The naughty nutty party pope…

A depiction of a Roman orgy by Russian painter Semiradsky

I’m currently looking through our recently arrived precious library of books, which has some interesting inclusions we found in various garage sales and second hand stores around the place, including some wonderful old hard copies, such as the histories of the Borgias and Medici.

I’m currently fascinated by The Borgias by Giuseppe Portigliotti, translated by Bernard Miall, focused on Alexander VI, Caesar Borgia, and Lucrezia Borgia, the son and daughter of the Pope Alexander VI.

Yes, he had children. Quite a few actually. Estimated at 14 bastard children through various mistresses and concubines. What a curious old lecher this Pope was. To think he laid hands on people to pass on the Apostolic succession!

But one incident amongst many others really caught my attention, the Banquet of Chestnuts. Oh my goodness! This actually took place in the Papal Palace in 1501, at the height of papal power and influence. There are several references to this notorious incident, which even the Catholic Encyclopaedia includes, but I’ve drawn on a version by Martin Frost which sums it all up quite well, with a little bit of added information tagged on. If you can get hold of he books from a library, please do. They are a real eye-opener!

The Banquet of Chestnuts, known more properly as the Ballet of Chestnuts, refers to a fête in Rome, and particularly to a supper held in the Papal Palace by Don Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI on October 30, 1501. An account of the banquet is preserved in Protonotary Apostolic and Master of Ceremonies Johann Burchard’s Liber Notarum.

The banquet was given in Cesare’s apartments in the palazzo apostolico. Fifty prostitutes or courtesans were in attendance for the entertainment of the banquet guests. After the food was eaten, lampstands holding lighted candles were placed on the floor and chestnuts strewn about. The courtesans’ clothes were auctioned; then they and the prostitutes crawled naked between the candelabras to pick up the chestnuts. Immediately following the spectacle, members of the clergy and other party guests together engaged the prostitutes in sexual activity. According to Burchard, “prizes were offered – silken doublets, pairs of shoes, hats and other garments – for those men who were most successful with the prostitutes”

According to William Manchester, “Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the pope greatly admired virility and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity.” He also refers to use of sex toys. Burchard, however, makes no reference to this in his account of the banquet.

Bull of Pope Alexander VI

Pope Alexander VI (Pope from 1492-1503), the infamous Borgia, he gave the New World to Spain. He was a MONSTER of iniquity even by the standards of his day.

“On Sunday evening, October 30th, Don Cesare Borgia gave a supper in his apartment in the apostolic palace, with fifty decent prostitutes or courtesans in attendance, who after the meal danced with the servants and others there, first fully dressed and then naked. Following the supper too, lampstands holding lighted candles were placed on the floor and chestnuts strewn about, which the prostitutes, naked and on their hands and knees, had to pick up as they crawled in and out amongst the lampstands. The pope, Don Cesare and Donna Lucrezia were all present to watch. Finally, prizes were offered—silken doublets, pairs of shoes, hats and other garments—for those men who were most successful with the prostitutes. This performance was carried out in the Sala Reale and those who attended said that in fact the prizes were presented to those who won the contest.

“Another incident took place on November 11th, when a countryman entered Rome by the Porta Viridaria, leading two mares loaded with wood. When they reached the Piazza di San Pietro, some of the palace men-at-arms came up, cut through the straps and threw off the saddles and the wood in order to lead the mares into the courtyard immediately inside the palace gate. Four stallions were then freed from their reins and harness and let out of the palace stables. They immediately ran to the mares, over whom they proceeded to fight furiously and noisily amongst themselves, biting and kicking in their efforts to mount them and seriously wounding them with their hoofs. The pope and Donna Lucrezia, laughing and with evident satisfaction, watched all that was happening from a window above the palace gate” (At the Court of the Borgia, p. 194).

Yes, the holiness of the Popes, eh!

Of course, the argument is that they are mere men and, naturally, subject to sin like all men, but, seriously, how many men have you heard of who could express their weakness to sin quite as expressively and extravagantly as this member of the Borgias, and he a Pope in the gown and mitre of the supposed Headship of Christendom, called by those who kissed his ring, ‘Holy Father’?

