House of Borgia

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Were the Borgias Really so Bad?

The Borja family from Valencia (the Italian spelling is “Borgia”) have been a constant source of fascination since the 15th century because of the unusual power they came to wield in Italy and Valencia thanks to the ecclesiastical career. They caused much ink to flow in the field of legend all over Europe – mainly in Italy but also in Germany, Great Britain, France and, of course, Valencia – and were ultimately accused of every vice. They also provided a major theme for literature and films.

The Borja family are an unusual case: in the 15th and 16th centuries they reached the highest echelons of ecclesiastical and political power in Italy. They consisted basically of two popes, who were uncle and nephew, and the nephew’s children. The Borjas acted as a veritable clan and, owing to their power and wealth, were seen as depraved, lawless and incestuous, but also enterprising, dynamic, unhypocritical, and defenders of the church heritage. Their power aroused fear, envy and hatred, and these feelings gave rise to the so-called “Black Legend”, which encompassed the whole family and has endured to our own times.

Pope Callixtus III (1378-1458)

Pope Alexander VI (1431-1503)

Cesare Borgia (1475-1507)

Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519)
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