Ruthless Borgia to be celebrated at resting place
Monday 29 January 2007
Cesare Borgia, son of Rodrigo Borgia - Pope Alexander VI - brother of Lucrezia, a serial murderer by his early twenties, whose family name has long been a byword for corruption, greed and violence, is to be rehabilitated in the northern Spanish town where he died.
The family was originally Spanish - "the Borjas" - and, in Viana in Navarra, where Cesare fell in battle in 1507, a campaign is afoot to recycle this symbol of Catholic depravity as a local hero.
Only a small stone in the pavement outside Viana's Santa Maria church marks the tomb of Cesare Borgia, whose ruthless skills in eliminating enemies inspired Machiavelli's The Prince. He was patron to Leonardo da Vinci and his brown eyes and russet hair provided a model of beauty that Renaissance artists are said to have copied for their images of Christ.
Bishop of Pamplona at 15, cardinal at 18, then appointed commander of the papal armies, Cesare was exiled to Spain after the death of his father. He took refuge in the court of the King of Navarra, whose sister he had married, and died in a siege in Viana early on 12 March 1507, aged 31.
To mark the 500th anniversary of his death, residents of Viana (population 3,600) want to move his remains to a more spectacular resting place inside the church. Today's sophisticated "cultural tourists" who find their way to this remote-ish town on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela are apparently fascinated by the Borgia connection, but disappointed to find memorabilia limited to just one slab beneath their feet. "They see a historical figure of his stature, buried just anyhow. It makes us look like brutes," says Juan Cruz Labeaga, a parish priest and local historian.
So Viana town hall and Navarra's regional authorities aim to restore Borgia to the public eye with elaborate celebrations to mark his fifth centenary. They plan to establish a "Borgia route" from Viana to the nearby spot where he died in combat with three enemies from rival families. Also planned are commemorative concerts of Renaissance music, Renaissance banquets, exhibitions, conferences, Borgia souvenirs and theatrical re-enactments of his death.
"Cesare Borgia represents an interesting moment in our history, when Navarra was the smallest kingdom of Europe, disputed by the two great powers, Spain and France," Juan Roman Corpas, the region's tourism director, told El Pais. "There is increasing interest in cultural tourism. And Borgia is a fascinating personality, very literary. I'd have liked to meet him."
Spain's Catholic hierarchy is unsurprisingly reluctant to restore to prominence a man whose family symbolises all the perversions of papal power, let alone transfer his remains inside the church.
After his death, Borgia was originally buried in an alabaster tomb in the Santa Maria church, but that was destroyed after the visiting bishop of Calahorra expressed outrage that a sinner should be buried in a holy place, and his remains were banished beneath Viana's main street. The bones were exhumed in 1945 and put in their present resting place near the church's main door, and the plaque installed in 1953.
"This gentleman doesn't bother me," says Cesar Gonzalez, priest at the church and member of Opus Dei. "My task is with the living. The main transfer is from here to eternal life." The archbishop of Pamplona does not object to removing Borgia's remains to "somewhere more dignified," a spokesman said, but "not inside the church because that practice is not permitted nowadays".
- 1 Green village to be bulldozed and mined for lignite in Germany's quest for non-nuclear fuel
- 2 HeForShe campaign: Iceland to follow up Emma Watson speech with UN women's rights conference – for men only
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Teenagers irritable because early school hours mess with their biological clocks
- 5 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
Isis could become 'world’s first truly terrorist state' and bomb UK with nuclear and chemical weapons, Theresa May warns
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Isis an hour away from Baghdad - with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse requiredI am ...
£50 - £60 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: O...
£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...