Pope Alexander VI's crest


The Borgias were a group of talented men and women whose spectacular rise in Renaissance Italy aroused much envy and hatred among their contemporaries.


The Borgias were an Italian family with a Spanish origin. They were brilliant but also evil, ruthless and treacherous.

Rodrigo Borgia was born on Xafiva in Spain in 1431. Rodrigo's favourite son was Cesare, who was born in Italy in 1476. Cesare murdered his brother Juan. He was very vicious and short-tempered and he used his father's power in clever but evil dealings. In 1502 he stole art treasures worth 150 000 ducats ($1 875 000). Cesare was the captain-general of the church. He tried to establish a hereditary monarchy in central Italy. But he made too many enemies and his plans failed, after his father's death in 1503. Cesare was killed in battle in 1507.

Lucreza was the sister of Cesare. Her first marriage, at the age of 13, was to Giovanni Sforza, but it was annulled. She was then married to Alfonso of Aragon. This husband was murdered by Cesare. Her third and last marriage was to the Duke of Ferra.

In the Borgia family there were two popes. The first was Pope Callistus III and the second was Pope Alexander VI. Some enemies of the family were the Medicis, Sforzas, Savonarolas and rulers outside the Italian Peninsula.


Alfonso Borgia became Pope Callistus III in 1455. His nephew, Rodrigo, became Pope Alexander VI in 1492. Rodrigo chose to be called Alexander and became a cardinal at age 25.

Rodrigo was talented, generous, and a wise patron of the arts. He did much for the university and made improvements in Rome. Pope Alexander VI published a bull (a church decree or law) dividing the new world between Spain and Portugal. It promoted peace between them. The Pope proclaimed a year of jubilee. He imposed a tithe for crusades against the Turks.

In 1493 Pope Alexander VI appointed his son, Cesare, a cardinal. Machiavelli modelled his Ideal Statesman after Cesare Borgia. Leonardo da Vinci invented war machines for Cesare. Cesare pillaged the Dukedom of Urbino and took four large cartloads of art treasures which contained tapestries, silver and paintings from the ducal palace. He sold one cartload to help an expedition to the south.


The Borgias were patrons of the arts and they allowed the Renaissance to flourish. Their court attracted the most brilliant personalities.

Beautiful but wicked Lucreza Borgia

Lucreza and Cesare


1. Fusero, Clemete. The Borgias. New York, Praeger Publishers, 1966.

2. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History. New York, Simon and Schusters, 1946, pp. 218, 220, 222.

3. Hale, John R. Renaissance. New York, Time-Life Books, 1965, p. 85.

4. []. "Mad Dogs and Spaniards: An Interview with Cesare Borgia." World and Image, 1996.

5. Rath, John R. "Borgia." World Book Encyclopedia. 1994 edition. World Book Inc., 1917, pp. 499-500.

This page was prepared by Aline and Tiffany, Grade 8, Riverdale Junior Secondary School.