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Pope Alexander VI And His Contributions To Europe Essay Sample

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Pope Alexander VI And His Contributions To Europe Essay Sample

Biographical Data

            Rodrigo Borgia was born at a place near Xativa, Spain on January 1, 1431, part of the era when the Church hierarchy was more immersed in politics than religious concerns.  His parents were  Jofre Lancol and Isabella Borgia.  His mother belonged to a powerful and rich Spanish family. He took the last name of his mother because she was the sister of Alfonso Borgia, also known as Pope Callixtus III, who was one of the persons who inspired his political ambitions.

Many historians regarded Callixtus III as a man of great ideals, courage and energy. In 1455, he adopted the young boy, Rodrigo, as part of his immediate family.  It was he who not only placed Rodrigo in politically good positions that would help the latter climb up the stairs to papacy. He has also conferred upon the young man, many benefices.

The term benefice refers to the permanent right given by the Church to a cleric to receive ecclesiastical revenues on account of the performance of a spiritual service. This includes the right to revenue from church property.

Alexander was asked by his uncle to study law for a year at the University of Bologna. At the age of twenty-five, he became the Cardinal Deacon of St. Nicolo in Carcere. In 1471, he became Cardinal-Bishop of Albano and in 1476 became Cardinal-Bishop of Porto and Dean of the Sacred College.

Pope Leo IX was the pontiff who established The Sacred College of Cardinals.  This is the body of all Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church who are tasked to elect the pope when the pontifical position is vacant and acts as advisors to the Holy Father when needed. This was a very powerful position for a young man such as Rodrigo.

Although he was envied by many, none can ignore his great prudence, unusual maturity, power of persuasion, unparalleled administration skills and capacity to handle the most difficult affairs. With these traits, it was inevitable that he became one of the richest men in that period.

He became the Vice-Chancellor of the Roman Church or Curia (this refers to the highest governing body of the church itself) after 1457. This was one of the highest positions of Finance and it was in this office that he amassed great wealth and lived a very promiscuous life. He was also known to enjoy eating, drinking and playing cards.

Rodrigo was twenty-nine years old when Pope Pius II, his uncle’s successor who also supported his ascent to the church hierarchy, sent him a letter warning him to stop his notorious ways. He was being reprimanded for participating in orgies in Sienna because it was already making a very big scandal.

He was ordained in the year 1468 but this did not stop him from his unusual liberal ways. He was a handsome, persuasive, brilliant man with a cheerful disposition and he knew the ways of society.

Rodrigo had an affair with a Roman lady named Vanozza Catanei while he was still a cardinal. They bore four children named Juan, Caesar, Lucrezia and Jofre all of whom he

acknowledged despite his position in the Church. Before Vanozza, however, he had previously already sired two children, Pedro Luis and Girolama.

When Pope Innocent VIII died in 1492, there was a political struggle for the position vacated.  Three cardinals were vying for the position namely, Rodrigo Borgia, Guiliano Della Rovere and Ascanio Sforza. Cardinal Guiliano Della Rovere, a powerful figure in Italy, was almost sure that he was going to be the next pope because he thought he had the support of the majority of the Italian and French cardinals.

It came as a big surprise to many that on August 11, 1492, he lost to his personal enemy, Rodrigo Borgia. Rumors say that Rodrigo used simony (buying something with the promise of spiritual compensation instead of money) to get enough votes to become Pope Alexander VI.

All we can affirm with certainty is that the determining factor of this election was the accession to Borgia of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza’s vote and influence, it is almost equally certain that Sforza’s course was dictated not by silver, but by the desire to be the future Pontiff’s chief adviser.1

Sforza belonged to the most powerful and wealthiest ruling Milanese family so simony is out of the question for his case.  Historians believe that Sforza cast the vote in his favor to gain his full trust because the cardinal was eyeing the position of being his chief adviser.

