First Advisor

Susan Karant-Nunn

Term of Graduation

Winter 1996

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Pope Alexander VI (1431-1503)



Physical Description

1 online resource (195 pages)


The life of Pope Alexander VI has been the object of controversy for centuries. He has often been portrayed in terms of moral extremes. Those historians who have been critical of his methods and motives have depicted the Borgia pope as evil incarnate. For them, Alexander VI was the ultimate symbol of papal corruption. Those historians sympathetic with the church have claimed that Alexander was a slandered and misunderstood figure.

In reality, Alexander VI could most accurately be described as temporal prince so typical of the Renaissance. In many respects, he was no better or worse than any other pontiff of his age. Of all the so-called secular popes, Alexander VI has been singled out as a figure of exceptional immorality and corruptibility.

Unlike some orthodox Roman catholic authors determined to completely whitewash the pontificate Alexander VI and the Renaissance papacy, my aim is to engage in an impartial critique of the existing evidence. We will see that Alexander VI was a typical pope of the Renaissance, obsessed with temporal concerns, sometimes at the expense of his duties as head of the Roman catholic Church. He was also a man completely devoted to the advancement of his family, making sure that every member of the House of Borgia was achieved the highest level of power and influence. In spite of the justified charges of nepotism, many historians have repeated many of the false tales regarding Alexander's personal character. These will be shown to based on little more than unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo.


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