Thursday, June 30, 2011
Pope Alexander VI (1431 – 1503)
The reward for “Baddest Pope Ever” arguably goes to Rodrigo Borgia, who enjoyed the benefits of having an uncle who just happened to be Pope Calixtus III. Thanks to his convenient social status, Borgia passed through the ranks of bishop, cardinal, and vice-chancellor, gaining enormous wealth along the way. In 1492, he was actually able to buy his way into the papacy, defeating two other opponents by means of bribery.
Alexander was so corrupt that his surname eventually became a byword representing the hellishly low papal standards of the time. He sired at least seven different illegitimate children by his mistresses, and didn’t hesitate to reward them with handsome endowments at the church’s expense. When low on finances, he either established new cardinals in return for payments, or he slammed wealthy people with completely fabricated charges, jailed or murdered them for said false charges, and then stole their money.
Not surprisingly, there is very little about Alexander VI that can be considered godly or even lawful. His goals were selfish and ambitious, and the orderly government he initially administered quickly deteriorated until the city of Rome was in a state of complete disrepair. The words spoken by Giovanni de Medici (the future Pope Leo X) after Borgia’s election are telling:
“Now we are in the power of a wolf, the most rapacious perhaps that this world has ever seen. And if we do not flee, he will inevitably devour us all.”