            By the time he became a pope, Alexander had cast off Vanozza and married her to another man for appearances. He took his children from their mother and found a new mistress in the person of teenaged Guilia Farenese.  She came from Roman noble descent and was first married to a member of the powerful Orsini family.  Historians believe that she gave Alexander two or three more children.

            Even if he were Spanish, the Romans regarded Pope Alexander VI as one of themselves


  1. Kirsch, J.P. Alexander VI. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI.1911. New York.

and were happy with his ascension to the throne.  This was manifested in their joy bonfires, torchlight processions, flower garlands and construction of triumphal arches with extravagant inscriptions.  On his coronation day, August 26, he was greeted with an ovation that was unparallel to his predecessors.

            He immediately showed gratitude to this warm welcome by putting peace and order into place.  He ordered investigations to be made on people rumored to be criminals and when discovered guilty, the person is hanged on the spot and his house immediately burned.   He divided the city into four districts, assigning a magistrate with plenary powers to maintain peace and order.

He also began the tradition of the papal audience.  Every Tuesday of the week, he allowed anyone to air their grievances before himself personally and he was popular for administering justice so admirably.  This vigorous method of administering justice soon changed the face of the city, and was ascribed by the grateful populace to “the interposition of God.” 2

            Throughout the rest of his life, Pope Alexander VI dedicated most of his time in political decisions , in protecting his family’s interests, and keep the neighboring nations of Europe at peace or against each other depending on which situation was to his advantage.

            He died on August 18, 1503 at the age of 60 years old because of Roman Fever.  It was said that on August 6, the Pope and his son, Caesar, were dining in the open air with other guests at the villa of Cardinal Adriano da Corneto until nightfall. The whole group is said to have contracted the disease but there are rumors that the pope was actually poisoned because of the rapid decomposition and swollen features of his corpse.


  1. James F. Loughlin, “Alexander VI,.” Newadvent.org. 2007. Ed. New Advent Catholic

Encyclopedia. 2007. 16 April 2007 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01289a.htm>.

Contribution to the Arts and Sciences

He knew his education was still lacking but he had contributions in the line of literature and science.  He had written two treatises on canonical subjects and on the defense of the Christian faith.  He took the task of rebuilding the Roman University and generously sustained the professors.  He was fond of theater and encouraged the development of the dramatic arts.  He enjoyed pontifical ceremonies where he can project his majestic figure with dignity.  He also had a good critical ear for fine music.

Pope Alexander VI may not have talents to boast of in the line or fine arts, but he knew how to appreciate beauty. He embellished the Vatican by commissioning artists and architects to

beautify Rome, specifically, the Vatican .

He built the Torre di Nona which protected the Vatican from naval attacks.  He transformed Leonine City into a very fashionable quarter of Rome .  It was under his rule when the Borgo Nuovo (formerly Via Alessandrina) was constructed to become the grand approach to St. Peter’s Cathedral.  He commissioned the famous artist, Pinturicchio, to adorn the Borgia Apartments in the Vatican with paintings of the lives of many saints. He also installed the beautiful gilded ceiling of Santa Maria Maggiore, using, according to tradition, the first Spanish gold brought from America by Columbus.3

As a patron of the arts, Alexander erected a centre for the University of Rome, restored the Castel Sant’Angelo, built the monumental mansion of the Apostolic Chancery, embellished the Vatican palaces, and persuaded Michelangelo to draw plans for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s


  1. The Borgias. Site Map For MMDTKW. October 2004. <http://www.mmdtkw.org /VBorgias.html>.

Basilica. He proclaimed the year 1500 a Holy Year of Jubilee and authorized its celebration with great pomp.4

            On the Jubilee year, 1500, the pope led thousand of pilgrims from all parts of Europe to Rome – a demonstration of deep universality in the Christian faith.  It was a very expensive but elaborate event that taxed Rome but he made sure the Vatican was able to entertain its visitors well.


