Alexander VI.

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Pope Alexander VI, after a painting by Cristofano dell'Altissimo ( Uffizi Gallery , Florence )

Alexander VI. (originally Valencian Roderic Llançol i de Borja , Italian Rodrigo Borgia ; * January 1, 1431 in Xàtiva near València , †  August 18,  1503 in Rome ) was a Roman Catholic Pope from 1492 to 1503 . He was one of the most politically influential figures in Renaissance Italy . Roderic de Borja worked for decades to obtain the tiara until he emerged from the conclave as Pope on August 11, 1492 . Alexander was the last from the territory of Spain to be elected Pope.


Pope Alexander VI - Detail from the fresco Resurrection by Pinturicchio in the Appartamenti Borgia, 1492–1495

Church career

The Borgia family came from the village of Borja in Aragón. They cultivated their roots and also spoke Valencian , a variety of the Catalan language, within the family in Rome . Roderic Llançol i de Borja (Spanish: Rodrigo Lanzol y de Borja) was born as the son of Jofré de Borja y Escrivà (1390–1436) from Valencia , son of Rodrigo Gil de Borja i de Fennolet and Sibilia d'Escrivà i de Pròixita , and Isabel de Borja y Llançol (1390–1468), born in Aragon , daughter of Juan Domingo de Borja and Francina Llançol . The family name is written Llançol in Valencia , the general Spanish spelling is Lanzol . Rodrigo took the surname Borgia when his maternal uncle, Alonso de Borja, was elected Pope. He ruled as Pope Calixt III. from 1455 to 1458 and enabled Rodrigo de Borja to climb the ecclesiastical hierarchy . Rodrigo Borgia first studied canon law in Bologna - from around 1453 - after he had already been endowed with numerous lucrative benefices by his uncle , including as canon in Xàtiva . Although he was not a priest  - he did not become a priest , as was customary at the time - his papal uncle appointed him cardinal deacon of San Nicola in Carcere on February 20, 1456, and vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church the following year . From 1458 he was in commendam cardinal deacon of Santa Maria in Via Lata . In 1471 he became Cardinal Bishop of Albano and in 1476 of Porto .

Despite his church dignity, he was very fond of the female sex and - typical of the Renaissance  - hardly hid this from the public. A letter from Pope Pius II documented that the revealing way of life, customary for many of the contemporary prelates , met with opposition in the Curia as well , in which he reprimanded the young prelate for his sexual life.

With Vanozza de 'Cattanei , the mother of his children Juan (Giovanni) (later Duke of Gandía ), Cesare (later Duke of Romagna ), Lucrezia (later Duchess of Ferrara ) and Jofré , he lived for about 20 years during his time as cardinal together. Numerous accounts of orgies at his court have come down to us, but these could also have sprung from the imagination of his opponents.


The territorial situation on the Apennine peninsula around 1494
Handwritten notes by Alexander VI. concerning military preparations in the Papal States before the French invasion of 1494. Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Archivum Arcis, Arm. I-XVIII, 5024, fol. 151r

On August 11, 1492 he was elected Pope, which was typically promoted by Simonie (purchase of offices). He chose the name Alexander (VI.) For himself. The Pope's name openly alluded to Alexander the Great , i.e. H. documented a claim to power. Since the elected pope had to give up his benefices with his coronation, wealthy cardinals like Rodrigo were offered a variety of well-endowed church goods that could be used as commercial goods in an election.

In the conclave , Giuliano della Rovere , a nephew of Pope Sixtus IV , and Ascanio Sforza faced two powerful cardinals. Della Rovere, who after the death of Alexander VI. and Pius III, who succeeded him only briefly . In fact, when Julius II was to become Pope, a powerful group of allies had gathered around him: In addition to Florence and Naples , a third Italian great power supported his candidacy with Venice , as did Genoa and the French King Charles VIII. But the distribution of votes in the conclave did not correspond to that Power relations of the supporters. Ascanio Sforza, the brother of Duke Ludovico Sforza , who actually wanted to become Pope himself , led the group of opponents to Della Rovere , but at thirty-seven he was too young and, as the brother of the Milanese, was considered too politically charged.

