fact, Cesare’s scheming and naked ambition inspired Machiavelli’s best-known work, The Prince. Alexander arranged for Cesare to wed a relative of the French king, but this left Lucrezia’s husband Alfonso high and dry. Alexander VI bought his way to the top of the Papacy and reigned as the most evil Pope in history. Rodrigo approved the marriage, thus earning the future favor of King Ferdinand. Pius II warned Rodrigo to avoid such shindigs, as they were “unseemly” for someone of his position in the Vatican. The other claimed Giovanni was Cesare’s son, and therefore Alexander’s grandchild. Borgia, however, courted controversy by openly acknowledging that he fathered seven children between them, and historians believe he likely had other illegitimate children whose names have been lost to history. The Borgias hired 50 concubines for the event. On the night in question, they had these women disrobe and pick up chestnuts strewn on the floor. The story fit in with Pope Alexander’s sordid reputation, though, so it became part of the Borgias’ scandalous lore, true or not. When Savonarola didn’t obey, Alexander excommunicated him—but that wasn’t enough for this bloodthirsty pope. Fortunately for Lucrezia, she was now 18 and seemingly happy with the match. Alexander didn’t stop his nepotism at naming cardinals. Honestly, not that bad of a deal. Portuguese expeditions were to keep to the east of the line. Before Boniface VI's brief stint as pope, there was the politically controversial Pope Formosus. Pope Alexander VII, born Fabio Chigi, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 7 April 1655 to his death in 1667. Cesare’s planned marriage to Carlotta of Naples fell through, and Alexander VI instead saw an opportunity to ally with the newly crowned King of France, Louis XII. Wasting no time, Pope Alexander VI sent his personal forces cardinal’s estate to collect 150,000 ducats. Before he could maneuver his son into this seat of power, Juan’s corpse was found washed up in the Tiber River, the victim of foul play. When Alexander became pope in 1492, his newfound power coincided with Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World for Europe. By all accounts, he hoped to escape the reminder of the pope he hated. Alfonso de Borgia (1378–1458) established the family’s influence in Italy and became Pope Calixtus III in 1455 (see Calixtus III). On April 8th, 1455, shortly after being made a cardinal, Alfons … The match would unify two Spanish regions, Ferdinand’s Aragon and Isabella’s Castile. He received every vote except his own. Despite the many swirling rumors about Pope Alexander VI’s sordid crimes, little solid evidence exists to condemn him. Why do you think Spain wanted exclusive rights to the New World? When Pope Innocent VIII passed, a conclave of cardinals met at the Vatican to elect a new pope. In 1499, Cesare led the papal army and French troops in a four-year campaign to do just that. Finally, prizes were announced for those who could perform the act most often with the courtesans, such as tunics of silk, shoes, barrets, and other things.”. The Renaissance artist Pinturicchio’s painting of the Madonna came under scrutiny when critics accused him of using Pope Alexander VI’s mistress, Giulia Farnese, as a model for the Biblical Mary. He allegedly offered fellow candidate Ascanio Sforza four mules loaded with silver if he threw his support behind the Borgia pope’s ascendency. Most of her villainization comes from her three marriages, all arranged and dissolved in a way that was advantageous to her father. Born into nobility, Rodrigo Borgia was set on the path to power long before he became Pope Alexander VI. Months after her first marriage ended, a child of unknown parentage was born into the Borgia family. Experts believe their identity as Spanish outsiders contributed to their infamy. These nepotistic appointments were a common practice in the church at the time. Pope Alexander favored his son Juan, his eldest child by Vannozza dei Cattanei, until tragedy struck. Cesare was too ill to attend to family business when Alexander croaked, but he knew he had to do something. However, when his father died in 1503, leaving Cesare without papal backing to continue his plans, he was forced to abandon his hopes of becoming an Italian prince. My mom never told me how her best friend died. In fact, some modern historians believe that earlier in her life she was driven to behave badly by her corrupt family. Born Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI did everything from selling church offices to hiring 50 prostitutes in one night to secure his place as history's dirtiest pope. As King Ferdinand I of Naples was threatening to come to the aid of the rightful duke Gian Galeazzo — the husband of his granddaughter Isabella — Alexander VI encouraged the French king in his scheme for the conquest of Naples. 