During the time of Pope Alexander VI, the head of the Catholic Church had heavy influence on every aspect of European life.  Being the head of Christianity, the pontiff received special treatment the heads of the various clans or nobility.  These monarchs believed that the pope’s advice was God’s advice.  Thus, the various popes during the Age of Discovery through encyclicals, bulls, and edicts molded relations between European states.  Their involvement in such affairs and influence on events is clearly evident from Papal activity during the Age of Discovery.5

            One of the major stances Alexander made was on the problems with the Jews.  At that time, prejudice against the Jews was high because of Christianity.  For almost a century, the Jews in Europe have been driven away from England, France and Spain or if not, forced to be


  1. Emil Kren and Daniel Marx, Glossary: (accessed 22 April 2007); available from http://www.newadvent.org/ cathen/01289a.htm, Internet.

  1. Richard W. Schultz, The Role of the Vatican in the Enounter (accessed 23 April 2007); available from http://muweb.millersville.edu/~columbus/data/art/SCHULTZ1.ART, Internet.

converted into Christianity.  Alexander, however, was firm with his stance and was tolerant with the Jews even when his Spanish allies were asking him to banish them from Rome.

            His protection of the Jews, even at the pressure he got from the Spanish monarchs who

were his allies to the end, was remarkable. In their edict of expulsion, issued on March 31, 1492,

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had decided to banish all Jews from Spain. They ordered the Jews to leave within four months or else they shall be put to death.  The Jews were permitted to take their personal belongings, except for gold, silver, coined money, or jewels. Only those who chose to be baptized into Catholicism were allowed to remain in Spain. In his diary Christopher Columbus noted: “In the same month in which Their Majesties issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery to the Indies.” Yet, Pope Alexander VI remained firm in his views about the Jews and even welcomed them in Rome.

            However, most of his political decisions still favored Spain not only because he was Spanish but more because of his intention to strengthen his alliances in Northern Italy. He gave many concessions to the monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, without enough thought of these being disadvantages to other nations.

            At this point in time, Spain and Portugal have been discovering the East and the Americas. The previous popes had been issuing one bull after another hoping to lessen the tension between these two parties as they are conquering the new territories. However, these did not meet their objectives because each bull contradicted one another on the issue of their rights to the lands that they discovered.

He was eager to please the Spanish monarchs by using his power to help them acquire the territories they wanted. This resulted in one of his successful endeavors – making a “Line of

Demarcation.” He established in his Papal Bull Inter Caetera on  May 3,1493 the line which determined which properties can be conquered by the Spanish and Portuguese.

Using his ecclesiastical powers to convince the Spanish and Portuguese, he drew the line of demarcation along the Azores or Cape Verde Islands and assigned to Spain the exclusive right to acquire territorial possessions and to trade in all lands west of that line as long as it was not owned by any Christian. This move proved to be a good decision because if Spain and Portugal fought each other further, Europe would have been defenseless and prone to Muslim attacks.

Christopher Columbus, a Portuguese working for the Spaniards in discovering the new territories, seems to have advised him on this for the location of the line greatly favored Spain.  The bull fixed the boundaries for both parties but the meridian was not definite and the wording was vague to determine exact locations.  However, this demarcation gave all of the Americas (land believed to have much gold) to Spain.

The papal bull also instructed Spain to send men to these new territories to convert its natives into the Catholic faith and make them understand Christian morality. The bull also confirmed Romanus Pontifex.  This means that no other country could trade in the Spanish American territories without Ferdinand’s or Isabella’s permission.

Pope Alexander VI also issued a second bull, Inter Caetera 1493, on May 4 to clarify the confusion the first papal bull he created. The bull explained and expanded Spanish authority over their newly possessed lands.  This does not only grant Spain the lands they discovered but also clarified the position of the demarcation line.  Spain was given the right to ownership of any discovered land that was one hundred leagues west of any of the Azores or Cape Verde Islands.  This bull also extended to Spain, an exclusive right to trade in all lands west of that line, as long as at Christmas 1492, these were not another Christian’s property.

