The Poisoned Image of the Borgias: A Look at the Public Image of Pope Alexander VI and His Children

The Poisoned Image of the Borgias: A Look at the Public Image of  Pope Alexander VI and His Children

Rachel A. Brochstein

The Corinthian,  The Journal of Student Research at GCSU, Volume 11 • Spring (2010)


The name Borgia immediately harkens images of death, intrigue, poison, and Renaissance papacy fame. The Borgia family has long held the image of a devious family which would stop at nothing, and would be stopped by no one, in their quest for domination of Italy in the late fifteenth century. Despite Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia’s rather racy past, he became Pope Alexander VI and became infamous due to his political agenda and the use and acceptance of his illegitimate children during his time as the pope. Alexander’s infamy grew after his death as multitudes have written about the man, his mythical contract with the devil, his notorious children, his greed, his ruthlessness, and, above all, his effect on the papacy.

Famous plays, operas, movies, and television shows have all been written and based on the lives of this family during Alexander’s reign as the pope. While the majority of historical literature and entertainment portrays Pope Alexander VI and his children as evil, satanic monsters of the Renaissance, this image of the family is more for the purpose of shock value, pushing an agenda, or public interest than necessarily factual. The representation of the Borgias in modern and past film, literature, and theater is that of entertainment for the masses and an easy example of evil in the Church for Protestant and anti-Borgia writers.

Click here to read this article from The Corinthian

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