Pope Alexander VI

Pope Alexander VIPope Alexander VI was the 214th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He ruled for just over 11 years and a total of more than 4,000 days. This article will look at some of the controversies surrounding Alexander VI and his life before becoming pope.

Early Life

Born Roderic de Borja, Pope Alexander VI grew up in the small town of Xatavia, which is now part of Spain. When his maternal uncle became Pope Callixtus III, Roderic adopted the name, Rodrigo Borja. After studying law at the University of Bologna and earning a degree, he became the Cardinal Deacon of a local church. Rodrigo spent many years serving the Church in different roles and had experience working with five popes before he became pope.


Papal Election

Leading up to the death of Innocent VIII, the Church had more than 20 names chosen for the next pope, including 10 directly related to the pope. Rumors say that Rodrigo purchased some of the votes, but other records show that he was a popular choice. Some records show he bought votes as did other men at the time. He was elected pope in 1492 and chose the name Alexander. Though he is officially Pope Alexander VI, he is only the fifth man to use that name due to the Catholic antipope.



Most of the controversies surrounding this pope relate to Inter caetera, a papal bull he issued in 1493. This bull granted King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella western and southern lands due to their support of the Church. The bull led to a massive war between France and Portugal. He also had a role in the Italian War of 1491 – 1498 as he sided with the French during their invasion of Naples. Alexander had a son named Cesare who some historians believe helped him poison a cardinal. Those who were with him when he passed away claimed that the pope was repentant of some of the decisions he made.


Quick Facts About Pope Alexander VI

  • He was born on January 1, 1431, in Xativa, which was in the Kingdom of Valencia and the Crown of Aragon.
  • Given the name Roderic de Borja at birth, he also used the name, Rodrigo Borja.
  • He died at the age of 72 on August 18, 1503, in Rome.
  • Alexander VI died of an illness that caused him to take to bed on August 12. He would remain in bed over the new few days and receive the Extreme Unction right before his death. Cesare sent men to raid the pope’s belongings. The Church also displayed the pope’s body to his followers the next day.
  • The papacy of Alexander VI began on August 11, 1492.
  • His papacy ended on August 18, 1503.
  • Pope Pius II succeeded Pope Alexander VI.


Interesting Facts About Pope Alexander VI

  • Alexander VI had multiple mistresses and affairs both before and after becoming pope. He met Vannozza dei Cattanei in 1470 and began a relationship with her that lasted for many years. They had at least four children together, all of whom he legitimized after becoming pope.
  • The Church allowed his children to live in the Papal Palace, though they split their time between Rome and their mother’s home.
  • There are at least four other children likely born to Pope Alexander VI, including Isabella who is a decedent of Pope Innocent X.
  • Alexander VI lived in the Borgias’ Apartments in the Papal Palace. The Church sealed his living quarters and kept them sealed until the 1800s. Future popes refused to live there because they believed he desecrated the space.
  • ”Assassin’s Creed: Lineage” uses Alexander VI as a character played by Manuel Tadros.