ACCORDING to the majority of authors, Pope Alexander VI. had neither the virtues which befit the Supreme Pontificate of Christendom, nor those of any ordinary man. His name appears synonymous with simony, treachery, cruelty, lust, avarice, and sacrilege. Other memories, long contemned and even accursed, have been rehabilitated; but that of Alexander VI. remains, to most men, foul and detestable. Are we, therefore, to take for granted all that has been alleged against this Pontiff? Even Roscoe contends that “whatever have been his crimes, there can be no doubt but they have been highly overcharged. . . . The vices of Alexander were accompanied, although not compensated, by many great qualities which, in the consideration of his character, ought not to be passed over in silence. Nor, if this were not the fact, would it be possible to account for the peculiar good fortune which attended him to the latest period of his life; or for the singular circumstance recorded of 2 him; that during the whole term of his pontificate no popular tumult ever endangered his authority or disturbed his repose?”
To Burkhard, master of ceremonies in the court of Alexander VI., we are indebted for most of the information which blackens the character of the Pontiff. But, granting that we possess the authentic work of Burkhard, which is very uncertain,1 of what weight is his authority? A master of ceremonies in a royal court does not fill a position which would of itself imply a possession of accurate knowledge of the court’s secrets. He may, at times, come into some 3 kind of contact with great personages. His master, with that shadow of intimacy often affected with a superior servant, may condescend, now and then, to display good-humor in his presence. A foreign ambassador, during the intervals of a tedious levee, may deign to gossip with him about unimportant matters. He may even be a great dignitary in the eyes of the lackeys on the staircase, or in the estimation of the dawdlers in the antechamber, and thus he may pick up a deal of tavern statecraft. His authority may be overwhelming when he decides on the proper color of a ribband, or even in a question of precedency. But his “Diary” can scarcely be regarded as testimony concerning the secrets of the court.4
Gregorovius,2 the latest Protestant historian to attack the memory of Alexander VI., has the assurance to say that the “Diary” of Burkhard “is, with the exception of the journal of Infessura, which ends at the commencement of 1494, the only work concerning the court of Alexander composed at Rome; and it has even an official (!) character. . . . He never repeats mere rumors.” The “Diary” is before us, and there is scarcely a page where we do not read: “If I remember aright (si recte memini);” or “If the truth has been told me (si vera sunt mihi relata);” or “It is said (fertur).” Gregorovius opines that the apologists of the Holy See would feel less contempt for Burkhard if they would consult the “Relations” of the Venetian ambassadors to their government.3 He presents the “Relation” of Polo Capello (ambassador at Rome from April, 1499, to September, 1500) as manifesting “the intrigues of the court of Alexander VI., the long series of crimes perpetrated therein, its exactions, the traffic in 5 cardinals’ hats, etc.”4 But, setting aside the numerous inexactnesses of this “Relation” of Capello, and not a few gross errors,5 we must regard it as of little value in the premises; since it was written, not by Capello, but by the Senator Marino Sanuto,6 who, while often furnishing us valuable historical documents, causes one to smile at his frequent credulity, and to hesitate to accept him as an authority.7
After Burkhard, the great historian Guicciardini is the chief source of the accusations against Alexander VI.; Guicciardini, of whom 6 even the archsceptic Bayle says that “he merits hatred” because of his partiality, — “a fault of gazetteers,” but one “inexcusable in a historian;” whom even Voltaire regards as mendacious; and whose own conscience caused him, when asked on his death-bed what disposition should be made of his “History,” then still in manuscript, to reply: “Burn it.” Cantù says of this author: “He regards the success, not the justice, of a cause. . . . He not only examines and judges the Pontiffs as he does other rulers, but he always finds them in the wrong.”8 Capefigue9 regards Guicciardini as “an impassioned colorist,” who ever “breathes hatred of the Pope, the French, the Milanese, and Sforza. Florence, a city of 7 pleasure, of libels, and of dissipation, loved the licentious tales of Boccaccio, the policy of Machiavelli, and the stories of poison and treason unfolded in the books of Guicciardini.” This historian was devoted to the Colonna and the Orsini families, and was also a partisan of Savonarola; quite naturally therefore, he was a foe to the Borgias. Add to this that his hatred served his interests; for by exercising it he pleased the Florentines, the Venetians, and all who were then in opposition to the court of Rome.
