Portrait of Pope Alexander VI (Latin: Alexander VI, Pontifex Romanus), Bishop of Rome (1492-1503); Rodrigo de Borja (1431 -1503), Cardinal (1456-1492), Administrator of Valencia (1458-1492), vice-chancellor of the Catholic Church (1457-1492)
Pope Alexander VI, born Rodrigo de Borja (Italian: Papa Alessandro VI, Rodrigo Borgia; Spanish: Alejandro VI, Rodrigo Lanzol y de Borja; 1 January 1431 – 18 August 1503), was Pope from 11 August 1492 until his death in 1503. Born into the prominent Borgia family in Xàtiva in the Crown of Aragon (Spain), Rodrigo studied law at the University of Bologna. He was ordained deacon and made a cardinal in 1456 after the election of his uncle as Pope Callistus III, and a year later he became vice-chancellor of the Catholic Church. He proceeded to serve in the Curia under the next four popes, acquiring significant influence and wealth in the process. In 1492, Rodrigo was elected Pope, taking the name Alexander VI. Alexander's bulls of 1493 confirmed or reconfirmed the rights of the Spanish crown in the New World following the finds of Christopher Columbus in 1492. During the second Italian war, Alexander VI supported his son Cesare Borgia as a condottiero for the French King. The scope of his foreign policy was to gain the most advantageous terms for his family. Alexander is considered one of the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, partly because he acknowledged fathering several children by his mistresses. As a result, his Italianized Valencian surname, Borgia, became a byword for libertinism and nepotism, which are traditionally considered as characterizing his pontificate. On the other hand, two of Alexander's successors, Sixtus V and Urban VIII, described him as one of the most outstanding popes since Saint Peter. Rodrigo de Borja was born on 1 January 1431, in the town of Xativa near Valencia, one of the component realms of the Crown of Aragon, in what is now Spain. He was named for his paternal grandfather, Rodrigo Gil de Borja y Fennolet. His parents were Jofré Llançol i Escrivà (died bef. 24 March 1437) and his Aragonese wife and distant cousin Isabel de Borja y Cavanilles (died 19 October 1468), daughter of Juan Domingo de Borja y Doncel. He had an older brother, Pedro. His family name is written Llançol in Valencian and Lanzol in Castillian. Rodrigo adopted his mother's family name of Borja in 1455 following the elevation to the papacy of maternal uncle Alonso de Borja (Italianized to Alfonso Borgia) as Calixtus III. His cousin and Calixtus's nephew Luis de Milà y de Borja became a cardinal. Rodrigo Borgia studied law at Bologna where he graduated, not simply as Doctor of Law, but as "the most eminent and judicious jurisprudent". After the election of his uncle as Pope Callixtus III, he was ordained deacon and created Cardinal-Deacon of San Nicola in Carcere at the age of twenty-five in 1456. The following year, he was appointed vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church. Both nepotistic appointments were characteristic of the age. Each pope during this period inevitably found himself surrounded by the servants and retainers of his predecessors who often owed their loyalty to the family of the pontiff who had appointed them. In 1468, he was ordained to the priesthood and, in 1471; he was consecrated bishop and appointed Cardinal-Bishop of Albano. Having served in the Roman Curia under five popes – his uncle Calixtus III, Pius II, Paul II, Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII – Rodrigo Borgia acquired considerable administrative experience, influence and wealth.
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