Rodrigo Borgia and Ascanio Sforza agreed on a common approach early on. As the humanist Giovanni Lorenzi stated before the conclave: "The Vice Chancellor [Rodrigo Borgia] and Ascanio have divided up the world as follows: The Vice Chancellor should become Pope, Ascanio, however, Super-Pope." In addition, Ascanio had from his brother Ludovico received a blanket authorization to buy votes, as they hoped that Borgia would be a willing puppet on Sforza's strings. Ascanio and Rodrigo prevailed, but naturally the first years of the pontificate were under the massive influence of the Sforza. From him Alexander VI. solve only after the disputes over the Neapolitan crown , which resulted in the decline of the Sforza.

Later he was resented by his nepotism : against his will he appointed his son Cesare to be bishop of Valencia and later cardinal; other Spaniards brought into the country by him were also favored. There was a never-proven rumor that he slept with his daughter Lucrezia and got rid of annoying rivals with the infamous “Borgia poison”. His son Juan (Giovanni) , he appointed Duke of Naples for the Papal States repurchased Benevento .

Later, the Farnese family used the influence of the long-time mistress Giulia Farnese on the Pope, in particular to let her brother Alessandro Farnese rise in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. At the age of 25, he was actually made a cardinal. The young man mocked by the Roman people with the expressions "Cardinale Gonella" ("Cardinal skirt") and "Cardinal Fregnese" ("Cardinal Möse") should more than 30 years later as Paul III. to become the mighty Pope of the Counter Reformation . Alessandro Farnese owes this rise above all to his sister Giulia, who became Rodrigo Borgia's lover at the age of 15 when he was still a cardinal. As the scribe of the Curia smugly remarked, the Roman vernacular called the Roman beauty, which was also shown at his side during Alexander's pontificate, blasphemously “sponsa christi” (“bride of Christ”).

The multitude of excesses said to have been said of the new pope called on critics. Their most prominent representative was the Dominican Girolamo Savonarola in Florence, who initially tried to get a good understanding with Alexander and had no qualms about officially congratulating him on the wedding of his daughter Lucrezia. However, he later called for the removal of the Pope as well as church reforms and preached: “You church leaders ... at night you go to your concubines and in the morning to your sacraments.” On a later occasion he said: “These church leaders have the face of a whore, her fame is very damaging to the Church. I tell you, they think nothing of the Christian faith. "

To buy Savonarola's silence, Alexander VI offered him. the cardinal dignity. Savonarola refused, after which he was excommunicated and arrested, hanged and burned in the city of Florence, which had fallen away from him.

Giuliano della Rovere had fled to France after his defeat in the conclave and tried, together with other critics of the pontificate, to convince the French King Charles VIII to convene a council that should resolve the removal of Alexander. Charles finally marched to Italy at the head of an army in 1495 to annex Naples, but then reached an agreement with the Pope and refrained from removing him altogether.

Coat of arms of Alexander VI. in a Bavarian book of arms around 1495/1498 (Innsbruck University Library, Cod. 545)

The numerous maneuvers by Alexander, who changed allies as needed, primarily served the goal of creating a hereditary empire for his children. Like his uncle Calixt III. he had initially chosen the Kingdom of Naples to do so. When the situation changed temporarily due to the intervention of Charles and the childless Ferrandino Ferdinand II died in 1496 and appointed his uncle as heir, Romagna also moved into the Borgia's sights for a time. When Charles VIII died in 1498 at the age of only 28 (he had run into a lintel in Amboise Castle and had obviously suffered a stroke as a result of his head injuries), Louis XII. from the house of Valois-Orléans King of France. Supported by his kinship with the Visconti , the latter also claimed the Duchy of Milan .

Louis, who was married without children, immediately annulled his marriage to Jeanne de Valois after ascending to the throne in order to marry the widow of his predecessor ( Anne de Bretagne ) and thus keep her legacy, Brittany , in the French kingdom. To do this, he needed the Pope's dispensation , and Alexander saw the chance to obtain a duchy for his son Cesare. On September 17, 1498, Cesare renounced the cardinalate, an outrageous scandal that Alexander tried to downplay. For the dispensation of the French king, Cesare was awarded the Valentinois (an old French landscape with the capital Valence ), which was elevated to a duchy.