The authority of Paul Jovius, Bishop of Nocera,, is of much less value than that of Guicciardini; for, being most venal, he is always either panegyrizing or calumniating. One day he was reproved for having narrated falsely, and he rejoined; “No matter; three hundred years hence it will be true.”10 Cantù styles Jovius the “lying gazetteer of that epoch.”11 Audin says that no historian ever “cared so little for his reputation as Paul Jovius. He represents himself as languishing with inertness, because no one comes to purchase him.”12 Jerome Muzio 8 asserted that Jovius showed diligence “only in obtaining the favors of the great, and he who gave the most was the principal hero of his works.”13 Vossius says that “for money Jovius would furnish posterity with a good character for any child of earth, but that he would calumniate all who did not pay for his services.”14
Very little need be said of Tomaso Tomasi, another of the sources used by the defamers of Alexander VI. In his “Life” of Cæsar Borgia he had two objects in view: one was the favor of a princess of the Rovere family, which favor he thought to secure by decrying the Pontiff whom the Cardinal of St. Peter’s ad Vincula, her brother, had antagonized; the other was to exhibit in Cæsar a type of monstrosity which would exceed the efforts of the most rampant imagination. Even Gordon, to whom Roscoe attributes the reduction of history to below the level of romance, distrusts the authority of Tomasi.
As for the manuscript notices upon which many modern authors rely, they are of little or no value. Very few of them bear the names of their authors, and, therefore, they are unguaranteed. Most of them are diatribes, 9 not narratives. They are positive where matters are at least doubtful, and they carefully avoid everything creditable to our Pontiff. Many of them are needlessly prodigal with their venom. Casting aside therefore, all such alleged authorities, and recurring only to facts and acts, we find that Alexander VI., had many virtues of a Pope and a sovereign; that, especially as king, he was more than ordinarily active and prudent, and nearly always successful in his enterprises; that his people loved him, and his reign was profoundly tranquil. One great fault he had, and perhaps this one was the source of all the others: he was passionately attached to the children — four sons and a daughter — who are generally supposed to have been born to him, but before he received Holy Orders;15 and to aggrandize his family he made too much use of 10 his son Cæsar; and thus, in the eyes of posterity, he has shared the odium of that son’s crimes.
Roderick Llançol was born on January 1, 1431, at Xativa, in the diocese of Valencia, in Spain. When his maternal uncle, Alfonso Borgia, was elevated to the papacy under the name of Calixtus III. in 1455, the Llançol family assumed the name and arms of the Borgias, and only as such are they known in history. The young Roderick was noted for talent, and his first choice of profession was the bar, but he soon entered on the career of arms. Called to Rome by his uncle, and having evinced great aptitude for the business of a court, Roderick accepted offers of preferment, and was made successively commendatory Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal-Deacon, and Vice-Chancellor of the Roman Church. At this period, at least, his conduct 11 must have been exemplary; for a contemporary writes that his fellow cardinals were “much pleased to have in their midst one who surpassed all in an abundance of gifts.”16 And Duboulai, who says that “if the memory of Borgia had perished we would not know how corrupt a man can be,” admits that during his long cardinalate of thirty-five years Roderick never gave any public scandal.17 The rigid Sixtus IV. (1471-84) appointed him legate in Spain and Portugal; and the Cardinal of Pavia, a man of recognized sanctity, wrote to him during this legation: “I advise you to return . . . your influence here is sovereign . . . by your persuasion and wise opposition you can render great service to the Holy See.” This same Cardinal of Pavia slightly blamed Roderick for his ambition and a love of pomp, but he predicted that he would become Pope.18
The manners of Borgia were grand and fascinating,19 and even Guicciardini credits him with rare powers of penetration, great 12 tact and diplomatic talent. Raphael and James of Volterra, and Peter Martyr of Anghiera,20 waste no praise on Roderick, but they find in him vast genius and profundity of thought. Egidius of Viterbo admires his eloquence as natural and irresistible, his activity as indefatigable, and his sobriety as exemplary.21 Tomasi declares that whoever observed the Cardinal could see that his genius marked him for empire. In 1476, having been appointed Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, Roderick received Holy Orders.
