How did the Borgias celebrate Christmas?

Well, like we do today, they began the Christmas month with advent, and if they were devout, which this cardinal family should have been (at least to a certain extent 😊), they spent the weeks up to the 24th in penitence, perhaps abstained from intercourse or fasted until Christmas Eve. From the ninth day before […]

Il Valentino ‘made by’ Francois Arnaud and Mark Ryder

All Borgia children were blessed with an exceptional physical attractiveness and we have it on more than one authority that Cesare, Rodrigo Borgia’s oldest son with Vannozza dei Catanei, was considered ‘the handsomest man in Italy’. Yet even today, we are still not sure if those handsome looks were truly ‘good looking’ (the notion of […]

Masks and Syphilis in Cesare Borgia’s Time

It’s almost Halloween; the time of the year when shops everywhere sell creepy outfits, dangling skeletons and scary masks. During the Italian Renaissance, masks were an everyday sight. Some were creepy such as the grim pest mask, but many were exceptionally beautiful handcrafted pieces of art. In 16th century Venice, balls and banquets were organized […]

Cesare Borgia, Prince of the Renaissance

On this day in 1475, one of Italy’s greatest Renaissance men, Cesare Borgia, was born in Subiaco. From a precocious little boy, he grew up to be extremely intelligent, physically strong, courageous and attractive. Some even said he was Italy’s most handsome man. Destined for the cloth, he became a cardinal at 17 but fate […]

‘Aut Caesar, Aut Nihil’

‘Aut Caesar, Aut Nihil’ which means ‘Either Emperor or Nothing’ is the resonant, powerful motto we immediately associate with Italian Renaissance Prince Cesare Borgia. The phrase most likely coined by Julius Caesar himself, indicates sky high ambition for power and fame and the desire to succeed at all cost. Cesare was however not the only […]

The vilified reputation of Cesare Borgia

‘Here in a little earth Lies one whom all did fear, One whose hands dispensed both peace and war. Oh, you that go in search of things deserving praise, If you would praise the worthiest, Then let your journey end here, Nor tremble to go further.’ These were the words the bishop of Calahorra read […]

Was Leonardo da Vinci ever Cesare Borgia’s hostage?

A newly released tv series produced by Italian Lux Vide in collaboration with Rai Fiction makes an attempt to tell the story of one of history’s greatest artists: Leonardo da Vinci. Heartthrob Aidan Turner plays the role of a heavily tormented Leonardo who considers life a burden, and art as a means to escape it. In the […]

How did Cesare Borgia really feel about resigning his cardinalate?

On 17 August 1498, to the horror of the assembled Curia in Rome and the Catholic Kings in Spain, Cardinal Cesare Borgia (aged 23) humbly told the few cardinals present that he had never heard ‘the call of God’ and that his father, Pope Alexander VI, had pushed him into a clerical career. He sincerely […]