Depictions of Pope Alexander VI as the Devil
DOI link for Depictions of Pope Alexander VI as the Devil
Depictions of Pope Alexander VI as the Devil book
This chapter will explore early modern depictions of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) as the Devil or in contact with the diabolic. Two sixteenth-century broadsides depict Alexander as a monstrous diabolic construction that retained the visible ornamental trappings of the papacy. The idea of assimilating the papacy with the devil has a long history, dating back to before the Council of Toledo (447 CE) and the revival of this assimilation appears to have been prompted by Callixtus III’s pontificate (1455–1458) and the unpopular proliferation of Catalans in Rome at that time. Alexander’s sharp rise to power led many contemporaries to assume this was due to a pact with the devil. Evidence of this rumor appears in the sermons of the Ferrarese Fra Girolamo Savonarola, the thoughts of the Florentine historian Francesco Guicciardini, and the work of the Venetian historian, Marin Sanudo. In particular, early modern writers highlighted Alexander’s supposed immorality and his lack of sincere religious profession. The impact of these voices (particularly Guicciardini) was keenly felt on the stage. Indeed, Barnabe Barnes’ play, The Devil’s Charter (1607) chronicles Rodrigo’s career within the frame of a pact with the devil. In sum, this discussion demonstrates how the ideas surrounding the assimilation of Pope Alexander VI and the diabolic crossed the boundaries of print, stage, and art.
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