Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) was a Spaniard born in Játiva named Rodrigo de Borja or, in Italian, Rodrigo Borgia; successor of Innocent VIII. He took Borja as his surname from his mother’s brother Alfonso, who was Pope Calixtus III. Rodrigo became cardinal (1456), vice chancellor of the Roman Church (1457), and dean of the sacred college (1476). Cardinal Borgia had four illegitimate children by a Roman woman, Vannozza; among them were Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. Alexander was elected by a corrupt conclave. The foreign relations during his papacy were dominated by the increasing influence of France in Italy, which culminated in the invasion of Charles VIII in 1494. Alexander prevented Charles from taking the church property in Rome, but he turned over to the French the valuable Ottoman hostage Djem, brother of Sultan Beyazid II. Alexander’s son, Cesare Borgia, was the principal leader in papal affairs, and papal resources were spent lavishly in building up Cesare’s power. For his daughter Lucrezia, Alexander arranged suitable marriages. The favoritism shown his children and the lax moral tone of Renaissance Rome as well as the unscrupulous methods employed by Cesare and other papal officials have made Alexander’s name the symbol of the worldly irreligion of Renaissance popes. Girolamo Savonarola was an outspoken opponent and critic of Alexander. Recent studies tend to minimize the pope’s immorality and stress his solid achievements as a political strategist and church administrator. It was Alexander who proclaimed the line of demarcation that awarded part of the new discoveries in the world to Spain, part to Portugal. Alexander was a munificent patron of the arts. He was succeeded by Pius III.
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