In 1498 the Sforza tried again - this time with the cover of the Catholic Kings  - to convene a council to depose the Pope. However, the French achieved an alliance with Venice, which put the Sforza, whose star was on the decline, under further pressure. Cesare has since been married to Charlotte d'Albret . Her consent to the marriage (four aristocratic French women had previously indignantly refused) was rewarded with the cardinal's hat for her brother. The Sforza had in the meantime allied themselves with Sultan Bayezid II , but his expeditionary corps, with which he was to attack Venice, was outnumbered. After the fall of the Sforza, who went into exile in Austria ( Bianca Maria Sforza was married to the Roman-German king and later Emperor Maximilian I ), Ludwig XII wanted to be. turn to Naples to settle an old score with the Aragonese. Alexander VI, who still hoped to get Naples into his own hands for his own family, then tried in vain to get Venice to agree to the conquest of the Duchy of Ferrara for his son.

Thereupon Alexander began to put the barons of the Papal States under pressure. The first victims were the Caetani : They lost their possessions to the Borgia. And in March 1499 - before the Franco-Venetian union was concluded - he declared the vicariate of Sforza-Riario in Forlì and Imola to be extinct and transferred it to Cesare. He advanced with French and Italian troops to take possession of his new domain. Imola surrendered without a fight and Forlì was taken. The Vicar of Forlì, Caterina Sforza , who contemporaries claim was the only real man in their army, was captured.

The rule of the French in Milan became so unpopular after a short time that the Milanese Ludovico Sforza called back. On February 5, 1500 he moved back into Milan. Without French support, Cesare had to stop fighting, and so he returned to Rome. Ludovico was soon to lose his rule for good: in April he was handed over to the French by his Swiss mercenaries, whom he could no longer pay.

At the end of April 1500, a leaflet distributed in Rome announced not only the long register of sins of the Pontifex Maximus , but also the imminent death of the unrepentant. On Peter and Paul Day, June 29, a heavy storm raged over Rome, which not only brought down the ceiling of the palace, but also the canopy under which the Pope was enthroned. The support beam held up, however, and Alexander got away with some abrasions. The Roman rumors were deeply preoccupied with the event, and the pilgrims who crowded Rome (it was a " Holy Year ") puzzled as to what else Providence should have in store. The version that the devilish Covenant Pope had clashed a little too hard with his infernal contractual partner was particularly popular.

Alexander, who in the meantime had summarily removed the representatives of the Church in northern Italy from their offices, tried to persuade Venice, which acted as a protective power there, to withdraw. If Venice had agreed to leave Forlì, Imola and Pesaro to the Borgia, Alexander also wanted to have the Manfredi in Faenza and the Malatesta in Rimini surrendered . In order to finance the next campaign in Romagna, new cardinals were appointed who - as was customary at the time - had to pay for this dignity. Pesaro and Rimini fell into the hands of Cesare without a fight, only the Manfredi did not want to give up without a fight. The siege had to be interrupted in winter and did not lead to success until the following spring. But contrary to the surrender agreements , Cesare Astorre had Manfredi and his younger brother, who had been promised safe conduct, arrested and detained in Castel Sant'Angelo . The following year the two were strangled and pulled out of the Tiber .

In 1500 Venice tried to persuade the pontiff to embark on a crusade against the Turks; for the time being, however, Romagna had priority as Borgia rule. After all, Alexander needed every ducat for his own interests and so he left it to flowery rhetoric. A war against the Turks seemed desirable for all European rulers at the time, but nobody made it his concern, as everyone's own interests had priority. Alexander could therefore limit himself to asking the Spanish and French kings to lead by example because he could trust that this would not happen. Although he organized Europe-wide aid measures and allowed special charges to finance the crusade, they only brought in just under 40,000 ducats - and thus only a third of the amount he had secured from the last cardinal appointment. When the Venetian ambassador made quite blunt reproaches to the Pope in March 1501, he accused the Venetians of pursuing exclusively selfish goals with the crusade.

In June 1501, Alexander finally dropped the King of Naples because he had to realize that he would not be able to establish the Borgia as heir to the throne. France and Spain had agreed to partition the area, and King Federico was deposed by the Pope. In July 1501 Capua was taken and Federico went to Ischia , where he submitted to the French king. For this he received a French duchy, and the story of the Aragonese on the Neapolitan throne was finally over.

At this time, Alexander was also looking for a suitable husband for his daughter Lucrezia Borgia. The previous one, the Duke of Bisceglie , was murdered in the Vatican - without the knowledge of the Pope, but on Cesare's orders. After some deliberation, he decided on Alfonso d'Este , the eldest son of Ercole I. d'Este , and thus the heir to the Duchy of Ferrara and Modena . Lucrezia initially refused, but was unable to assert herself against her father.

