Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Dropping In Briefly To Say "Happy New Year"

So. It's the end of the year and I thought I'd drop in and leave you all a little something.

It's been a tremendous year for Loyalty Binds Me, with lots of Renaissance ramblings, an interview from the lovely Isolda Dychauk and we even hit the quarter of a million page views mark! I know that I have been rather lax in posting things of late and it is one of my New Year's Resolutions to post more for you all!

I just wanted to thank each and every one of you for supporting LBM throughout 2013. Here's to an even better 2014.

Happy New Year, guys!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Just swinging in to wish all my followers and readers a very merry Christmas. I hope you are all having a wonderful time. Please don't mind the shortness of this post, I'm still getting to grips with the new tablet I'm posting it from.

I will be back properly over the next few days with more historical fun and games.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Quarter Of A Million!

We've only gone and bloody done it!

A quarter of a million hapless souls have stumbled across this blog since I first started it back in August 2011. Honestly, I never ever thought I would get to such a massive milestone and without all of you? I wouldn't have made it this far.

A huge thank you to each and every one of my readers. You're all brilliant!

Here's to the next quarter of a million!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Visit To Salisbury Cathedral

It's taken me a bit of time to get this post done, and for that I apologise. I was going to write this when I got home last Monday, but given the news about my dear friend I am sure you can understand why I put it off. At any rate, last Monday (4th Nov), I took myself off for a morning in Salisbury. I have always loved Salisbury, and when I was younger I used to go to gigs at the arts centre there and the little pub named "The Winchester Gate". Of course, the history of the city is utterly fascinating, and I am in love with the cathedral.

So I hopped on a train and toddled off to Salisbury Cathedral. A building so full of history.

Briefly, the original cathedral was on the site of Old Sarum. I was planning on heading up there during my trip but couldn't really be bothered to walk the two miles through the city, or find a bus. Yes, I'm lazy. At any rate, there is a wonderful story that an archer stood upon Old Sarum and fired an arrow. Where the arrow landed it was decided the new cathedral would be built. The cathedral we see today was started in 1220, and the tower and spire were completed during the 1330's.

Random fact: If any of you have seen "Pillars of the Earth" you will recognise the front face. Simply, the cathedral in the show was based on Salisbury Cathedral.

Random fact No 2: David Oakes who plays William Hamleigh is from Salisbury, and his father works for Salisury cathedral.

Once I had rambled around the cathedral and visited the shop (I ALWAYS make sure I visit the shops in places like this, and picked up a Bernard Cornwell novel - he's my friend on Facebook. True story!) I made my over to the museum.

I was slightly disappointed to find that the archaeology sections were closed off due to a lot of work going on at the museum. However it was still nice to wander around this small museum. As I wandered around there were particular displays on dress throughout the years and as I wandered through that gallery? Christ, the dummies scared the hell out of me. There was also a display on ceramics. I had a wander through, paying particular attention to the older stuff i.e. the samian ware, as well as the medieval stuff. But as it got more modern I found myself growing bored and took myself for a wander elsewhere.

Little disappointed I didn't get to see the Amesbury archer...

This guy dates to the bronze age and was found near Stonehenge during a housing development. It's morbid, but I have a bit of a thing for human bones...

At any rate, I couldn't see him and a lot of the archaeological stuff. Still, the museum itself is a wonderful place and I recommend visiting. I brought a wonderful book from their shop on the archaeology of death and burial. Morbid reading, but incredibly interesting. 

In all, an interesting morning. A shame I couldn't stay longer, but I am planning on going back on my next day off to spend a whole day there looking back around the Cathedral, the museums in the close and heading up to Old Sarum. Keep your eyes peeled for further posts on Salisbury.