And here we must observe that if the reader has imagined that the offspring born to Roderick before this date (and there was none after it) was necessarily sacrilegious, he has been deceived by the title of cardinal, which the Pope now confers, in accordance with the present discipline of the Church, only upon persons in at least deacon’s Orders. At the time of which we are treating the cardinalitial scarlet did not always presuppose sacred Orders; Mazarin and many other cardinals never received them. Nor did Roderick’s archiepiscopate of Valencia, conferred on him 13 in his youth, entail upon him the necessity of taking Orders. His prelacy was merely “commendatory,” — that is, according to a detestable custom of the day, he enjoyed the emoluments of the benefice.22
After the obsequies of Pope Innocent VIII. twenty-three cardinals entered into conclave, and after five days of deliberation raised Roderick Borgia to the Chair of Peter, on August 11, 1492. As the foes of Borgia have tried to fasten the stigma of simony on this conclave, it is well to note its members. The cardinal-bishops were: Roderick Borgia, then bishop of Porto; Oliver Caraffa, Archbishop of Naples, whom even Roscoe styles a man of great integrity; Julian della Rovere, the future “Moses of Italy,” as Julius II.; Baptist Zeno, Bishop of Tusculum, whose piety and independence, according to Ciacconius, was remarkable; John Michiele, Bishop of Palestrina and Verona, who, says 14 the Cardinal of Pavia, was learned, pious, and the friend of the poor; George d’Acosta, Archbishop of Lisbon, and therefore by national rivalry, a political enemy of Borgia. The cardinal-priests, were: John dei Conti, venerated by all Rome;23 Paul Fregoso, Archbishop of Genoa, and thrice doge; Lawrence Cibo and Anthony Pallavicini, Genoese; Scalefetano, Bishop of Parma; Ardicino della Porta, whose virtues even Infessura praises; Gherardo, Patriarch of Venice, — a holy Camaldolese monk, who died at Terni on his way home, but whom Infessura represents as having sold his vote to Borgia for five thousand ducats, and as therefore deprived, on his return to Venice, of all his benefices. The cardinal-deacons were: Francis Piccolomini, afterward Pope Pius III., lauded by Roscoe; Raphael Riario, leader of the Rovere party; Ascanio Sforza, brother of the Moro, Duke of Milan, and excessively praised by Paul Jovius; Frederick da San Severino; Colonna; Orsini; Savelli, and John dei Medici, afterward Pope Leo X.
The new Pontiff assumed the name of Alexander VI., — a name famous, thought Roscoe, as “a scourge of Christendom, and the opprobrium of the human race.” Probably no new 15 Pontiff ever received so much flattery as that accorded to Alexander VI., at his coronation; probably such wonderful deeds were never expected from any Pope as those princes and peoples awaited from him. The orators of the Italian States all vied in their congratulations with Tigrini of Lucca, who said that Christendom had a guarantee of its hopes in the Pontiff’s many virtues and profound learning; and Nardi, a famous Florentine historian, wrote shortly afterward that everywhere it was thought “that God had chosen this prince as His peculiar instrument to effect something wonderful in His Church, so great were the expectations universally conceived.” And yet Roscoe asserts that “when the intelligence of this event was dispersed through Italy, where the character of Roderick Borgia was well known, a general dissatisfaction took place.”
We can not enter into the details of this eventful pontificate, but we shall touch briefly on the reputed simoniacal nature of Roderick’s election, and on the charge that he met his death by poison — his own weapon turned by Providence against himself. Rinaldi, the continuator of Baronio, is chiefly responsible for the opinion prevalent, until very recent times, concerning the purity of the conclave of 1492. If, instead of blindly relying on 16 Infessura and his copyist Mariana, this annalist had consulted contemporary testimony less suspicious than that of Infessura, he would have been less severe toward this conclave. Michael Fernus, whom Gregorovius calls “by no means a fanatical Papist,” says that “in electing this Pontiff the cardinals showed that they had realized the appropriateness of the advice given them by Leonetti” in his funeral sermon on Innocent VIII.24 It was Borgia’s merit, therefore, and not simoniacal practices, that procured, thought Fernus, his elevation.
