Rodrigo Borgia Controversies

Rodrigo Borgia - Pope Alexander VIHistorical Controversies Surrounding Rodrigo Borgia

"Now we are in the power of a wolf, the most rapacios perhaps that this world has ever seen. And if we do not flee, he will inevitably devour us all."
Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici's (later to be Pope Leo X) reaction on hearing Rodrigo becoming Pope.


Click "EasyEdit" to add to this page.
Don't see the "EasyEdit" button above?
Sign in or sign up!


Go To - The Borgias Home I The Borgias: Controversies I Rodrigo Borgia I Pope Alexander VI I The Discussion Forum I Showtime
How Did Rodrigo Become Pope Alexander VI?
The first of the two Borgia Popes was the aged Calixtus, formerly Alonso de Borja, who was elected in 1455. From the start Calixtus excelled at nepotism, he set out to fill the Vatican with his own relatives and place them in lucrative Church posts. Two of his nephews Rodrigo being one of them became cardinals in 1456. This was unusual as such positions were normally given to more mature men but these two were not yet 30. The Collage of Cardinals were alarmed at this but agreed under the false premise expecting Calixtus to die soon, (he was very old) before the two young men were confirmed in their new position. Instead Calixtus stubbornly survived long enough for Rodrigo to be made Vice_Chanceller of the Church, a very coveted position which made him second in command to only the Pope himself. It also provided Rodrigo with considerable wealth.

Rodrigo had to wait another 34 years and the reigns of four more popes before he even came within the reach of the Throne of St. Peter. By then he was 61 years of age and had lost his youthful looks but what he had retained was much more significant. He was warned by Pope Pius II, - Calixtus' successor that his penchant for attending orgies was 'unseemly' and urged him to take care of his honour with greater prudence. This was a waste of breath because Rodrigo never changed, his taste for debaucheries was as great as ever. To Rodrigo, the papacy was a business to be milked and exploited for personal gain - as was the view of Francesco Guicciardini who wrote of Rodrigo as pope: " There was in him and in full measure, all vices both of the flesh and spirit... There was in him no religion, no keeping of his word. He promised all things liberally, but bound himself to nothing that was not useful to him. He had no care for justice, in his days, Rome was a den of thieves and murderers. Nevertheless, his sins meeting with no punishment in this world, he was to his last days prosperous. In one word, he was more evil and had more luck than perhaps any other pope for many ages before."
Rodrigo deliberately set out to create a political dynasty that had fingers in the most vital political pies in Europe. He began as dishonestly as he intended to go on when a conclave of Cardinals met to discuss choosing a successor to Pope Innocent VIII, who dies in 1492. His chance of winning appeared bleak even before Innocent was dead. His rival Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who detested him started the campaign against Rodrigo reminding Pope Innocent that Borgia was a 'Catalan', and was therefore unreliable. Rodrigo heard of this slur and was said to fight his corner with great vigor and a range of insults so terrible that the rivals were on the brink of a fist fight only prepared to back down out of respect for the dying pontiff. Already, behind the scenes, the wheeling and dealing was going on in full swing as the cardinals sought to out manoeuvre each other. Their choices had little to do with the will of God or the workings of The Holy Spirit - the traditional criteria in papal elections . There was a lot of money on the table - King Ferrante of Naples was offering a fortune of gold to buy the votes of Cardinals who would be willing to elect a pontiff that would advance Neapolitian interests in the Vatican.
Rodrigo was not involved in this kind of power play, more than likely because being a 'Spaniard' the other \\Italian Cardinals didn't trust him. This worked in his favour as it meant he was not tainted by the brute self interest in which most of the other Cardinals were embroiled. However his biggest advantage was that he was so wealthy he could dispense enormous bribes that could buy votes. His two Rivals for the papal succession were Cardinal Ascanio Sforza of Milan and Cardinal Giuliani della Rovere, the latter was being bankrolled to the tune of 200,000 gold ducats by the King Charles VIII of France. Della Rovere and Sforza ran neck and neck for the lead in the first three ballots with Rodrigo coming third. However it was not a distant third and the deadlock between the other two candidates enhanced Borgia's hopes of victory.
He now believed that he could seize the prize, and started making the cardinals offers he was sure they would find impossible to refuse. These bribes included bishoprics in Spain and Italy, extensive lands and estates, abbeys, castles and fortresses, governorships, Church offices, gold, jewels and treasures of all kinds. The biggest bribe of all was for Cardinal Ascanio Sforza to whom he offered his position as Vice-Chancellor and as an additional lure, his palace which stood by the River Tiber opposite the Vatican. Sforza accepted after five days and with his withdrawal from the race the entire pro-Milanese faction switched their support to Rodrigo. His enemy Cardinal della Rovere, who made it known that anyone would be preferable to another Borgia Pope, was forced to swallow his pride and vote for Rodrigo, if only a gesture to save face. The other cardinals quietly pocketed their own rewards and marked their ballot papers in the same way. The decision was finally reached on 11 Augest 1492. Rodrigo, now Alexander VI, dressed in papal vestments, appeared on the first floor balcony of the Vatican before a crowd declaring " I am Pope and Vicor of Christ... I bless the town, I bless the land, I bless Italy, I bless the world.
His Lovelife and Children


More pages