Ruthless Borgia to be celebrated at resting place

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".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas