17 August 2016

Cesare Borgia – condottiero

Renaissance prince turned his back on the Church

Altobello Melone's portrait of Cesare Borgia
Altobello Melone's portrait of Cesare Borgia
Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, became the first person in history to resign as a Cardinal on this day in 1498 in Rome.

Cesare was originally intended for the Church and had been made a Cardinal at the age of 18 after his father’s election to the Papacy. After the assassination of his brother, Giovanni, who was captain general of the Pope’s military forces, Cesare made an abrupt career change and was put in charge of the Papal States.

His fight to gain power was later the inspiration for Machiavelli’s book The Prince.

Cesare was made Duke of Valentinois by King Louis XII of France and after Louis invaded Italy in 1499, Cesare accompanied him when he entered Milan.

He reinforced his alliance with France by marrying Charlotte d’Albret, the sister of John III of Navarre.

Pope Alexander encouraged Cesare to carve out a state of his own in northern Italy and deposed all his vicars in the Romagna and Marche regions.

Cesare was made condottiero - military leader - in command of the papal army and sent to capture Imola and Forli.

He returned to Rome in triumph and received the title Papal Gonfalonier from his father.

Niccolò Machiavelli
He subsequently took over Pesaro, Faenza and Rimini and laid siege to Piombino, later commanding French troops in the sieges of Naples and Capua, causing the collapse of Aragonese power in southern Italy.

Cesare was planning the conquest of Tuscany when he received news of his father’s death in 1503.

Machiavelli later wrote that had Cesare been able to win the support of Pope Julius II his success would have continued, but the new Pope went back on his promises.

Cesare was betrayed in Naples and imprisoned and his land was retaken by the Papacy.

He was transferred to Spain where his imprisonment continued in various castles. Eventually he escaped and tried to recapture his lands but he was ambushed by his enemies and received a fatal wound from a spear.

Cesare was originally buried inside the Church of Santa Maria in Viana in northern Spain but his bones were later expelled and buried under the street outside. He was dug up twice by historians and then reburied. After years of petitions being turned down because he had resigned as a Cardinal, he was finally moved back inside the church in 2007,  some 500 years after his death.

Travel tip:

Cesare Borgia was born in Rome and studied law at an educational institution, the Studium Urbis, which has now become the Sapienza University of Rome. It was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII as a centre for ecclesiastical studies and expanded in the 15th century to include schools of Law, Medicine, Philosophy and Theology.  It moved from being the papal university to the university of the city of Rome in 1870.  The main campus is situated just north of Termini Station.

Piazza Aurelio Saffi in Forlì.
Travel tip:

At the height of his power, Cesare Borgia controlled the Papal States, now part of the region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy. Faenza, Forlì and Rimini are among the historic cities he conquered. The area is one of the wealthiest in Italy, containing Romanesque and Renaissance cities.  It is a centre of production in the food and automobile industries, home to top-end car manufacturers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.


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