Sigismund dei Conti di Foligno tells us that “the qualities of Cardinal Roderick caused his brethren to esteem him as worthy of the Supreme Pontificate.” Hartmann Schedel, author of the “Nuremberg Chronicle,” published in 1493, ascribes the election of Roderick to his “learning, excellent conduct, and great 17 piety.” Porcius, a contemporary Auditor of the Rota, says: “He was unanimously elected, unanimously confirmed. Concerning this election I shall say only this: its principal authors were those same cardinals who had hitherto resisted all of Roderick’s undertakings, both public and private.”25 Some of these cardinals were devoted to Julian della Rovere, Roderick’s competitor in the conclave; others were on the brink of the grave; but, with the exception of five — who, according to Burkhard, had declared that “votes should not be purchased,” — none denounced the alleged simony. And even these five voted for Borgia. But Infessura tells us that “it is said” that, in order to secure votes of Ascanio Sforza and his friends, Roderick sent, during the conclave, four mules, laden with treasure to Sforza’s palace. It is strange, remarks Clement, that the indiscretion which revealed this transaction did not betray it to the brigands who were, just then, in possession of the streets of Rome. But Manfredo Manfredi, ambassador of Ferrara to the court of Florence, writes to the Duchess Eleonora that it can not be supposed that Cardinals Colonna, Savelli, and Orsini, would have voted for 18 Borgia unless seduced by money; and Manfredi supports his charge by detailing the benefices given to these cardinals by Alexander the very moment of his enthronization. Well, where is the indication of simony in these appointments? The positions were necessarily to be filled. The chancery, the abbey of Subiaco, given respectively to Sforza and Colonna, had lost, the first its titular, the second its commendatory; and we do not hear that the other benefices and fiefs were not vacant. Before dismissing this charge of simony we must allude to a discovery made by some Protestant polemics, and lately revived by a ministerial ranter of some notoriety, to the effect that since the death of Innocent VIII. there have been no legitimate Popes, even according to Roman principles. A papal decree nullifies any election procured by simony; therefore, all appointments of cardinals made by a simoniacal Pope are null; therefore, there has been no legitimate conclave since Alexander’s delinquency. A mare’s-nest indeed; for the adduced decree was issued by Julius II. on January 19, 1505, thirteen years after Alexander’s alleged simony.
It has been asserted that both Alexander VI. and Cæsar Borgia were poisoned, the former fatally; that, through either error or treachery, 19 they partook of a deadly drug, which they had prepared for certain cardinals, who were hostile to their projects. Ranke, whom it is the fashion to praise as a wise investigator, gives credence to this fable; Roscoe rejects it. Now, in the Ducal Library of Ferrara there is a manuscript history by Sardi, a contemporary of Guicciardini and Paul Jovius, wherein the author speaks of ten letters written by their agents to Duke Hercules of Ferrara and the Cardinal d’Este, in which it is shown that our Pontiff died of tertian fever, then rampant in Rome. “Attacked by this fever on August 10 , he was relieved neither by bleeding nor by use of manna, and he expired on the night we mentioned [August 18]. After death the body became swollen and blackened, owing to the putrefaction of the blood; and hence there originated, among such as knew not the cause of these appearances, a rumor that the Pope had been poisoned.”
In a manuscript “Diary” of Burkhard, preserved in the Corsini Library, may be read the following: “On Saturday, August 12, 1503, the Pope fell ill; and in the evening, about the twenty-first or twenty-second hour, there came a fever which continually remained. On Tuesday, August 15, thirteen 20 ounces of blood were drawn from him, and there supervened a tertian fever. On Thursday, August 17, at the twelfth hour, he took some medicine; and on Friday, August 18, he confessed to the Lord Peter, Bishop of Culm, who then celebrated Mass in his presence, and after his own Communion gave the Holy Eucharist to the Pope, who sat up in bed. There were present five cardinals. . . . At the vesper hour, having received Extreme Unction from the Bishop of Culm, he expired.”