Posted by Steve

4 thoughts on “The naughty nutty party pope…

  1. @Greg

    “But do we tarnish every Pentecostal minister because of the antics of say jimmy swaggsrt? Or every evangelical because of the sin of Ted Haggard? No of course not,”

    Really? From what I have seen here on SP02, it is exactly that which happens on a daily basis. Every and all Pentecostal leaders are tarnished with the same brush as the one or two bad eggs according to the regular posters here. A bit of consistency is required Greg before you can make a statement like that.

  2. Low hanging fruit. Chestnuts! Very good Greg.

    But, gosh, Grrrreg, Ted Haggard was an amateur compared to Alexander VI. I don’t really care how many times you bring up Haggard or Swaggart, frankly. What they did was evil and wrong for a minister of God.

    Let’s not try to hide the excesses of the Roman Catholic church. Everything that is hidden will be exposed, according to Jesus. Let’s get this out in the open. People need to know. I intend to pursue it.

    I was only on the chapter called Erotica in the book I was reading. The Banquet of Chestnuts was one incident in a lifetime of carnality and depravity. He was a young cardinal when he was first hauled over the coals by the Pope for using prostitutes when he should have been overseeing a pageant.

    Just think about it, Grrrreg, that a Pope should have an entire chapter entitled Erotica in a biography?

    Now I’m on a chapter called Secret Crime! The man was a monster. In fact someone called him that, which was a huge risk since he silenced many for less. His favoured means was arsenic poisoning. He even employed a staff member who was in charge of the ‘white powder’!

    Thing is, Grrreg, people like Alexander VI entered the papal power position through simony. They bribed cardinals into voting for them. The one who could afford the largest bribes was voted in.

    Then they bribed people to become cardinals. The candidates would pay thousands to purchase a cardinal’s hat, because it meant access to immense power and riches.

    We’re talking cardinals, here, Grrrreg, you know – ‘holy’ men, God’s ‘representatives’ on earth, bishops over bishops and all that!

    Then, of course, Alexander VI, towards the end of his papacy, grew more and more avaricious, and began a process of taking the entire wealth, which was considerable, of the cardinals who died on his watch.

    This didn’t happen fast enough, of course, so he started a process of elimination, and very wealthy people would suddenly pass away, sometimes after a visit from the holder of the white powder, and the papal bailiffs would move in and extricate the entire wealth of the person who died, usually cardinals who had become so through simony.

    The fear amongst the rich was extreme.

    I am on a very interesting journey into researching some of these things. It is utterly intriguing.

    It won’t hurt for people to find out, will it now, Greg?

  3. And I think, if we really looked hard enough, we’d probably find wickedness in the office of the pope, don’t you?

    Alexander VI may have been the worse of a bad bunch, but his story is symptomatic of a perverse system which not only allowed it to happen, but openly, and occasionally secretly encouraged it amongst a select group.

  4. Part of life? Well, yes, except the Vicar of Christ is held up as the supreme example of infallibility. Papal bulls carry the weight o scripture to the RC church.

    And we would expect all mere men to be prone to sin, even some excesses, but never on this scale, which is beyond even the perversions of many self-confessed godless men.

    This level of unchecked, rampant lawlessness would never have been seen in the life of Paul once he had been converted, or Peter, who is held up as the first pope, although I would dispute this.

    Can you imagine any of the Apostles of Christ behaving this way and giving the Church any level of credibility whatsoever?

    That a man of this ilk could even make it as a priest or a Bishop is totally appalling, let alone being given the rank of cardinal at such a young age.

    And he was far from alone. Most of the cardinals of his day, and for ages before and after, were able to buy their credentials regardless of any kind of piety.

    This was one of the foundations on which the edifice of Roman Catholicism was built. It had nothing to do with true Bible Christianity.

    That is why men like Hus and Luther called them out, and why Wycliffe was amongst the first to name the pope as an antichrist.

    Sweeping this filth under the carpet can never eradicate the stain it has left.

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