28 Crime Scene Photos From History's Most Notorious Serial Killers, 44 Ancient Artifacts That Reveal What Life Was Really Like For Our Ancestors, What Stephen Hawking Thinks Threatens Humankind The Most, 27 Raw Images Of When Punk Ruled New York, Join The All That's Interesting Weekly Dispatch. After Alexander VI, there was no other non-Italian pope for 500 years. Known as the “Borgia Pope,” the papal rule of Alexander VI was tainted with criminal exploits perpetrated to benefit the Borgia family. He appointed 10 of his relatives to the College of Cardinals, including his 18-year-old son Cesare and the younger brother of his mistress, Alessandro Farnese, who later became pope himself. The family rose to even greater heights following the papal appointment of Rodrigo’s uncle, Alfonso de Borgia, who became Pope Callixtus III in 1455. Talk about trying to have your cake and eat it too. We want our readers to trust us. During a meeting in June of 1500, a strong wind knocked down a chimney over the papal throne, where Alexander VI was seated at the time. The late 15th-century rule of Pope Alexander VI was rife with nepotism, bribery, and scandalous sex â a legacy that’s caused him to be called the most corrupt pope in the history of the Catholic Church. He desecrated the Holy Church as none before.” Indeed, the Borgias’ apartments remained sealed until the 19th century, more than 300 years after their misdeeds rocked the Vatican to its core. But precisely because the papacy could so easily be misused for familial aggrandisement and enrichment, these ecclesiastical abuses were all too familiar. Pope Alexander VI: A Spanish-born pontiff from the powerful Borgia family, Pope Alexander VI was infamous for his libertine behavior and nepotism. Mondadori Portfolio via Getty ImagesYoung Lucrezia sitting beside her father, the pope. Ultimately, nights like these left Pope Alexander VI’s reign â which ended with his death less than two years after the banquet â mired in scandal that furthermore tarnished the already-infamous reputation of the whole Borgia family. These two women had a total of seven children with Borgia, though he likely fathered more with other women less well-known to history. As more popes rose and fell, Rodrigo amassed more power. While Rodrigo was still the most junior cardinal at the Vatican, Pope Callixtus III passed, and the cardinals had to elect a new pope. But even with Pope Alexander VI gone, his filthy legacy remained. Three people lost their lives in the accident, and Alexander himself was injured—but this was just the beginning. Catherine of Aragon was King Henry VIII’s first wife and longest-lasting Queen of England. Meanwhile, he enjoyed a lavish lifestyle filled with expensive ceremonies unbecoming to the head of the church. Rodrigo Borgia, the baby boy who would become Pope Alexander VI, one of the most infamous Popes of all time, was born in Valencia, Spain on New Year's Day in 1431. Natasha Ishak is a staff writer at All That's Interesting. Rovere was later elected Pope Julius II, Borgia’s successor, making dei Cattanei the mistress of two popes. His uncle, Alfonso Borgia, was a cardinal, and his parents decided early in his life that Rodrigo was destined to join his uncle in the Catholic Church. Like her brother, Lucrezia was also married off to forge political alliances. This wave of anti-Spanish sentiment could have helped wild rumors about the Borgias take hold. After Alexander successfully navigated the French invasion, Cesare escaped captivity and returned to Rome. He sought help from Charles VIII of France(1483–1498), who was allied to Ludovico il Moro Sforza, the de facto ruler of Milan who needed French support to legitimize his regime. However, though it’s a wild tale, modern historians doubt its veracity. It also justifies the enslavement of Africans. Rapes and acts of incest are countless…[and] great throngs of courtesans frequent St. Peter’s Palace, pimps, brothels, and whorehouses are to be found everywhere!”. Farnese was later elected Pope Paul III. Likewise, others corrupted the papacy long before Pope Alexander VI. Did he also encourage the explorer in the sense that, Columbus was in the New World to get converts by the Indigenous people to Catholicism; so this would be regarded as a good thing by the Pope because of the increasing amount of converts from people to Islam from the Eastern Europe side. 1. Papal master of ceremonies Johann Burchard â who left behind the only account of the pope’s sordid banquet â wrote in his diary: “After dinner the candelabra with the burning candles were taken from the tables and placed on the floor, and chestnuts were strewn around, which the naked courtesans picked up, creeping on hands and knees between the chandeliers, while the Pope, Cesare, and his sister Lucretia looked on. Pope Alexander VI issues a papal bull or decree, “Inter Caetera," in which he authorizes Spain and Portugal to colonize the Americas and its Native peoples as subjects. His uncle was Pope Callixtus III, who assisted Alexander in his rise to power. Right before his Jubilee year, an astrologer predicted that misfortune would soon befall Alexander VI. Pope Alexander VI presided over a rare Jubilee Year in 1500, an event that took place only every 50 years. Another rumor claimed the Borgias created their mystery compound by sprinkling arsenic on the entrails of pigs. Though historians haven’t