And, strange to say, Voltaire is very firm in ascribing Alexander’s death to natural causes. Speaking of the report of poison,26 the cynic says: “All the enemies of the Holy See have believed this horrible tale; I do not, and my chief reason is that it is not at all probable. The Pope and his son may have been wicked, but they were not fools. It is certain that the poisoning of a dozen cardinals would have rendered father and son so execrable that nothing could have saved them from the fury of the Romans and all Italy. The crime, too, was directly contrary to the views of Cæsar. The Pope was on the verge of the grave, and Borgia could cause the election of 21 one of his own creatures; would he gain the Sacred College by murdering a dozen of its members?”
Again, contends Voltaire — on whom, for rarity’s sake, it is a pleasure to rely; — if after Alexander’s death the cause of the catastrophe had transpired, surely it would have been learned by those whom he had tried to murder. Would they have allowed Cæsar to enter peaceably into possession of his father’s wealth? And how could Cæsar almost dying, according to the story, go to the Vatican to secure the hundred thousand ducats? They say that Cæsar, after the accident, shut himself in the stomach of a mule; for what poison is that a remedy? Finally, Pope Julius II., an unrelenting foe of the Borgias, held Cæsar in his power for a long time, and he never charged him with the supposed crime. Well, therefore, did Voltaire exclaim: “I dare to say to Guicciardini: Europe has been deceived by you, as you were deceived by your passion. You were an enemy of the Pope, and you believed your hatred too readily.”
And now a word on Alexander VI. as Pontiff. The assassination of the Duke of Gandia (1497) produced a profoundly religious impression on his mind; he even thought of abdicating the Pontificate in order to conciliate 22 the divine mercy. Deterred by Ferdinand the Catholic, he resolved to become a more worthy Pope, and as a first step he began to correct many abuses which had crept into the ecclesiastical administration. Among the abuses brought to light by an apposite commission was a systematic series of forgeries, or rather of supposititious issue of dispensations, in which rascality the chief offender was found to have been the Archbishop of Cosenza, Bartholomew Florida, Secretary of Briefs.27 Much good was effected by this commission, as Paul III. afterward indicated. Upon one point the zeal of Alexander was worthy of his position. As a defender of the faith he was never remiss. One of his first efforts was for the pacification of Bohemia, then ravaged by the Hussites; and it was owing to the kindness which he substituted for the harshness of his predecessors that soon the scourge vanished.
In 1501, Alexander issued his Bull, “Inter Multiplices,” against the printing and reading of bad books. One of the most important Bulls issued by this Pontiff was the “Inter Caetera” in 1493, whereby he drew a line of demarcation, which was to form, from pole to 23 pole, the limit of the Spanish and Portuguese possessions in the lately discovered New World. It required no small amount of daring to proclaim, as he thereby equivalently did, the rotundity of the earth, — a truth, which then, and for centuries afterwards, no scientific academy would have unhesitatingly patronized. The enemies of the Holy See have affected to regard this partition as a crime; indeed, Marmontel termed it “the greatest of all the crimes of Borgia.” But Alexander simply exercised that right of arbitration which at that time all Christendom admitted as resident in the incumbent of the papal throne.28
1 Until 1696, the “Diary” was known only by a fragment given by Godefroy, in his “History of Charles VIII.,” published in 1684; and by some vague citations of Rinaldi in his continuation of Baronio. But in 1696 Leibnitz published at Hanover a quarto volume, entitled: “A Specimen of Secret History; or, Anecdotes of the Life of Alexander VI.; Extracts from the Diary of John Burkhard.” In his preface Leibnitz regrets that he could not find the text of Burkhard; but a few years afterward he thought that he had found the true text in a MS. given him by Lacroze, and would have published it had not death intervened. Eccard published the “Diary” at Leipsic in 1732, in his “Writers of the Middle Age,” following a Berlin MS., which may have been the one handed by Lacroze to Leibnitz. According to Eccard’s own admission, this MS. was very defective, and the editor had frequent recourse to the extract of Leibnitz that order might be established. In Leibnitz there are articles which are wanting in Eccard, and toward the end the two become so dissimilar as to appear utterly different works. Eccard wished that some one would discover a good copy of the “Diary;” and finally Lacurne de Sainte-Palaye found in the library of Prince Chigi at Rome a MS. in five quarto volumes, which seemed to contain the entire work, — beginning December 1, 1483 (the date of Burkhard’s appointment as master of ceremonies), and ending May 31, 1506, a year after his death, — which fact demonstrates that the diarist had a continuator. In our day a third editor has appeared. Achille Gennarelli (Florence, 1885,) has thought to produce the true text by uniting the dubious ones of Leibnitz and Eccard, and some other MSS. He admits, and most ingeniously, that he has filled up hiatuses with quotations from Summonte, Infessura, etc., etc. It is the opinion of Abbé Clement (de Vebron) that all the weight of erudition displayed by Gennarelli does not add one particle more of authenticity to the “Diary.” See “Les Borgia,” Paris, 1882.
