Pope Alexander VI

detail of a portrait of Pope Alexander VI by Cristofano dell'Altissimo, late 16th century, Corridoio Vasariano, Florence, ItalyAlso known as

  • Alejandro VI
  • Alexandre VI
  • Roderic de Borja i Borja
  • Roderic Llançol
  • Rodrigo Borgia
  • Rodrigo de Borja


Studied law at Bologna, Italy. He was adopted into the family of his uncle, Pope Callistus III, in 1455, and assumed his last name of Borgia. Fathered four illegitimate children by a Roman woman, Vannozza; two of his children were Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. Created cardinaldeacon in 1456, cardinalbishop in 1476, and dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals. From 1457 he officiated very successfully as Vice-Chancellor of the Roman Church. Elected 214th pope by a corrupted conclave in 1492.

His election as pope met with general approval, and the attempts to attribute it to simony were never clearly proven. With great energy he labored to restore order in Rome and to stabilize its government. He was well versed in canon law, a patron of literature, science and the arts, a promoter of education, and the originator of missions to the New World. Proclaimed the line of demarcation that split the western hemisphere between Spain and Portugal.

Foreign relations during his reign were dominated by the increasing influence of France in Italy, including the invasion by King Charles VIII in 1494. Alexander prevented Charles from taking church property in Rome, but he turned over the valuable Ottoman hostage Djem, brother of Sultan Beyazid II. Gradually, by effective alliances with Milan, Venice, and Spain, Alexander recovered the territories of the Papal States which had fallen under the control of petty tyrants, and finally overcame the Roman barons who were the causes of perpetual disorder in and about the city.

Alexander took advantage of his success to promote the fortunes of his family, chiefly his own children. Cesare became the principal leader in papal affairs, and papal resources were spent building up his power; Alexander arranged suitable marriages for Lucrezia. The favouritism shown his children, the lax moral tone of Renaissance Rome, and the unscrupulous methods employed by Cesare and other papal officials have made Alexander’s name the symbol of the worldly irreligion of Renaissance popes; he is the most maligned of all popes, his enemies immediately attacked his memory, and historians bent on reviling the papacy have concentrated on him. History has gradually cleared him of some of the accusations, and while he may have used the power and prestige of the papacy for personal gain, he never did anything to alter or corrupt the faith itself.


Papal Ascension



Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Pope Alexander VI“. CatholicSaints.Info. 13 November 2019. Web. 5 December 2021. <>