Monday, 11 November 2013

We Will Remember Them

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Here's to all those who lost their lives in past conflict, and recent conflict. To those who died protecting their country. On 11th November, at 11am 1918 the armistice was signed and ever since we have taken two minutes silence at 11am to remember the fallen of past and present conflict. I myself have had family fight in both world wars, as well as the recent Afghanistan conflict, so personally I believe that today should be a day of thought and reflection.

Thank you.

Les We Forget.

Monday, 4 November 2013

In Memory Of Hasan - Art Historian Extraordinaire and Fantastic Friend.

It is with a heavy heart that I write today's post. I came online this morning only to find out that my dear friend Hasan Niyazi, author of the fantastic Renaissance and Art History blog "Three Pipe Problem" has sadly passed away. This was a huge shock, as I was only talking with him on twitter last week about my plans for my week off and he was looking forward to seeing photographs of the places I had planned to visit.

Hasan's blog was one of the first I found when I started LBM, and we connected through our love of Renaissance history and our "mythbusting" over The Borgias. He was a delight to speak to, and his research spoke volumes of his passion and love for the Renaissance and all things art history. Truth be told, Hasan was, and still is, a complete inspiration to me and I shall continue to use his blog and his work not only for my own research but to keep his memory alive. It was clear from the moment that I first started talking to Hasan that his passion lay in the Renaissance, and I remember him commenting on my photo of me next to Raphael's tomb. We often discussed Italian art, and I was always in awe over his love and passion for Raphael. His story of how his tour guide in Rome let him in the Pantheon on his own to save the rest of the group his flailing always made me crack up. 

Hasan, my dear friend. You will be sorely missed not only by me but by your friends and readers. My heart goes out to your family. I wish we had been able to speak more, although when we did it was always a pleasure. Thank you for inspiring me to keep this blog going, thank you for being such a good friend. I will miss you and will always remember you.

I may never have had the chance to meet Hasan, and despite the fact that we lived half a world apart I considered him (and still do) an amazing friend, a colleague and an inspiration.

May you rest in peace, my friend. Next time I'm in Italy? The trip shall be dedicated to you.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Cesare Borgia's Marriage to Charlotte D'Albret

Charlotte in "Borgia"

After Cesare Borgia finally got rid of his Cardinal's robes, it was down to him to continue on the Borgia dynasty. Since the death of his brother Juan in 1497, there was no male descended destined to carry on the Borgia name and had Cesare remained in the church then there would be no chance of the name continuing. And so, with that in mind, Cesare Borgia left Rome in October 1498 bound for France. His own mission was clear. He wanted to marry Carlotta of Aragon,  and the new French King, Louis XII had agreed to support their marriage wholeheartedly as long as Cesare helped get him a divorce from his wife, Queen Anne. 

On Fridat 17th August 1498, Cesare Borgia formally announced his decision to leave the College of Cardinal's. By 21st August, he had his way. Pope Alexander had demanded that the cardinal's voted in Cesare's favour. Indeed on the very day of the first consistory in which Cesare announced his decision, the French envoy had arrived with letters patent stating that he now had the right to call himself the Duc de Valentinois. The famous "Valentino" had arrived. 

In the months leading up to his departure for France in October 1498, Cesare spent money wildly. He was to determined to impress the French people upon arrival and made sure he would be magnificently attired at all times. This would soon change after spending time there, and Cesare would end up being the black clad dressed young man that would come to be epitomised throughout history. Not only that but he worked on his physical preparation too. He was after all to become a soldier. His preparations included bullfighting on horseback, a feat which amazed contemporary Italians at the time. Indeed it was once reported by Cattaneo that on 18th August 1498 Cesare killed 8 bulls in one sitting. There were times however when his physical prowess failed him, with one occasion ending up with him being knocked out when kicked in the ribs, head and chest after trying to jump onto the back of a mule. At the same time, Cesare was suffering with serious worries over his appearance. The early physical signs of secondary syphilis were beginning to manifest upon his face, which was disastrous for a man who was so intent on stunning the French court with his dashing good looks. It should be noted that Cesare was just twenty three years old at this point, so it must have been devastating for him. He couldn't have known that this would clear itself up within two or three months  and would have been more worried about his matrimonial prospects being affected due to his handsome face being blotched by syphilis. And whilst he showed outward confidence, he revealed his insecurities at the last moment by continuing to sign himself as Cardinal Valentinus. A precaution in case Carlotta refused him to the unsightly rash upon his face?