2 “Lucretia Borgia, according to Original Documents and Contemporary Correspondence,” 1876.
3 Pasquale Villari, an editor of these “Relations,” is not such an apologist, and yet he says: “Doubts have been raised as to the authenticity of the ‘Diary’ of Burkhard. New publications have lessened, but have not put an end to, these doubts.” See Villari’s “Dispatches of Giustiniani,” vol. i, in preface. Florence, 1876.
4 Loc. cit., vol. i, p. 326..
5 For instance, it gives to Alexander a brother named Louis del Mila, while no such brother, but a cousin — John del Mila, — existed. It narrates that Capello, before his departure from Rome on September 19, 1500, went to the Vatican to inform the Pontiff of the surrender of Rimini and Faenza; but Rimini did not fall until the end of October, while Faenza held out until the following April. It makes Sanseverino, instead of Ascanio Sforza, vice-chancellor of the Roman Church.
6 An old law of Venice had obliged her ambassadors, after their term of office, to deposit in the Venetian chancery a “Relation” of all they had learned; but toward the end of the fifteenth century this law was almost entirely ignored, and was enforced again only in 1538. Marino Sanuto, in his “Diaries” embracing the period from 1496 to 1533, filled the hiatuses.
7 The Venetian Senator Malipiero, in his “Chronicle,” tells us that Sanuto informed the Venetian Senate of the finding in the Tiber, in January, 1496, of a monstrosity having the head of an ass, a right arm like an elephant’s trunk, a left arm like that of a man, one foot like that of an ox, the other like that of a griffin, a woman’s bosom, and the lower part of the body like that of a dragon. The creature emitted fire from its mouth. The Abbé Clement thinks that these details came direct from Germany, where, in 1524, Luther published his caricature of the “Pope-Ass.” Rawdon Brown, in his “Information on the Life and Works of Marino Sanuto,” Venice, 1837, says that it would seem that such tales “were written for the Lutherans; but for historians, they failed in their object.” Nevertheless, says Clement, “certain candid minds believe the narrations of these pamphletary chroniclers; just as in Germany some persons, full of faith in Luther and his works, believe in the finding of the Pope-Ass in the Tiber. But one would suppose that Sanuto would not be so excessively credulous. Read the ‘Diaries’ now made public, and you will find the contrary.”
8 “Heretics of Italy,” Discourse IX. Turin, 1865.
9 “History of the Church during the Last Four Centuries.” Paris, 1855.
10 The Emperor Charles V. used to call Jovius and Sleidan “his two liars,” one of whom spoke too well of him, and the other too ill.
11 Loc. cit., Discourse XIII.
12 “Leo X.”
13 Tiraboschi, “Ital. Lit.,” vol. vii, p. 2.
14 “Art of History,” c. 9.
15 While yet following the profession of arms, according to most authorities, he fell in love with a girl whom some called Catharine, others Rose, but who is generally known as Vanozza. Tomasi says that Roderick “regarded her as a legitimate wife;” but if any espousals were effected — which seems probable from the fact of her being identified by Ribadeneira (“Life of F. Francis Borgia,” Madrid, 1605,) as a Princess Farnese, one of a family not likely to brook an insult even from a Borgia, — they were certainly kept secret. In 1880 Leonetti, a religious of the Pious Schools, published at Bologna an exhaustive work, highly commended by Leo VIII., contending that Cæsar, Lucretia, etc., were not children of Cardinal Roderick Borgia, but either of some Borgia especially loved by him, or of a brother who remained in Spain, or of a son of his brother, the Prefect of Rome. When their father had died, and Vanozza had remarried, these children were cared for by Roderick. The arguments of Leonetti seem to us irrefutable. Certainly, the only plausible contradiction he experienced — that of M. de l’Epinois, in the Revue des Etudes Historiques for April, 1881, — was triumphantly rebutted by the Canon J. Morel, in the Univers of July, 14, 1881. One thing, at any rate, is certain: no proof can be given that Vanozza ever appeared in Rome during Roderick’s career there, whether as Cardinal or as Pope.
