Pope Alexander VI  

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"The Love Council (1894) by Oskar Panizza is set in 1495, the first historically documented outbreak of syphilis and portrays the dreaded venereal disease as God’s vengeance on his sexually hyperactive human creatures, especially those surrounding Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia). The district attorney in Munich charged Panizza with 93 counts of blasphemy in violation of §166 of the Imperial Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code). Panizza served his full 12-month sentence at the prison in Amberg, where he was released in August 1896."--Sholem Stein

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Pope Alexander VI (January 1 1431August 18 1503) is the most controversial of the secular popes of the Renaissance. Member of the infamous Borgia family, his surname became a byword for the decadence of the papacy of that era, see Banquet of Chestnuts. However, it has been noted that the crimes of Rodrigo Borgia are similar in nature to those of other Renaissance princes, with the one exception being his position in the Church. As French historian Joseph de Maistre said in his work Du Pape, "The latter are forgiven nothing, because everything is expected from them, wherefore the vices lightly passed over in a Louis XIV become most offensive and scandalous in an Alexander VI."


Confiscations and Savonarola

Violent and vengeful, Alexander quickly became the most powerful man in Rome, and even his father quailed before him. Because Alexander needed funds to carry out his various schemes, he began a series of confiscations, of which one of the victims was his own secretary. The process was a simple one: any cardinal, nobleman or official who was known to be rich would be accused of some offence; imprisonment and perhaps murder followed at once, and then the confiscation of his property. The least opposition to the Borgia was punished with death.

Even in that corrupt age the debased state of the curia was a major scandal. Opponents such as the demagogic monk Girolamo Savonarola, who appealed for a general council to confront the papal abuses, launched invectives against papal corruption. Alexander VI, unable to get the excommunicated Savonarola into his own hands, browbeat the Florentine government into condemning the reformer to death (May 23 1498).

Representations in popular culture


Frederick Rolfe wrote Chronicles of the House of Borgia. This was a revisionist account, in which he argued that the Borgia family was unjustly maligned and that the accounts of poisoning were a myth.

Alexander VI and his family are the subjects of Mario Puzo's final novel The Family, as well as Robert Rankin's humorous and fictionalized novel The Antipope.

The Borgia Bride (2005) is a historic fiction by Jeanne Kalogridis, told from the perspective of Dona Sancha, married to the Pope's youngest son Jofre.

In March 2005, Heavy Metal published the first of a three part graphic novel biography of Alexander VI entitled "Borgia", written by Alexandro Jodorowsky with art by Milo Manara. The story focuses mostly on the sexual indiscretions and acts of violent backstabbery carried out by the corrupt papal figure. The second part was released in May 2006.

Gregory Maguire makes strong references to Alexander VI and specifically his daughter in the 2003 novel, Mirror, Mirror.

Spanish author, Javier Sierra writes of Pope Alexander VI in his novel, "The Secret Supper".


Barnabe Barnes' 1606 play "The Devil's Charter", performed at the Globe by the King's Men, dramatizes the life of Pope Alexander VI and his daughter Lucretia Borgia. In Barnes' play Alexander sells his soul to the devil in exchange for the papacy. Lucretia binds, gags, and stabs her husband onstage and later dies poisoned by her own cosmetics.


Alexander is played by Lluís Homar in the 2006 Spanish film, Los Borgia.


The papacy of Alexander VI was dramatized in the 1981 BBC series The Borgias, starring the veteran Italian actor Adolfo Celi as Pope Alexander.

The Canadian sketch comedy History Bites parodied Pope Alexander VI by portraying him and his family as the Osbournes.


The British occultist Aleister Crowley considered Alexander VI to be one of his previous incarnations.<ref>Crowley, Aleister. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, ch. 86.</ref>

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pope Alexander VI" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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