Pope Alexander VI was the Spanish-born 214th Pope
@Kings, Career and Personal Life
Pope Alexander VI was the Spanish-born 214th Pope
Pope Alexander VI born at
Contemporary sources state that in his youth, Borgia was a handsome man with a very cheerful countenance and genial bearing. He was charming and eloquent, and beautiful women were attracted to him. He was a capable and intelligent leader, viewed as a ‘political priest’ by many. A gifted orator, his speeches demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of the scriptures. He was also an ardent supporter of the further development of arts and sciences.
Alexander VI had several mistresses, the most prominent of whom was Vannozza dei Cattanei. Their relationship is believed to have begun sometime between 1466 and 1472 and lasted through her three marriages. She bore him four children, Cesare (born 1475), Giovanni (1476), Lucrezia (1480), and Gioffre (1482).
In the immediate years leading to his elevation to the papacy, Borgia’s passion for her somewhat waned, though he maintained that his love for her was “spiritual”. Before acknowledging Vannozza’s children as his, he pretended that they were his niece and nephews, fathered by her husbands. As Pope, he legitimized each of them as his own, spending vast amount of money and resources on them.
Rodrigo was born on January 1, 1431, in the town of Xàtiva near Valencia, a component realm in the Kingdom of Aragon, which is now in Spain, to parents Jofré Llançol i Escrivà and Isabel de Borja y Cavanilles. His parents were distant cousins.
According to an alternative theory, his father’s name is considered to be Jofré de Borja y Escrivà, which would make him part of Borgia clan from both sides of the family. The veracity of this is highly unlikely, as all his children were known to be of Llançol paternal lineage.
He was an exemplary student. He enrolled at the ‘University of Bologna’ to study law. His uncle, Alonso de Borgia, as the Bishop of Valencia, oversaw his nephew’s education. He graduated as “the most eminent and judicious jurisprudent” as a doctor in ecclesiastical law.
Rodrigo went to Rome to join Alonso after the latter became a cardinal. His rise through the clerical hierarchy was meteoric. After Alonso’s coronation as Pope Callixtus III on April 8, 1455, Rodrigo took up his mother’s family name, realising new prospects for his ambition. He was made the Bishop of Valencia soon after, a post recently vacated by his uncle.
In an act of nepotism quite characteristic of that age, Alonso showered Rodrigo with many rich benefices. At 25, he was made deacon and then Cardinal-Deacon of San Nicola in Carcere. He would hold the post till 1471. He was appointed as the administrator of Girona in 1457. The same year, he became the Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church.
Although Pope Callixtus III died in 1458, it barely hindered Borgia’s power and influence in the Church. For 30 years, he served under five different popes – his uncle Callixtus III, Pius II, Paul II, Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII – all the while living like a prince, accumulating administrative experience and wealth.
His ordination to the priesthood took place in 1468 and three years after that, he was anointed as a bishop and was elected as the Cardinal-Bishop of Albano. In 1476, he was chosen as the Cardinal-Bishop of Porto and the Dean of the Sacred College.
He was named the first Archbishop of Valencia after his proposal of making the city a metropolitan see, submitted 16 days prior to the death of Innocent VIII, was granted. The position was handed down within the Borgia family, first ‘inherited’ by his son Cesare, the second Archbishop of Valencia and then by Juan de Borja and Pedro Luis de Borja, the third and fourth Archbishops of Valencia, respectively.
Some changes in the constitution of the College of Cardinals were brought about in the 15th century, particularly during the tenures of Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII. There were 27 cardinals at the tail end of the reign of Innocent VIII, out of whom at least 10 were cardinal-nephews, eight were nominated by various rulers across Christendom, four were Roman nobles, and one received cardinalate due to his family’s years of service to ‘Holy See.’ Only four rose through the clerical ranks.
There were three primary candidates for the papacy following the death of Innocent VIII on July 25, 1492—Ascanio Sforza for the Milanese, Giuliano della Rovere from the pro-French faction and Borgia, who was perceived as an independent candidate. There were speculations that Borgia had bought out majority of the votes, even bribing Sforza with four mule-loads of silver. Either way, the 1492 conclave was an expensive campaign all around.
On August 11, 1492, at 61 years of age, Rodrigo was elevated as Pope Alexander VI. In the initial years after assuming papacy, he maintained the strict administration of justice and orderly government. Soon, however, he started to bestow lands, power, and wealth to his relatives. Besides making his illegitimate son Cesare the Cardinal of Valencia at 18, he appointed 11 other cardinals, and gave his other sons Giovanni the Spanish Dukedom of Gandia, and Gioffre several fiefs out of the Papal States.
He issued three ‘Bulls of Donation’, also known as the ‘Alexandrine Bulls’, to grant overseas territories to Portugal and Spain. ‘Eximiae devotionis’ was issued on May 3, 1493, ‘Inter caetera’ on May 4, and ‘Dudum siquidem’ on September 26.
In 1494, Charles VIII of France invaded Italy to seize the throne of Naples. Alexander was threatened with deposition and convocation of a reform council. Politically isolated in his country, he sought help from Bayezid II, the Sultan of Turkey.