16 “MS. Life of Roderick Borgia, under the name of Alexander VI.,” in the Casanatensian (Minerva) Library at Rome.
17 “Life of Alexander VI.”
18 Epis. 514, 670, 678, and in “Additions to Aldoin.”
19 Philip of Bergamo says that in him “there was a celestial appearance very becoming to his name and office.”
20 Not to be confounded with Peter Martyr (Vermiglio) of Lucca, the Augustinian apostate who lectured at Oxford, 1547-53.
21 This sobriety is admitted by Roscoe, loc. cit. See also Paris, “Diary,” at year 1506.
22 The acting beneficiary was supposed, of course, to be above reproach; the commendatory, especially in cases of royal patronage, was too often a scandal. The title of abbé, abbate, now given on the European Continent to all secular priests, was in those days adopted by a horde of perfumed gallants, who hung around the court in the enjoyment or expectancy of some abbacy “in commendam.” One must therefore be careful not to credit the priesthood with every curled darling of an abbé of whom he reads in works of that time.
23 Garimbertus, b. iv, ch. 3.
24 Leonetti, Bishop of Concordia, had thus counselled the Sacred College: “As yet we know not whom God calls to succeed Innocent VIII.; what man is destined to avert the dangers menacing us. . . . Elect a man whose past life is a guarantee; one who, according to the advice of St. Leo, has spent his days in the practice of virtue, and who merits the elevation because of his labors and the integrity of his morals; one without ambition, wise and holy; in a word, one worthy of being the Vicar of Jesus Christ.” If it was following this advice to elect Borgia, then the Borgia whom Fernus knew was not the acquaintance of Roscoe, Gregorovius, etc.
25 “Commentary of Jerome Porcius, Roman Patrician and Auditor of the Rota,” 1493.
26 “Complete Works,” vol. xx (“Hist. Miscel.,” vol. 1), p. 241; edit. Paris, 1818. — “Customs and Spirit of Nations,” ib. p. 445. — “Dissertation on the Death of Henry IV.”
27 Florida confessed his guilt, was deposed, degraded, and imprisoned for life, on a diet of bread and water, in Castle San Angelo.
28 Many authors illustrate their theory of Pope Alexander’s immorality by alleging the revolving orgy said to have been celebrated in honor of the prospective marriage of Lucretia with the duke of Ferrara — a banquet, etc., at which we are asked to fancy as participants the aged Pontiff, Cæsar, Lucretia, and fifty respectable (honestae) prostitutes. Gordon quotes from the true or false Burkhard as follows: “Dominica ultima mensis Octobris in sero fecerunt coenam cum duce Valentinensi in camera sua in palatio Apostolico, quinquaginta, meretrices honestae, cortegianae nuncupatae. . . . Papa, duce, et Lucretia sorore sua, praesentibus et aspicientibus.”. . . Truly these females were honestae beyond the wont of that ilk, and the favored servants were gems indeed, when all Rome did not ring, the next day, with the echoes of such bacchanalia. Excepting Burkhard, if indeed, he speaks in the cited quotation, not one contemporary, not one of those chroniclers who dilate so circumstantially on all the festivities given at the Vatican in honor of Lucretia’s espousals, says a word of what would have been a mine of wealth to a gossiper. And why such silence on the part of the Ferrarese envoys who were then residing in the Vatican, awaiting the convenience of Lucretia, to conduct her to their royal master as a bride? They wrote every day to their sovereign, and we have their dispatches. Why, again, silence on the part of the secret agent sent by the Marchioness of Mantua, sister of the future bridegroom, who kept his mistress informed as to the most trivial incidents of the papal court?