            Both Spain and Portugal tried to settle the complexities of his demarcations, thus creating the Treaty of Tordeseilles. On June 7, 1494, this treaty adjusted the demarcation line and moved it to 370 leagues west of the Azores and made Brazil a part of Portuguese territory even if it were still undiscovered at that time.  This treaty would pose some more problems again when the actual explorations and missions of spreading Christianity began. The global nature of the treaty was debated and in the end, both parties agreed that the line of demarcation should cut through the earth and divide the world into two spheres – thus the East and West Indies.

A political challenge for Alexander was the French Invasion of Italy led by King Charles VIII. This was how the Italian Wars began.

To give a background, the Sforza family ruled the duchy of Milan. Because of its strategic position in the Lombard plain, at the intersection of several major transportation routes, Milan has been since the Middle Ages, an international commercial, financial, and industrial center.

Ascsanio Sforza, Alexander’s adviser took residence at the papal court to advance the interests of his brother, Lodovico Il Moro (He is called Il Moro because of his dark complexion). Their nephew, Gian Galeazzo, was then the Duke of Milan.

Lodovico wanted to be the duke and so he wanted Gian Galeazzo to surrender to him the reins of government.  Galeazzo, although rightfully the duke, was powerless to assert his rights. His only asset was that his wife was the granddaughter of King Ferrante, the king of Naples. Her consistent requests for assistance from her Neapolitan family was the only reason for Lodovico’s hesitation to grab the position. Lodovico was also avoiding the probability of a Neapolitan invasion.

Pope Alexander VI, on the other hand, had his reasons for not liking King Ferrante.  This was because of the latter’s financial aid to the pope’s vassal, Virginio Orsini, a member of the Orsini family who also exerted much power in Italy. This Orsini family was the hereditary enemies of the equally distinguished Colonna: in the great medieval conflict between papacy and empire, the latter were for the most part on the side of the emperor and the leaders of the Ghibelline party, while the Orsini were ordinarily champions of the papacy.( Kirsch 1911)

However, on this instance, the pope and the Orsini family were at opposing sides. Pope Alexander VI was angry at King Ferrante because the king financially helped Orsini buy the territories of Cervetri and Anguillara without his consent. He was originally eyeing these territories as fiefs for his son, Juan, the Duke of Gandia.

This displeased Alexander very much and on April 25, 1943, the pope entered an alliance with Milan and Venice in defense. To formally bind the alliance, the pope sealed it with the marriage of Lucrezia, his daughter, to the Giovannie Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, who was also the cousin of Ascanio.

The wedding was done in the Vatican itself with the ten cardinals and the grand nobilities of Rome present as guests. It was a very regal occasion and King Ferrante was not amused.

The king wanted war but was convinced by the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, to compromise instead with Alexander. To forge reconciliation, the King of Naples ended up giving his granddaughter’s, Sancia’s, hand in marriage.  Alexander’s youngest son, Jofre, married her with the principality of Squillace as dower.

Finally at peace with Naples, trouble began again just a few days after. The French king, Charles VIII, sent an envoy to Rome asking for the investiture of Naples upon his master. Alexander refused this.

Less than a year after, King Ferrante died on January 1494. With his death, King Charles VIII expected the pope to finally grant him the investiture of Naples.  However, Alexander instead, confirmed the succession of Alfonso II, King Ferrante’s son, and even sent the Cardinal Giovanni Borgia to Naples for the coronation.  Cardinal Giovanni Borgia was the pope’s nephew.

This decision by the pope is believed by historians to be due not only for the maintenance of peace in Italy, but mainly because Alexander knew that his former enemy, Cardinal della Rovere still had ambitions of overthrowing him from the papal throne.  Alexander was aware that Della Rovere had formed a strong faction among his cardinals.  This faction was using the invasion of King Charles VIII as a way to unseat him on charges of simony and immorality.

