Pope (1492-1503) who
"divided" the New World between Spain
Rodrigo de Borja y Doms
(Rodrigo Borgia in Italian) was born in Jativa,
Spain, on January 1, 1431. The son of Jofre
Llançol and Isabella Borja, he was adopted into
his mother's family after her brother, Alonso de
Borgia, Bishop of Valencia, became Pope Calixtus
III, in 1455.
As was fairly common at the
time, the new Pope used his power to elevate
favored family members, and on February 22, 1456,
he made his nephew Cardinal Deacon of St. Nicolo.
He was subsequently made Cardinal-Bishop of
Albano (in 1471), and then Cardinal-Bishop of
Porto and Dean of the Sacred College (in 1476).
Beginning in 1457, his official position in the
Curia was that of Vice-Chancellor of the Roman
Catholic Church, and he served as such under five
Borja used his various
positions in the church to amass enormous wealth
and he was known for living more like a playboy
prince than a religious figure. Although the
accumulation of wealth and extravagant lifestyle
were not uncommon in the Catholic Church of the
day, Borja's conduct became so extreme that it
earned him a written rebuke from Pope Pius II.
In addition to wealth, Borja
had a penchant for "collecting"
mistresses and children. Of his many mistresses,
the one with whom he formed the longest
relationship was Vanozza (Giovanni) dei Cattani,
who bore him children whom he openly acknowledge
as his own -- Juan (born 1474), who became Duke
of Gandia; Cesare (1476), who was made a Cardinal
after his father's ascension to the Papacy and
later conquered much of northern Italy; Lucrezia
(1480), whose three marriages each served her
father's political alliances; and, Jofré (1481
or 1482), who married the granddaughter of the
King of Naples. Although his passion for Vanozza
had diminished by the time he became Pope, Borja
maintained very strong affections for his
children and he lavished vast sums on them
and loaded them with every honor.
His other known children -- Girolamo,
Isabella, and Pier Luigi -- were of uncertain
parentage, but Borja always made sure they were
taken care of as well, either financially or with
On the death of Innocent VIII, the three most
likely candidates for the Holy See were Cardinals
Borja, Ascanio Sforza, and Giuliano della Rovere,
and no expense was spared by either of them in
their attempts to achieve the Papacy. Borja's
wealth eventually won out, and he was proclaimed
Pope Alexander VI on August 11, 1492.
As Pope, Alexander spent most of his energies
on forming and strengthening alliances and
securing positions for his children, with
virtually no effort spent on religious or church
issues. The only exception to the latter came
after his son Juan was murdered on June 14, 1497,
after which he announced a reform program and
called for measures to restrain the luxury of the
papal court, reorganize the Apostolic Chancery,
and repress simony and concubinage.
In 1493, at the request of Ferdinand
of Spain, Alexander issued a bull granting Spain
the exclusive right to explore the seas and claim
all New World lands lying west of a north-south
line 100 leagues (about 320 miles) west of the
Cape Verde Islands; Portugal was granted similar
rights east of that line. The bull was formally
adopted by both nations as the Treaty of
Tordesillas in 1494.
In 1494, King Charles VIII of
France began a campaign against Italy aimed at
vindicating his claim to the Kingdom of Naples.
Pope Alexander met with Charles in Rome in early
1495 and secured the traditional obeisance
from the French monarch, but refused to support
the king's claim to Naples. By an alliance with
Milan, Venice, and the Holy Roman Emperor, he
eventually forced the French to withdraw from
The only other major event of Alexander's
papcy centered around Girolamo Savonarola, a
Dominican preacher in Florence who opnely and
vigorously criticized Alexander in his sermons.
Alexander had him excommunicated and then,
through his legates, sentenced him in 1498 to
As a patron of the arts, Alexander erected a
center 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
Basilica. He also proclaimed the year 1500 a Holy
Year of Jubilee and authorized its celebration
with great pomp, and promoted the evangelization
of the New World.
In July of 1503, both Alexander and his son
Cesare were taken violently ill with fever.
Because the two were at the time planning an
alliance with Spain against France for possession
of Naples, many suspected that the two had been
poisoned, but the true cause of their illnesses
was never determined. Cesare eventually
recovered, but Pope Alexander VI died in Rome on
August 18, 1503. He is interred at Iglesia
de Santiago y Montserrat in Rome.
Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01289a.htm
Encyclopædia Britannica http://www.britannica.com/biography/Alexander-VI
Notorious Names Database http://www.nndb.com/people/159/000092880/
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