In the border areas with Naples and all parts of Lazio , the castles of Colonna and her allies, the Savelli , were conquered and added to the possession of the Borgia. Both families were solemnly excommunicated in August 1501.

In the spring of 1502 the agreement between Spain and France at Naples had given way to the usual war between the two powers, and Cesare reached out to the Duchy of Urbino , which belonged to the Montefeltre . Also had Jacopo d'Appiano of Piombino distributed and collected the city immediately to the bishopric.

In June 1502, Alexander announced his visit to Ferrara, accompanied by all the cardinals, but this maneuver only served to disguise the departure of his son, who had meanwhile been promoted to the Pope's standard bearer Gonfaloniere , at the head of an army towards Spoleto . The Duchy of Urbino was about to be invaded, and Cesare had used a horrible ruse to secure the conquest of the city as well. He had previously borrowed the artillery and also some mercenary contingents from Guidobaldo da Montefeltro , the Duke of Urbino, through a hired agent - at least that was the version handed down by the Venetians.

In the course of the conquest of the city - the city gates had opened to the nephew through betrayal - Guidobaldo escaped. After an adventurous escape in which some of his own lords of the castle refused to accept him, he finally found asylum in the area of ​​influence of the Serenissima . Shortly afterwards, on July 19, 1502, Cesare succeeded in taking Camerino (again by betrayal), during which the former commandant general of the Venetians Giulio Cesare da Varano was captured by the Borgia; he, too, was later murdered in Rome.

Alexander's request was next for Bologna . The Venetian town clerk of the time, Marino Sanudo , reported that the Pope was so obsessed with Bologna that he would sell his miter in order to own the city if necessary . Bologna was de jure papal fiefdom and belonged to the Papal States, but Giovanni II Bentivoglio , the ruler of Bologna, was under the special protection of the French king.

The enemies of the Borgia tried to get the king, who was in Lombardy in the summer of 1502 to keep his affairs in order, to their side. Cesare, however, reached a new alliance in a personal conversation with the king, in which Cesare blamed the conquest of Arezzo on the arbitrary nature of his general Vitellozzo Vitelli and the king sought the support of the Pope in the battle for Naples.

But with that the Bentivoglio ( Giovanni II. Bentivoglio ) and the Orsini lost their patron. Most believed, however, that Cesare had finally gambled away the favor of the French ruler, and made plans for revenge. On October 9, 1502, not only representatives of the Orsini met near Lake Trasimeno , but also the said Vitelli as well as the rulers of Perugia and a representative of the Bentivoglio; even the Lord of Siena sent a representative. The allies got to work quickly. On October 14, 1502, Urbino belonged again to the Montefeltro, and the da Varano returned to Camerino.

Alexander lulled his opponents to safety through apparent forgiveness. A treaty was signed that reinstated all of Cesare's allies in their old rights. While Cesare surprisingly arrested his opponents in Romagna on December 31, 1502 (and had Vitelli and Liverotto da Fermo strangled that same night), Alexander let Cardinal Giovanni Battista Orsini and Jacopo and Antonio Santa on January 3, 1503 Arrest Croce in the Vatican.

Allegedly, Alexander also tried to  get hold of Cardinal Giovanni de Medici - who later became Pope Leo X - in order to extradite him to the Republic of Florence and thereby induce them to form an alliance. However, the Medici declined the Pope's invitation and remained out of his reach. In the meantime Urbino was conquered again by Cesare, and Alexander demanded that Venice deliver Guidobaldo da Montefeltro.

When Cardinal Orsini died in prison on February 22nd - according to Johannes Burckard he had gone mad - everyone believed, despite a public investigation into the dead man, that Orsini had been the victim of a poisoning. The Orsini, against whom Cesare now started a war of annihilation, enjoyed growing support and were also able not only to plunder papal mines, but also to extend their failures into the Eternal City.

Meanwhile, however, both the French king and Venice felt massively burdened by the connections with Alexander. Ludwig, who was sidelined in Naples and who was also accused of a large part of the Borgia crimes, and Venice turned to open threats against the Pope and his son.

Alexander was looking for new allies and wanted to win Spain over. Since this caused the Pope's financial needs to rise again, the aged Venetian Cardinal Giovanni Michiel is said to have been poisoned on his instructions in order to be able to collect his fortune. To Alexander's disappointment, however, the old cardinal had already had most of his assets removed from Rome (from the files of a judicial investigation that Pope Julius II later carried out to prove the murder).