Charles VIII was aggressive. The French king made his move in September 1494 by crossing the Alps.  By the end of the year, he entered Rome easily.  Alexander’s barons, including one named Savonarola, and army commander, Virginio Orsini, deserted him but he proved his courage by not yielding to brute force nor surrendering unconditionally to the French. Some historians believe that it was even Orsini who opened the gates to the French troops.

Although at a disadvantage because he lacked the backing of troops, Alexander calmly faced the French cannons and his traitorous cardinals. The pope now feared that the king might depose him for simony and summon a council, but fortunately, he was able to persuade the bishop of Saint Malo to help him deal with his trouble with the French king.  The Bishop of Saint Malo was an influential ally of Charles.  Alexander was able to get his cooperation by offering him the cardinal’s hat.

 In the end, it was King Charles VIII who gave in.  He humbly re-acknowledged Alexander as the true pope much to the chagrin of Della Rovere. However, Alexander, still did not allow the French king to claim Naples.  Instead, the pope gave give him a valuable Ottoman hostage, Djem, and commanded his son, Caesar, to be the papal representative in turning over the territory, Civitavecchia, on January 16, 1495.

Still intent in being dominant in Italy, the French king pursued his original ambition to conquer the Kingdom of Naples.  King Charles VIII did not need much violence to invade Naples on February 22, 1495. The very unpopular king, Alfonso II, suddenly abdicated the throne to his son, Ferrantino.  Unfortunately, Ferrantino also failed to get the support needed to go against Charles.  Instead of fighting back to defend what is rightfully his, he fled and sought the protection of Spain.

Alexander, despite Charles’ invasion of Naples, did not tire in his efforts to restore order.  He forged a powerful league with Venice, Milan and Spain against the French.  All this time, Charles VIII tried his best to dissuade the pope by making both promises and threats.  He insited on crowning himself as King of Naples on May 12, 1495.  By July, he was already in a heated battle with the strong alliance of the Italians.  By the end of the year, Charles VIII finally gave up his ambition to dominate the kingdom and had to return back to France unsuccessful in his motive to rule Naples.

Most were relieved that the French had left Italy, except the Florentine friar, Savoranola, who was a staunch critic of Pope Alexander VI, and Cardinal Guiliano Della Rovere.  Later on, Della Rovere would become Pope Julius II who had his own troubles with the French during his reign.

Alexander VI learned his lesson from the French.  He realized that he needed to decrease insolence and disloyalty in his barons or else he shall again be in danger of losing his papal position in Rome.  He did this by disposing of civil and spiritual privileges and offering governing offices liberally.  Knowing that Orsini, his army commander who betrayed him at the most critical moment during the French Invasion, needed to reprimanded, he did so by using politics.

He replaced him with his son, Juan, who was also the Duke of Gandia.  Juan battled with Orsini conquering all of the family’s minor castles. By January 25, 1497, all of the Orsinis’ territories but the fortress of Bracciano was under the pontiff’s siege.  This was the only fortress where Juan had to back out.  To get back their castles, the Orsinis had to pay 50,000 golden florins.  However, the original cause of their quarrels, Cervetri and Anguillara, remained with Alexander.

            His next step was to take revenge at Cardinal della Rovere.  He did this by asking Gonsalvo de Cordova, reknowned Spanish military commander, and his Spanish veterans to conquer the fortress of Ostia. This fortress was being held by the French troops for della Rovere. It surrendered within two weeks.

Irritated at not being able to get the possessions of the Orsini family, Alexander demanded his cardinals to consent to the conversion of the dioceses, Benevento, Terracina and Pontecorvo, into a duchy for his son, the Duke of Gandia.  Cardinal Piccolomini of Sienna was the only one who dared to oppose this move to transfer the ownership of the properties of the Church to the duke.

            This dispute was engulfed by a greater incident when the Juan, the Duke of Gandia was murdered on June 16.  He had many gaping wounds and a throat cut when he was fished out of the Tiber. No evidence nor suspects could be found to aid in the investigation to find out who murdered him.

