- Historical event:
- 11 August 1492
- The Papal election coincided with Christopher Columbus’s famous voyage from Spain to America. Pope Alexander VI gained a reputation for extravagance, but contemporary historians have noted that many of these accusations originated from the Pope’s political enemies.
One of the most well-known Popes in history, Alexander VI Borgia, was elected on this day in 1492.
The Pope remains a popular subject for historical fiction, as evidenced by the series “The Borgias”, produced by the Showtime television network. Pope Alexander VI was played by Jeremy Irons.
The election of Alexander VI was proclaimed at the Papal conclave in Rome, which was attended by 23 cardinals (4 were absent). An interesting coincidence was that the papal elections were held at exactly the same time as Christopher Columbus’s famous voyage from Spain to America.
Pope Alexander VI was born Rodrigo Llançol in the Spanish province of Valencia. The province has preserved its specific language, Valencian, to this day. Borgia inherited his surname from his mother, and it is written “Borja” in Spanish. His mother’s family became renowned after her brother Alfons de Borja was elected Pope and took the name Calixto III. Among other things, he was the pope who posthumously absolved St Joan of Arc of heresy charges. Calixto III proclaimed his sister’s son Rodrigo cardinal when the latter was only 25 years old. Interestingly, Rodrigo was ordained priest only much later, at age 40.
Rodrigo Borgia was elected Pope on this day, at 61 years of age. In the meantime he had sired 10 children, all before he was ordained. He made his son Cesare Borgia a cardinal the very next year after he was elected. Cesare was only 18 at the time. Rodrigo’s daughter Lucrezia was probably the most well-known among his children. She was married three times, each time to a powerful Italian prince: Giovanni Sforza, Alfonso of Aragon, and Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio. It is not widely known that St Francis Borgia, third Superior General of the Society of Jesus, was the grandson of Pope Alexander VI.
Pope Alexander VI gained a reputation for extravagance, but contemporary historians have noted that many of these accusations originated from the Pope’s political enemies. It seems that, at least from the point of view of the Catholic doctrine, there isn’t much the Pope can be accused of.