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