Exhibition Re-creates Controversial Era of Pope Alexander VI

Less Than Stellar Pontificate Had Its Positive Points Too

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ROME, OCT. 3, 2002 (Zenit.org).- An exhibition which opened here in the Palazzo Ruspoli re-creates the historical context of the 15th century in which lived Alexander VI, one of the most controversial popes.

This Pope and his family, the Borgias, personify the passage from the Gothic period to the Renaissance. The moral deficiencies and dissolute life of this Valencian Pontiff — he fathered several children — are framed in the context of the time. He lived from 1430 to 1503.

The exhibition «The Borgias: The Art of Power» shows that the Pontiff was not dedicated exclusively to his personal and family life. Rather, he also made great contributions in the religious and ecclesiastical realm, in politics and in patronage.

He is the Pope who called the Spanish sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabel the «Catholic» kings, and the promoter of the Jubilee of 1500. He also helped to embellish Rome at that time. His remains are in the Catalan Benedictine monastery of Montserrat.

«The Borgias: The Art of Power» displays luxury and power, in the context of the historical and religious universe of Europe at the time, in which temporal and religious powers were at times confused.

The exhibition, which opened today, follows a chronological order, presenting some of the better-known personalities of Alexander Borgia’s family, his famous son Caesar, and his daughter Lucrezia.

The show exhibits a total of 234 objects in nine sections, including weapons, jewelry, paintings, documents and sculptures.

The display begins with Valencia, the Borgias birthplace, and continues with the world of Alexander VI and the discovery of America. He was elected Pope in 1492, the same year Christopher Columbus discovered the New World.

The art and life of Rodrigo Borgia, the Pope’s baptismal name, is the theme of another section, which includes the case of Savonarola, the Florentine Dominican friar whose diocesan process of beatification is under way and who denounced Pope Borgia’s excesses.

The objects on display come from museums and private collections from the Vatican, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, France, England and Austria. There are some pieces from the Valencia Cathedral and the city’s Fine Arts Museum, as well as from the «Gonzalez Marti» National Ceramics Museum and the Royal College Seminary Habeas Christi.

One of the most prized objects of the display is the board that records the miracles of St. Vincent Ferrer, the Dominican who predicted that Alfonso Borgia, Alexander VI’s uncle, would be Pope. The older Borgia took the name Callistus III.

Many historians consider Rodrigo Borgia the worst Pope in history. However, Carla Alfano, the exhibition’s commissioner, described Pope Borgia as «a man of his time.» She also thinks that a «black legend» has been imposed on him, which has exaggerated his errors and denied his positive contributions.

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