On 1st October 1498, Cesare took formal leave of his father and travelled to Ostia where he boarded a ship for France. And upon the day he left Rome, the diarist Cattaneo wrote:

"The ruin of Italy is confirmed...given the plans which father and son have made: but many believe the Holy Spirit has no part in them".

Cesare arrived in France in late October, departing from the shrine of Marseilles and making his way to Avignon where he met up with Giuliano della Roverre. This was a man who had always been a thorn in Cesare's side, and whilst seemingly working with him in friendship during Cesare's months in France was actually working in league with Ludovico 'Il Moro' Sforza. Della Roverre met Cesare two miles outside the city and rode into the city seemingly in complete amity. Yet they held off moving to the French court and Cesare grew restless, very likely suspicious of Della Roverre and waiting for news from Rome that would allow him to present Louis with the dispensation to allow his marriage to be dissolved. He certainly wouldn't be welcome at the French court without it. He slowly made his way northward from Avignon slowly and visited Valence, the capital of his new duchy and on 7th November made a solemn entry into Lyon. But the French were unimpressed with his ostentatiousness and people found his manner brusk and rude. When the King's envoy tried to present him with the Order of St Michael, Cesare brushed him aside and stated that he would only accept it from the King himself. 

When news of the King's divorce arrived, it was arranged that Cesare should meet the King at Chinon and on 17th December Cesare arrived in the local area. The day after Cesare's arrival, the King went hunting and met Cesare two miles outside of town. And later that day, Cesare entered the town and Castle with the King. It was the moment he had been waiting for. He could now impress the French Court and get his hands on Carlotta of Aragon. 

Cesare meeting Carlotta of Aragon in "Borgia"

The court did not stay at Chinon for long. They moved from Chinon to Blois and elsewhere. It was during his time with the moving court that he met Carlotta of Aragon for the first time. She was a lady in waiting to Queen Anne, and the meeting with Cesare can't have put him in very high spirits. She was a determined young lady and detested the idea of marrying Cesare and openly declared to the court that she had no intention of becoming known as "La Cardinala". But whilst he failed to win over his intended bride, he won over the French court and the King considered him an asset to the court. Indeed, Louis tried to convince Carlotta to marry Cesare but she remained steadfast, saying she would not marry Cesare Borgia unless her father willed it. 

When the Neopolitan envoy arrived and the issue of the marriage was pressed, the envoy replied:

"To a bastard son of the Pope, the King not only would not give his legitimate daughter, but not even a bastard child"

The King made one last effort to persuade Carlotta to marry Cesare he invited her to dine alone with him. His efforts failed and Cesare talked of leaving France to return to Rome, although this could potentially have been a way of placing pressure upon the King to find him a new bride. And find him a new bride the King did. In the early months of 1499, Louis suggested Charlotte D'Albret to Cesare and indeed Cesare wrote that she 'pleased him' greatly. He had every right to be pleased as she was said to be incredibly beautiful. Charlotte's own feelings on the matter are not recorded, but she wouldn't have had much choice in the matter after considering pressure was placed upon her by both her Father and the King. 

Charlotte in "Borgia"

Negotiations went on for over 6 weeks. Charlotte's father was determined to get as much out of the marriage as possible and demanded to see the dispensation that allowed Cesare to marry as well at the 100,00 livres promised as a dowry to be paid in ducats. By the end of April 1499 negotiations were brought to a successful end, and on 10th May the agreement was signed in front of both the King and Queen, with the King formally giving his consent to the marriage.