            Alexander was in deep grief and wanted to be alone in Castel Sant’Angelo, a military fortress he had made out of the former Mausoleum of Hadrian .  He was known to have spoken of even leaving his position as pope due to his bereavement.  Historians acknowledge that he went with three days and nights without food nor sleep in his depression. After this, he became determined to reform the Church and this was welcomed by the people who had been clamoring for this move for so long.

            He organized the cardinals and canonists to begin outlining ordinances that formed the framework of reforming the Church.  To this do historians attribute the beginnings of the Council of Trent.  However, his grief subsided slowly and was replaced by his focus to further increase the power and ambition of his other son, Caesar instead.

            His son was more ambitious than he.  Caesar had plans of building an empire but not on Alexander’s terms. They argued on Caesar’s decision to resign from being Cardinal and leave his ecclesiastical duties so that he can become a prince.

Caesar wanted Naples.  The Neapolitan king, Ferrantino, had died without an heir.  He was succeeded by his uncle, Federigo, who was previously crowned by Caesar himself.

His motive was to marry Federigo’s daughter, Princess Carlotta of Tarento, so that he can become one of the most powerful barons of Naples.  However, Carlotta refused him sternly.

            As Caesar was trying to persuade the princess to marry him, another wedding was brewing a scandal. Lucrezia annulled her marriage with her husband, Giovanni Sforza, who was the cousin of Cardinal Sforza. It was a big issue because her husband was forced to tell the public that they were getting the annulment due to his impotence.

Historians believe that this was a cover-up because Lucrezia’s husband is recorded to have had sired illegitimate children.   This move proved to be very humiliating to Giovanni Sforza.  He counter-attacked this move by saying that Alexander wanted Lucrezia for himself and that even her brothers had incestuous relationships with her. Alexander overcame this accusation by making sure that Lucrezia was granted a divorce and declared still a virgin.

            With Lucrezia free from her marriage to Sforza, the pope decided to help Caesar with his ambitions. Alexander forged the marriage of Lucrezia to Alfonso, Duke of Bisceglie. Alfonso was the illegitimate son of the former king of Naples, Alfonso II, and nephew of the present king who was also the full brother of Sancia, the beautiful wife of Jofre.6 The marriage was done to further Caesar’s intention to marry Princess Carlotta.  However, the princess was adamant to refuse Caesar’s offer of marriage.

            All this time, Alexander did not give up in finding out who really killed his son.  He loved his children very much and the loss of one hurt him very deeply. He continued his investigations which led to highly influential people.  Accusations were thrown and some proven. However, when it seemed like the leads were pointing to his other son, Caesare, he abandoned this investigations.

            As this was going on, Italian history took another turn when Charles VIII died on April 1498.  He died two-and-a-half years after his retreat, of a freak accident.  He miscalculated his steps, striking himself on the head while passing through a doorway, he succumbed to a sudden


  1. Marguerite Wolf. Histories/Lucrezia Borgia (Dragonrest.net. 1999, accessed 18 April 2007); available from http://www.dragonrest.net/histories/lucrezia.html; Internet.

 coma several hours later. His only son also died so the throne was given to his cousin, the Duke of Orleans, King Louis XII.

            King Louis XII needed to ask for some papal favors.  He wanted to be free of his marriage with Jane of Valois, daughter of Louis XI and since he was pursuing to retain Brittany, he needed to marry his cousin’s widow, Queen Anne. He believed that Alexander can use his ecclesiastical powers to get him what he wanted.

            Louis XII, if not for his political position, was at a disadvantage.  He had no legitimate reasons to ask for an annulment from his marriage with Jane. His arguments proved to be scandalous as Jane fought to keep her marriage and reputation.

            King Louis claimed that his wife was malformed and publicly humiliated Jane on her physical deformities.  Thus, he denies having consummated the marriage.  Jane, on the other hand, also lay her witnesses to Louis’ shocking and humiliating accusations.  It came to a point wherein he blamed Jane of using witchcraft when they had intercourse.  Of course, Jane reacted by asking how she could have used witchcraft if the marriage was never consummated.