Since in the meantime the Spanish military leader Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba y Aguilar had defeated the French in southern Italy and occupied Naples, Alexander wanted to bring about an alliance with the Spaniards. The murder of Michiel, however, brought in only a fraction of the expected amount and so a new cardinal survey was initiated, which flushed an estimated 120,000 gold ducats into the papal coffers.

But now Alexander was reluctant to actually change course. On the one hand, Ludwig had not come to terms with the defeat and was in the process of equipping a new army, and on the other hand, a move to the Spanish camp would also severely affect the future prospects of Cesare, who was the French's feudal duke of Valence. Since Alexander resolutely pursued the goal of leaving his children an adequate kingdom for his children during his pontificate, a change of sides was not compatible with the perspective of a French duchy. As Naples was out of reach for the Borgia, Alexander's interest turned back to Tuscany, which was an imperial fiefdom, but which for Alexander could only be a matter of negotiation. Allegedly, he had the beginning of August, the sensor Roman-German King Maximilian I. outstretched.

While Cesare was raising troops in Viterbo , the longest-serving nepot of the Borgia, Cardinal Juan de Borja Llançol de Romaní / Juan Borgia-Llançol, the Archbishop of Monreale, died in Rome. His fortune, more than 150,000 ducats, naturally went to the Pope. Murder is unlikely to have been involved here, because in these troubled times a confident voice in the curia was more important than any wealth. In addition, the summer heat had already swept away a number of stout men - not a good omen for the by no means slim and now 71-year-old Pope. His election jubilee on August 11, 1503 was celebrated less imposingly than usual. But the next morning he began to vomit, and in the afternoon came a fever. News of the illness went through Rome like wildfire, and of course poison was suspected.

At first, however, he recovered before he suffered a serious relapse on the night of August 17-18, 1503. The rapidly rising fever was eventually followed by difficulty breathing and unconsciousness.


Tomb of Alexander VI. and Calixtus' III.

Alexander finally died in the evening hours of August 18th. As it was spread in Rome, the body of the dead man swelled unnaturally within a very short time, turned black and released foul-smelling liquids.

Of course, contemporaries saw this as confirmation that the Pope had been poisoned and that his soul had been taken by the devil. In fact, only a few people had seen the body with their own eyes, and the rapid decomposition of the body, confirmed in his notes by the papal master of ceremonies Johannes Burckard, did not have to be unusual in the hot Roman summer.

The body was embalmed by his attending physician, the surgeon, medical writer and Avicenna commentator Pietro d'Argellata († 1523), who taught medicine and philosophy in Bologna .

Two versions of the poison in particular became popular: after one, Alexander and his son Cesare wanted to poison someone else at the banquet, but the poison was - perhaps deliberately - confused by one of his servants and served to the two Borgia. On the one hand, however, the fact that the meal did not take place in the Vatican, but with Cardinal Adriano Castellesi da Corneto , who was one of the Pope's closest confidants and, as Massimo Firpo quotes, described by the chronicler of the Curia as the Pope's “omnium rerum vicarium” speaks against it has been. It would have been unusual if the Borgia had brought their own cupbearer with them to their closest confidante (Alexander was also not a particular fan of too much effort at the table).

Furthermore, the Borgia did not shy away from using physical violence when it was possible. Those cardinals who attended this banquet on the occasion of the anniversary of the papal election could have been arrested just as easily as Giovanni Orsini and imprisoned in Castel Sant'Angelo. It was also not Cesare's character to use poison - the famous infallible Borgia poison, for which there are typically dozens of contradicting statements regarding its composition, should rather be relegated to the realm of rumors.

In this context, Cardinal Michiel's poisoning should be recalled once again; According to traditional reports (including the German Leonhard Cantzler , who attended the trial initiated by Julius II in 1504 in this matter), the cardinal suffered from constant vomiting after being poisoned (the poison was brought by his majordomo in two doses) , a symptom of arsenic poisoning. Alexander vomited only a few times, and only then did the fever set in, but he recovered quickly until the next fever attack a week later.