been able to confirm any of Lucrezia’s alleged poisonings, it is true that enemies of the Borgias had a habit of vanishing suddenly and mysteriously. Alexander VI (1492–1503) Not married. He Kept Multiple Mistresses. The effects on his body were so gruesome that his attendants deemed the remains unfit to display publicly. Pope Alexander VI was born Rodrigo Borgia in the Spanish town of XÃ tiva, near Valencia, in 1431. By virtue of his spiritual power as head of the church, Alexander VI arbitrated the division between Spain and Portugal of the newly discovered territories in the Americas. Alexander VI alone elevated not fewer than ten of his relatives to the College of Cardinals, and endowed others with a host of fiefdoms in the Papal States. After the election of his uncle Pope Callixtus III, Callixtus made Rodrigo Borgia a cardinal. In 1498, Giovanni Borgia was born into the House of Borgia, though to whom he was born is still a debate. Around the time of his passing, the only accusations that he dosed rivals with Cantarella came from his own servants. exploits within the context of the Renaissance era, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis really did have a heart-to-heart as portrayed in. He focused on reforming the Christian faith, and that was bad news for Alexander. Unfortunately for Lucrezia, their union was doomed. But the Borgias still had dark plans in store for him. Savonarola did everything in his power to wipe vice from his city, denouncing the corruption and tyrannical rule of the clerics. Rodrigo Borgia thus had to submit to a body examination before he could take the highest office in the church. Lucrezia’s brother, Cesare, warned Lucrezia that Giovanni would not survive that decision. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history. Now in office, Pope Alexander VI used his influence to grow the Borgia family’s power and wealth â and his own. Even the King of Naples aspires to win her hand!” Cardinal Sforza ended up winning this game of power himself. As the most commanding mistress in the French court, she bettered the lives of many and became a beloved figure…. For centuries, the myth that a Pope John had secretly been a woman circulated through the Vatican, and the Church was allegedly wary such a case might happen again. These decrees only stoked the flames of those who claimed Giovanni was the product of a rumored relationship between Alexander and his own daughter. He elevated at least ten relatives to the College of Cardinals. The First Italian War, sometimes referred to as the Italian War of 1494 or Charles VIII's Italian War, was the opening phase of the Italian Wars. Most people suspected Cesare was behind the dark crime, though no one could prove it. Alexander VI was not the only Borgia to become pope. Then, on the fourth vote, they unanimously elected Rodrigo Borgia. Formosus did not get along with Pope John VIII and during that pope's reign Formosus acted as a sort of rogue cardinal. We’re always looking for your input! I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life. Pope Callixtus III appointed his relatives to positions in the Church, including placing two of his nephews in the cardinalate, including 25-year-old Rodrigo Borgia. Factinate is a fact website that is dedicated to finding and sharing fun facts about science, history, animals, films, people, and much more. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In fact, if anything, the Borgias weren’t as bad as some other families in this regard. Husbands hiding things from wives, mothers from children, and generation from generation. Among his children, Cesare and Lucrezia were by far the most infamous. In 1503, a Venetian cardinal suddenly succumbed to a sudden and unidentified illness. Lucrezia Borgia, Italian noblewoman and a central figure of the infamous Borgia family of the Italian Renaissance. As for Lucrezia’s ex-husband, he accused the pope’s daughter of carrying on affairs during their marriage with her own father and brother. How did Pope Alexander VI like Columbus? He blamed this on the reformist influence of Savonarola, and he banned the friar from preaching. Alexander had Alfonso taken to the Vatican to recover. He then marched on Naples to wrest power from his once-allies. A year later, he appointed the future Pope Alexander VI as vice-chancellor of the Holy See, now colloquially referred to as the Vatican. This stirred up rumors that it was not a natural illness. Wikimedia CommonsPortrait of Pope Callixtus III, who appointed his nephew Rodrigo Borgia to be a cardinal. Within twenty years after Savonarola's death, the rapid rise of Protestantism brought more demands for reform. However, Rodrigo made the rare and controversial move of openly acknowledging the children he fathered out of wedlock. Lucrezia Borgia is thought to be his mother, perhaps through her lover Perotto Calderon—but much darker rumors persisted. Eventually, the family Italianized it to Borgia, the name that would become synonymous with depravity and violence. In this respect, Pope Alexander played the game like his fellows, and given his reputation, he was probably past caring about formally classed sins. In that same era, Pope Martin V â born Otto Colonna â secured estates for his relatives in the kingdom of Naples throughout his papacy. AKA Rodrigo de Borja. Wikimedia CommonsBorn into nobility, Rodrigo Borgia was set on the path to power long before he became Pope Alexander VI. Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? He had two famous mistresses, Vannozza dei Cattanei and Giulia Farnese, both of whom were married noblewomen. Wikimedia CommonsPainting of Pope Alexander VI as he presents Bishop Jacopo Pesaro to Saint Peter. Other historians, however, theorize that the pope had succumbed to malaria. The war pitted Charles VIII of France, who had initial Milanese aid, against the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and an alliance of Italian powers led by Pope Alexander VI. Daughter of Pope Alexander VI and sister of Cesare, she is often accused of sharing in their many crimes and excesses but was more likely just an instrument for their ambitious projects. In 1502, she wed Alfonso de l’Este, Duke of Ferrara, with whom she had eight children. He issued two papal decrees on the same day. This included his own son Cesare and his mistress’ brother, Alessandro Farnese. The next pope from outside of Italy was the Polish John Paul II, elected in 1978. By the end of the year, Charles VIII’s forces had reached Rome, alongside French-aligned cardinals and Alexander’s rival Giuliano della Rovere. Rodrigo Borgia may not have been the only one trying to buy power at the Vatican. He was excommunicated for pissing off John VIII, but following John VIII's death he was reinstated. If anyone in the family was dispatching husbands and rivals, it was probably not Lucrezia. In addition, the Cardinal’s brother was the Duke of Milan, and an alliance between the families would give the Borgias a grasp on power in northern Italy. When Lucrezia Borgia was 13 years old, Pope Alexander arranged her marriage to Giovanni Sforza, nephew of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, hoping to court Sforza’s powerful family as allies. This put the Vatican in the middle of a world-making decision. In the long history of the corrupt and violent lineages of Europe, few families conjure up the cinematic images of power-hungry deviants like the Borgias. In a purported incident in 1501, Pope Alexander VI shocked the Vatican by allowing Lucrezia to take his place in a meeting he could not attend. Then, more than 150 years after Alexander’s ascension to Pope, his great-great-great-grandson would be elected Pope Innocent X. Alexander VI died in August of 1503 after dining at the home of a cardinal in what appears to have been poisoning. Pope Innocent X … Like his uncle before him, the now 61-year-old Rodrigo Borgia successfully bribed a majority of cardinals for their votes and was coronated Pope Alexander VI within months of Pope Innocent VIII’s death. Based on his later reputation, it’s safe to say that Rodrigo didn’t heed the Pope’s advice. Wikimedia CommonsCesare Borgia, considered the most depraved and vicious of the pope’s children. In 1501, Pope Alexander VI and his son Cesare allegedly held a shocking all-night party in the pope’s official residence. The Pope even officially reprimanded Rodrigo for his behavior. Alexander issued two papal bulls regarding the child, first claiming him as Cesare’s son, then as his own. This rumor followed him for the rest of his life. One rumor stated Cesare had accidentally dosed his father with a fatal concoction while aiming for a rival. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. Lucrezia was suspected of bearing the child with a stable boy named Pedro Calderon, who then turned up dead near the river by the family estate. I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. During their lifetimes, the close relationship between Cesare and Lucrezia was scrutinized by the Borgias’ enemies who claimed they had an incestuous affair. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. Portugal claimed a previous papal decree gave the New World to Portugal. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Lucrezia’s third politically-motivated marriage turned out to be more lasting. When Pope Alexander VI finally passed on, it was in a manner befitting his legacy—under mysterious circumstances. By what authority did Pope Alexander VI claim the power to give Spain nearly exclusive possession of the New World? He fell suddenly ill with a mysterious malady and it ravaged his body, claiming his life in August 1503. When Ferdinand I of Naples sought to make an alliance against Pope Alexander, he successfully approached Florence, Milan, and Venice. Pope Alexander thought little of the friar until Florence refused to join his Holy League to fight the French after their invasion. Portrait of Pope Callixtus III, who appointed his nephew Rodrigo Borgia to be a cardinal. Alexander also agreed to turn over Cem Sultan, a pretender to the Ottoman throne who was being held in Rome, as well as surrendering the city of Civitavecchia to Charles. 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