Borgia, (BAWR, jah) is the name of an Italian family, prominent in 1400’s and 1500’s. Originally from Spain, some of its members were known for their treachery. Alfonso Borgia became Pope Calixtus III in 1455. His nephew, Rodrigo Borgia, became Pope Alexander VI in 1492. Rodrigo was the father of a large family that included the notorious Cesare and Lucrezia.
Cesare, or Caesar, Borgia (1475?-1507) was the favorite son of Rodrigo. Cesare used his father’s power to help him in his clever but evil dealings. He tried to establish a hereditary monarchy in central Italy, but made so many enemies that his plans failed after his father’s death in 1503. Cesare spent two years in prison in Spain, then escaping to join the King of Navarre, but was killed in battle in 1507. Niccolo Machiavelli made him the subject of his book, The Prince.
Lucrezia, or Lucretia, Borgia (1480-1519), the sister of Cesare, noted for her great beauty and wickedness. Her first marriage annulled and her second husband murdered by Cesare. Later, she became the wife of Duke Alfonso of Ferrara, and her kindness and piety won admiration. She became a patron of learning and the arts.
These scant statements describe one of the most notorious families of the Catholic Church’s history. Before the power of the internet made historical information accessible to everyone, the contribution of this group makes up only in a few paragraphs in dusty tomes. These benefactors to the arts might have remained a mere mention, but so much more has survived outside of the historical record standing as a testament to their power; while their actions may have overshadowed the patronage of letters, sculptors, painters and architects, the new age of information has made them a vibrant subject once again. A new series on Showtime, or the youtube clip, will highlight some of the nefarious stories of this Renaissance family.