Cesare and Charlotte in "Borgia"

Two days later, Cesare and Charlotte were married in the Chapel of the Queen's apartments at Blois. It was followed by a huge wedding breakfast in the fields surrounding the chateau. The marriage was consummated that afternoon, and again in the afternoon. As was usual for the time there was no privacy when this happened. According to reports from the time, Charlotte's ladies spied on them through the keyhole of the bedroom door and reported a rather embarrassing incident for poor Cesare. Robert de la Marck wrote in his diary:

"To tell you of the Duke of Valentinois' wedding night, he asked the apothecary for some pills to pleasure his lady, from whom he received a bad turn for, instead of giving him what he asked for, he gave him laxative pills, to such an effect that he never ceased going to the privy the whole night, as the ladies reported in the morning"

But between running to the toilet, he did his duty and it was reported to his father in a letter that the couple consummated their marriage EIGHT times. They spent their honeymoon with the court at Blois and Cesare lavished gifts upon Charlotte. All of these gifts had been intended for Carlotta, 

Yet their time together was coming to an end. Events were taking place in Italy that needed taking care of, and Cesare wanted to hurry up with his soldierly exploits. Cesare was indeed due to accompany Louis to Italy commanding a squadron of heavy cavalry, with plans to attack Milan. At the end of July he left his wife and made to return to Italy.

Charlotte never saw her husband again. She did however bear him an heir, a little girl named Louise. And when Charlotte learned of Cesare's death in 1507 she spend the remainder of her life in mourning. Did she love him? Personally, I believe that her "love" was simply infatuation. She knew him for such a little time that he must have seemed, to use a modern comparison, like a rockstar to her. And did he return that? I do not believe he loved her, as he never made the effort to go back to her and honestly? Cesare Borgia married Charlotte D'Albret more for political reasons and to help along the relations between France and Rome. After all, if he loved her, surely he would have made more of an effort to see her once he learned she was pregnant? His efforts (there were a few) to try and persuade her were in vain. The few letters he sent to persuade her to Italy fell on deaf ears, and the King even tried to convince her. Yet she herself stayed in France, having heard stories of his exploits in Italy and not wanting to go to her husband. She died in 1514 having only spent a few months in her husband's presence, probably preferring to remember the handsome young man she had known back in 1499 rather than the impious warrior she had heard stories of. At the age of 32, she died at the Chaeau de la Motte Feuilly having spent seven years in heavy mourning for the memory of her husband.

Further Reading

Cesare Borgia: His Life & Times - Sarah Bradford
The Borgias And Their Enemies - Christopher Hibbert.
The Borgias; History's Most Notorious Dynasty - Mary Hollingsworth.

Friday, 20 September 2013


Just a quick FYI. As has always been the policy here on LBM - any hateful comments will be removed without warning. I have better things to do with my time than deal with hate, so please if you have nothing better to say than something constructive then don't say a thing.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Why Do I Love History...?

I am quite often asked "Why do you like history so much?", and I end up launching into a twenty five minute rant about the importance of history and all my very favourite characters throughout the ages. But I've never really sat down and thought about it properly until now. So this post is probably going to be entirely useless and have no purpose other than allowing me to rant and ramble away about nothing in particular. So please feel free to ignore this and get on with the rest of your day.

So how did it all begin? The answer is really very simple. My aunt introduced me to Ancient Egypt, and brought me a special set of hieroglyphic stamps. They were awesome, and I had loads of fun printing out people's names as they would (or very likely wouldn't, it was a kids play set after all) have been in hieroglyphics. At any rate, it made me want more. So I began to take books out of the library, and my aunt brought me loads of books about life in Ancient Egypt. Very simply, I was in love with the era. I clearly remember the first time I ever saw the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. I was in absolute awe of the thing, this massive slab that helped us to understand just how to read Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Now, I always make a point to visit it if I'm in London and spend a few minutes just gazing at this amazing piece of history.