If Alexander VI had been totally honest, he would have been on Jane de Valois’ side.  However, for political reasons, Louis had the advantage.

            To Louis’ favor, Alexander ordered an investigation and the results showed that Jane was an invalid and because of lack of consent, the marriage had never been consummated. With these “facts” the marriage was annulled. Jane, humiliated and reluctant, gave up the fight.  Louis XII married Queen Anne, who historians believe, was also against the move to be betrothed to him.

            It was becoming obvious to the rest of Europe that Alexander was prospecting an alliance with France and this almost drove these powers to schism or heresy.  There were threats that Alexander will be deposed or overthrown from his papal seat but he was not scared.  He had the Sacred College in full control and della Rovere was his agent in France. Ascanio Sforza can also be disposed of because he was very old and retirable.

            Louis was also eyeing the Duchy of Milan.  He claims that the duchy was an inheritance from his grandmother, Valentina Visconti. His opponents, of course, were the powerful Sforzas but Alexander seemed to be leaning on the French side.

            Alexander took great advantage of the second French invasion of Italy to consolidate his temporal power and for enriching his family.  On October 1, 1498, Caesar, who was already Duke of Valeninois and an ally of France, brought Louis his much wanted papal dispensation.  He also helped Louis’ minister, D’Amboise, become cardinal. He did this though because of his main concern, that was still, to seek a wife that would gain him the crown.  Princess Carlotta was at that time living in France and he was persistent in marrying her. However, the princess was firm in her decision to refuse him. So he married instead, the niece of King Louis XII, who was also the sister of the King of Navarre.  Her name was Charlotte D’Albret.

On October 8, 1499, King Louis was accompanied by Duke Caesar and Cardinal Della Rovere when they made their successful entry into Milan.  It was the start of Alexander’s move to clean the Church of its tyrants.  This would have been a spectacular move if he had not replaced the Sforzas with his own family.

Caesar, with the help of Alexander’s powers, was moving to conquer Romagna. It was at this time when Lucrezia’s husband, Alfonso, Duke of Bisceglie, was attacked by masked assassins who seriously wounded him.

The Duke of Biseglia had reasons to believe that is was his brother-in-law, Caesare, who planned his murder.  In an attempt to fight Caesar, he was killed by Caesar’s bodyguard leaving Lucrezia a widow.

Amidst the blood ties being strained, the real object of the Borgias was central Italy. By autumn, Cesare, backed up by King Louis XII and Venice, set forth with 10,000 men to complete his interrupted battles. The local despots of Romagna were dispossessed and an administration was set up, which, if tyrannical and cruel, was at least orderly and strong, and aroused the admiration of Machiavelli (q.v..) By April of 1501, Caesar had completely usurped papal territory. On his return to Rome on June 1501, he was created duke of Romagna by Pope Alexander VI himself.

Louis XII., also having succeeded in the north, determined to conquer southern Italy as well, and concluded a treaty with Spain for the division of the Neapolitan kingdom, which was ratified by the pope on the 25th of June, Frederick being formally deposed.7

Caesar’s next planned conquest was for Tuscany but he needed to go back to Rome because Alexander needed him in Rome.  The pope had deposed Federigo King of Naples


  1. Snell, Melissa. Pope Alexander VI. (accessed 22 April 2007); available from http://historymedren.about.com/od/aentries/a/11_pope_alex6.htm, Internet.

because he was accused of allying with the Turks.  Since the Turks were targeting an Islamic invasion of Europe, Christendom was being threatened.  Under the Treaty of Granada (an agreement made by the Moorish Kingdom of Granada to surrender to the Christianity under the other European nobility), the Kingdom of Naples was forfeited and was divided between Spain and France.

The barons of Naples who had always been in opposition to the popes were finally powerless against Alexander and were excommunicated.  They offered to surrender their castles to the Sacred College but the pontiff wanted it for himself.  The clan of the Orsini helped Alexander ruin their long-time enemies and soon, castles were surrendering to the pope.

