Time to play Name That Renaissance Family!
What notorious family gained their fame and fortune in fifteenth century Italy?
What family had not one, but two Papal members?
No, not the Medici!
I’ll give you some more clues.
What Spanish family was known in Italy for their adultery, simony, theft, rape, bribery, incest, and murder?
Still don’t know?
The Borgia clan, of course!
This is their coat of arms:
The Borgia family was probably the first mafia family in the history of Italy. The most infamous member of the Borgia was Rodrigo Borgia.
When Rodrigo was only twelve he committed his first murder; he killed a boy the same age as him. Already, his future was looking bleak. Luckily for Rodrigo, his uncle was Pope Callistus III. His uncle tried to set him on the right path, making him a cardinal at age twenty-five, as well as vice-chancellor of the Holy See a year later.
This made him a very wealthy man. As any wealthy man would do [enter Tiger Woods joke here], Rodrigo found a mistress who bore him four children. He was not monogamous to her, though, and had many relations with women.
Rodrigo was also known to sell indulgences, bringing him even more wealth. With this wealth came the chance to purchase votes for Papal election. He paid fortunes out to the cardinals and was elected in 1492. Rodrigo took the name Alexander VI.
This is the same Alexander VI that declared in 1493 Spain’s exclusive right to the lands and seas west of a north-south line, Portugal claiming the rights to the east o the demarcation line. This became the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.
To keep his wealth growing, Alexander VI began to sell cardinal positions to the highest bidder, even poisoning existing cardinals to make room for more.
Ironically, Alexander VI died in 1503 by poison in a meal. He died a horrible death as recorded by his aide Johann Burchard:
“In the meantime, the body of the pope had remained for a long time, as I have described, between the railings of the high altar. During that period, the four wax candles next to it burned right down, and the complexion of the dead man became increasingly foul and black. Already by four o’clock on that afternoon when I saw the corpse, again, its face had changed to the color of mulberry or the blackest cloth and it was covered in blue-black spots. The nose was swollen, the mouth distended where the tongue was doubled over, and the lips seemed to fill everything. The appearance of the face then was far more horrifying than anything that had ever been seen or reported before. Later after five o’clock, the body was carried to the Chapel of Santa Maria della Febbre and placed in its coffin next to the wall in a corner by the altar. Six laborers or porters, making blasphemous jokes about the pope or in contempt of his corpse, together with two master carpenters, performed this task. The carpenters had made the coffin too narrow and short, and so they placed the pope’s miter at his side, rolled his body up in an old carpet, and pummeled and pushed it into the coffin with their fists. No wax tapers or lights were used, and no priests or any other persons attended to his body.”
Pope Alexander VI’s indiscretions positioned the Catholic Church for the Reformation.