The second popular version of the poisoning of Alexander sees the aforementioned Cardinal Castellesi as the perpetrator who wanted to prevent his own elimination by murdering Alexander. In fact, Castellesi was immeasurably wealthy by the standards of the day. Like so many other cardinals of that time, he too had received the purple hat in return for payment of an enormous sum. Sources like Burckard or Giovio speak of 20,000 ducats - a craftsman at that time earned a few dozen ducats a year.

In contrast to the Venetian Michiel, however, Castellesi was a declared partisan of the Borgia and was intensely feudal with Giuliano della Rovere , who had overthrown Alexander since the beginning of the pontificate. In addition, those cardinals who thought they had to fear something from the Borgia had already fled Rome at this point. So Castellesi could not win anything, only lose. As soon as Alexander's pontificate was over, he would have lost his protector. In any case, he had to reckon with the fact that Della Rovere, nephew of Sixtus IV. , Who had already led Innocent VIII. , Would now reach for the tiara himself (which after the short pontificate of the Borgia successor Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini as Pius III. actually succeeded), and would then clean up the Borgia faction. Indeed, under the pontificate of Julius II, Castellesi was forced to flee, since this Pope did not shrink from having his opponents out of the way.

So Alexander probably died of malaria , but in the eyes of the righteous - and of course his numerous adversaries whom he had drawn upon through his ruthless nepotism - he could not have died simply of natural causes. Since his adversaries did not shrink from defaming him as the antichrist on the papal throne, even as in league with the devil, his death had to serve as a chilling example of moral edification.

His way of life probably also meant that he was initially denied an honorable grave. In 1610 his remains were transferred to the church of Santa Maria di Monserrato ; however, a tomb planned there was not carried out. Only in 1864 were his remains, together with those of his predecessor Calixtus III. Rediscovered by the Prussian diplomat Kurd von Schlözer in a box on a shelf that also contained the remains of other deceased. In 1889 a tomb was finally erected for him.


Bust of Alexander VI, Rome, end of the 15th century ( Bode Museum , Berlin)


Alexander's work for the orderly administration of the Church and the Papal States as well as the restoration of their power are as undisputed as his commitment to the mission of South America . After he had given the Spanish kings the rights to newly discovered countries in America with the Bull Inter caetera , he taxed Spanish church property against the violent protests of the Spanish crown, probably with the intention of not allowing this mission to go completely at the expense of the Indians . In 1494 he divided the world between the two competing maritime powers Portugal and Spain through the Treaty of Tordesillas . In order to bring about a peaceful demarcation of the spheres of interest of these two Christian powers, the dividing line was moved further west so that the Portuguese could colonize the areas of Brazil .

Alexander granted asylum to many Jews displaced from there after the Reconquista of Andalusia in Rome . He responded to the protest of the “most Catholic” Spanish kings (“Los Reyes Católicos”) Isabella I and Ferdinand II by saying that he had promised the Jews his protection, and he stuck to his decision.

Hartmann Schedel offers a positive evaluation of Alexander's choice in his world chronicle of 1493. Generosity and prudence are inherent in the new Pope.


Alexander's way of life was not significantly different from that of other (church) princes of his time. Judging his piety is undoubtedly problematic, but his sincere devotion to Mary is attested by contemporaries of the Curia. Tradition claims that the Pope completed the current form of the prayer, Hail Mary, with the addition "Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death".

Measured against the demands of the papacy, the way of life is to be viewed critically. The popes of this time undoubtedly saw themselves as territorial princes, not as liturgical and theological leaders. Alexander was known to appoint cardinals for a fee, as was the custom before and after his pontificate. Dispensary was granted against appropriate payment as well as after weighing political usefulness; He pardoned convicted murderers in return for a corresponding donation. His undisguised commitment to his children and above all to the power politics pursued with their help, with which his Spanish noble family gained a foothold in the heart of Italy, was also unusual for the popes of the Renaissance period and aroused offense among the nobility of Italy, especially Rome. Giovanni de Medici, who later became Pope Leo X , said of Alexander after the election: "Now we are in the clutches of perhaps the wildest wolf that the world has ever seen."

At the age of seventy, Alexander still had a mistress in Giulia Farnese who was over 40 years his junior , which was offensive even at the time. On the other hand, he openly criticized his son Cesare's dissolute lifestyle, and his work discipline was high. The Pope regularly sat at his desk early in the morning. His dinner invitations were unpopular because only one course was ever served.