Lucrezia, now a widow, was ready for a third politically motivated marriage to Alfonso, son and heir of Duke Ercole of Ferrara.  Neither the son nor the father wanted the marriage but King Louis convinced them of its advantages.  So, on December 30, 1501, twenty three year old Lucrezia was married in such an extravagant ceremony again.  But this time, historians would write that she shied away from scandals and proved to be a good wife and princess who became known instead for her charm and charities.

Caesar and Alexander, however, continued their ambitions and captured Camerino and Sinigaglia.  By October of 1502, Orsini organized his generals to kill Caesar. However, the young Borgia knew of their plot and fooled them into believing he was unaware.  This made it easier for him to kill them at once.  Alexander then sent Orsini to the Castle of St. Angelo where he was found almost two weeks later to be dead.

In just a few months, only Bracciano was left of the fortresses of the Orsini and they surrendered.  This was the end of the conquest of the Borgias which made them the ultimate rulers of the States.

Alexander was already seventy three years old and was already fearless due to his power.  The Sacred College let out lampoons accusing him of many crime but he did nothing to better the public’s view of his character.

It was inevitable that war would break out between Naples, France and Spain regarding their spoils.  Historians believe that Alexander was unsure as to how and to whom he would ally his forces with among the three.  However, he did not anticipate his early retirement from life when he contracted Roman Fever in the gardens of  Adriano da Corneto.

            On August 6, 1503, Alexander, Caesar and some other close allies were dining with Cardinal Corneto.  Some historians believe that Alexander and Caesar plotted to poison their host but drunk the poisoned cup by mistake. However, more evidence shows that it was the virus that afflicted them.  Caesar was able to recover in a few days. Alexander was not so luck. By August 12, the pope was too weak to get up from bed and after six days, he made a confession and received the last sacrament. He died on the night of August 18, 1503 at the age of seventy-seven.

            A loyal servant and diarist who has seen through five popes, Johann Burchard, recounts that on the night that Pope Alexander VI was dying, Caesar had asked his followers to force themselves into the Vatican to steal as much of the treasure that they could get.   Immediately after the pontiff died, his servants also took what they could from the pope’s bedroom.

            Johann Burchard, also Protonotary Apostolic and Master of Ceremonies, was said to have prepared the body while the palace guards had a hard time preventing people from venting their anger on the dead pope’s body. The servant then sent the body to a small chapel where it remained unattended and rotted in the very humid weather. The very fast decomposition of the body leads historians to believe that Alexander was really poisoned. His remains can be found in Santa Maria di Monserrato, a national church in Spain.

            Many believe him to be one of the most notorious secular popes in the history of the Catholic Church.  However, he has also given many contributions to the spread of Christianity in the new territories and protection of the Catholic faith in Europe.

Works Cited

Kren, Emil and Marx, Daniel. Glossary: (accessed 22 April 2007); available from http://www

 .newadvent.org/ cathen/01289a.htm, Internet.

Loughlin, James F.  Alexander VI:[book on-line] (accessed 22 April 2007); available from

<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01289a.htm>, Internet.

Site Map For MMDTKW. The Borgias. October 2004. <http://www.mmdtkw.org


Kirsch, J.P. Alexander VI. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI.1911. New York.

Schultz, Richard W. The Role of the Vatican in the Encounter. (accessed 23 April 2007);

available from http://muweb.millersville.edu/~columbus/data/art/SCHULTZ1.ART,


Snell, Melissa. Pope Alexander VI. (accessed 22 April 2007); available from http://historymed

 ren.about.com/od/aentries/a/11_pope_alex6.htm, Internet.

Wolf, Marguerite. Histories/Lucrezia Borgia (Dragonrest.net. 1999, accessed 18 April 2007);

available from http://www.dragonrest.net/histories/lucrezia.html; Internet.

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