Alexander maintained relationships with various mistresses both before and after taking up his pontificate. The two well-known are Vanozza de 'Cattanei and Giulia Farnese . At least eight children arose from these connections, but most of the mothers are unknown.

As a young cardinal, Alexander fathered three children whom he recognized as his:

  • Pedro-Luis Borgia , 1st Duke of Gandía , (1462–1488). The first child of Rodrigo Borgia and an unknown mother was born in Rome in 1460 or 1462 and waslegitimizedby Pope Sixtus IV on November 5, 1481. As a teenager, Pedro-Luis took part in Spanish court life and took part in the struggles against the Muslims in Andalusia . On December 2, 1485, Pedro-Luis became 1st Duke of Gandía and in 1486 married Maria Enríquez i de Luna (1477–1520), a cousin of King Ferdinand II. However, the marriage was not consummated due to the bride's youth. Cardinal Borgia bought the Duchy of Gandía from King Ferdinand of Aragon. On his return to Italy he died surprisingly on August 14, 1488 after landing in Civitavecchia . He was the guardian of his younger half-brother Juan, whom he had designated as the heir of the duchy in his will. He was first buried in the Roman church of Santa Maria del Popolo and today rests in the small town of Osuna , which lies between Granada and Córdoba .
  • Girolama Borgia , (1469–1483) ⚭ 1483 Gianandrea Cesarini, both died the following year.
  • Isabella de Borgia , (1470–1541) ⚭ 1484 Pietro Giovanni Matuzzi. Born in 1470 as the daughter of Rodrigo Borgia and an unknown mother, she was married in 1484 in her father's palace to Pietro Matuzzi, member of the Roman city nobility and temporary chancellor and road master of the city of Rome. Rodrigo Borgia gave the couple a house near their palace in Via dei Leutari , where the children Alessandra, Giulia, Aurelio and Ippolito were born. Aurelio (1484–1506) became a canon of St. Peter's Church and Ippolito became a priest. Giulia was married to Ciriaco Mattei, member of a patrician family , and Alessandra (1495-1511) with Alessandro Maddaleni-Cappodiferro. The daughter of Giulia and Ciriaco Mattei married into the family of Doria Pamphili and became the ancestor of Pope Innocent X.

With his long-time lover, Vanozza de 'Cattanei , Alexander had the four children he is said to have loved most; It was above all they that he incorporated into his political and dynastic plans:

  • Cesare Borgia (* 1475 or 1476; † 1507)
  • Juan Borgia , (1476 or 1478; † 1497), 2nd Duke of Gandía
  • Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519)
  • Jofré Borgia (* 1481 or 1482; † 1516 or 1517), Alexander later expressed doubts as to whether Jofré was actually his son, but legitimized him in 1493.

In his later years, Alexander had two sons:

  • Giovanni Borgia (* 1498, † 1547 or 1548), called Infans Romanus (Roman child). Born in 1498 as a member of the Borgia family, there is still some confusion about his origin. According to popular rumors, he was said to have either been a child of Lucrezia's affair with a papal chamberlain or of an incestuous relationship between Lucrezia and her father or one of her brothers. On September 1, 1501, Alexander signed two papal bulls , one secret and one public, to make Giovanni heritable. While Cesare Borgia and a mulier soluta (single woman) were named as parentsin the public bull, the Popehimself stated his paternityin the secret bull for the secret archives of the Vatican . Pope Alexander VI Giovanni transferred the Duchy of Nepi in 1501 and the Duchy of Camerino in 1502, which Pope Julius II took away fromhimafter his father's death. After living with his half-sister Lucrezia at the court of Ferrara for some time at a young age, where he was noticed by violent behavior and bad manners, he came to the French royal court in 1518, accompanied by Alfonso d'Este. In 1529 he tried with Charles V in Bologna to regain his duchy and therefore led an unsuccessful trial at the curia. After his return to Rome in 1530, he was given a position at the Curia as protonotary and was occasionally sent with embassies to Italian cities. With the support of Pope Paul III. he got a senior position at the curia with high income and died a rich man in Genoa in 1547.
  • Rodrigo Borgia (* around 1503, † 1527). Born in the spring of 1503 as the youngest son of Pope Alexander VI. and an unknown mother in Rome, he grew up after the death of his father at the court of his half-sister Lucrezia in Ferrara and with his half-brother Giovanni in Carpi . From 1515 he lived in a seminary in Rome to prepare for a career in the church. Pope Leo X called him in a papal bull "son of our predecessor" and freed him from the stigma of illegitimate birth. Rodrigo died in 1527 as abbot of the Cicciano di Nola monasteryin southern Italy.

Some historians also assume that Laura Orsini, the daughter of his mistress Giulia Farnese, was Alexander's daughter. However, the girl received the surname of Giulia's husband, and Alexander never showed the slightest interest in this child, which is why other historians consider this unlikely.


  • Giovanni Battista Picotti, Matteo Sanfilippo:  Alessandro VI. In: Massimo Bray (ed.): Enciclopedia dei Papi. Volume 3:  Innocenzo VIII, Giovanni Paolo II. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 2000 ( ).
  • Ludwig Geiger (Ed.): Alexander VI. and his court. According to the diary of his master of ceremonies Burcardus. Lutz, Stuttgart 1912 1 (= 1912 3 , 1920 14 )
  • Orestes Ferrara: El papa Borgia. German translation Alexander VI. Borgia. Zurich 1957.
  • Horst Herrmann : The Holy Fathers. Popes and their children. Aufbau-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-7466-8110-3 . (new view)
  • Volker Reinhardt : The uncanny Pope. Alexander VI. Borgia, 1431-1503. Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-44817-8 .
  • Kurt Reichenberger, Theo Reichenberger: The Borgia Pope Alexander VI - Monster or Martyr? Edition Reichenberger, Kassel 2003, ISBN 3-935004-68-0 .
  • Susanne Schüller-Piroli: The Borgia Popes Kalixt III. and Alexander VI. Publishing House for History and Politics, Vienna 1979; also: dtv history, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-423-10232-2 .
  • Susanne Schüller-Piroli: The Borgia Dynasty. Legend and history. Oldenbourg, Munich 1982.
  • Alois Uhl: Pope children. Life pictures from the time of the Renaissance. Piper, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-492-24891-4 .
  • James Loughlin:  Alexander VI . In: Catholic Encyclopedia , Volume 1, Robert Appleton Company, New York 1907.

Web links

Commons : Alexander VI.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Orestes Ferrara: Alexander VI. Borgia. Artemis Verlag, Zurich 1957, p. 16.
  2. ^ Sarah Bradford: Lucrezia Borgia. Penguin Group, London 2005, ISBN 978-0-14-101413-5 , p. 21: "Catalan was the language of the papal court of the Borgias and the family language which they used among themselves."
  3. ^ A b Antonio Castejón: Borja o Borgia. Ascendientes y descendientes de un Papa, de un Santo, de un Valido (el de Lerma), etc. In: 2004, accessed June 14, 2019 (Spanish, genealogy).
  4. Miguel Batllori: La familia de los Borjas. Volume 18 by Jerónimo Miguel (Ed.): Clave historial. Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid 2011, ISBN 978-84-89512-34-4 , pp. 19-23, 26-28, 37, 47 limited preview in the Google book search
  5. ^ Wolfgang Wegner: Pietro d'Argellata. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1162.
    Barbara I. Tshisuaka: Argellata, Pietro d '. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 97.
  6. ^ Herbert Thurston: Hail Mary . In: The Catholic Encyclopedia . tape 7 . Robert Appleton Company, New York 1910 ( online [accessed June 14, 2019]).
  7. ^ Alois Uhl: Pope children. Life pictures from the time of the Renaissance. Pp. 76-77.
  8. ^ Alois Uhl: Pope children. Life pictures from the time of the Renaissance. Pp. 77-78.
  9. ^ Sarah Bradford: Cesare Borgia. His Life and Times. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1976, p. 17.
  10. ^ Alois Uhl: Pope children. Life pictures from the time of the Renaissance. Pp. 111-113.
  11. ^ Alois Uhl: Pope children. Life pictures from the time of the Renaissance. P. 113.
predecessor Office successor
Innocent VIII. Pope
Pius III
Alfonso de Borja Después Bishop of Valencia
Cesare Borgia
Jaume de Cardona i de Gandia Bishop of Urgell
Pere de Cardona
Jaume de Cardona i de Gandia Co-Prince of Andorra
Pere de Cardona
Latino Orsini Bishop of Albano
Oliviero Carafa
Filippo Calandrini Bishop of Porto
Giovanni Micheli
Lope de Rivas Bishop of Cartagena
Bernardino López de Carvajal