It was only a matter of time after then that I would begin to become interested in other eras of history. I absolutely adored history at school, and it was always my favourite subject. No word of a lie though, I struggled with it at A-Level. No idea why, probably because I was so damned fed up of the Tudors that I just lost interest. At any rate, it was during my A-Levels that I began to develop a huge interest in the Seventeenth Century and particularly the English Civil War. We studied the reign of Charles I, and how he ended up making a massive mess of things and screwing himself over. Many in the class hated ole Charlie. I however found his derpiness adorable. And I fell completely head over heels in love.

Would you believe when I saw this portrait of Charlie boy at Hampton Court, I burst into tears? Yes, I am that much of a Charlie fangirl. The staff looked at me as if I was crazy. I was even worse in front of the massive portrait of Charles II. Honestly, a gross sobbing mess doesn't even begin to cover it. 

My interest in the Seventeenth Century filtered through to University. I toddled off from my cosy little sixth form in Wiltshire, all the way to Winchester where I began a degree in History and Archaeology. After my first year, I dropped history (which I now believe is the biggest mistake I ever made) and studied single honours archaeology. My final year dissertation ended up being on the landscape archaeology of a lesser known English Civil War battlefield. Cheriton, in fact. This little village and its surrounding fields now have a special place in my heart and I visit as often as I am able, just to walk around the fields in which the Royalists and Parliamentarians fought on 29th March 1644.

To many of you, that will look just like a field. To me, it is where men fought and died for what they believed in. Those fields have a very special place in my heart. Particularly as my work on them earned me an award for the best Final Year Project, which I was given at graduation in 2009 (God, that is SO long ago. I feel so OLD now!)

When I graduated Uni, I was lucky enough to gain a contract with my local archaeology unit. That was awesome, probably the best job I have ever had. At any rate, the contract ended and I was unable to get work with any other units. It was then that I realised I should probably have gone down the history route. I began to get back into my history books. I began reading more around the ECW and expanded beyond the usual Tudor crap that I had on my shelf. I had always been somewhat interested in the Renaissance, but it was then that I really started reading about it and my interest in and around the history of the Roman Catholic grew, and my obsession with the Borgia family grew beyond sensible bounds. I have spoken enough of my love of Cesare Borgia for you all to know about it, but there is something about that era that just speaks to me. I was a mess in front of the Charlie portrait? You should have seen me in the Borgia apartments in the Vatican. I have never been such a mess in my life. Just all that passion and adoration pouring out in what I can only call "liquid feels". The same happened when I saw Cesare's sword scabbard at the V&A. Nothing can really describe the passion I have for that family. Except that it has gotten so bad I now have Cesare's motto tattooed on my arm. Now THAT is love...

My love of history has taken me to some amazing places over the past few years. From places right on my doorstep, to the heat of Rome. And I am planning on going to many more places to expand my love, to expand my learning...

And there we have it. A bit of a fangirly post all about where my love of history came from.

My apologies...

I will let you get back to your day now...........

Friday, 13 September 2013

Happy Birthday Cesare Borgia!

Mark Ryder as Cesare

It seems that many consider today to be the birthday of the great Cesare Borgia. And so, I thought I would do a very little post today just to say...

Happy Birthday Cesare! 

Whilst his exact date of birth is not known, only that it is at some point between September 1475 and April 1476, today is as good a day as any to celebrate. Tonight, I shall be raising a glass of vino rosso in his honour, and watching an episode of Borgia!

Check out that super pissed off look.

For more information on Cesare's early life, please have a look at this post.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


A very brief post this morning as I'm not feeling too well. But this post has been a long time coming. Earlier this year I was given a National Art Pass from ArtFund to use and review and I have to say, it's utterly fantastic! The pass itself allows you access to hundreds of historical sites, museums and art galleries across the UK at discounted prices. Benefits of this fantastic pass include 50% off many major exhibitions, special events such as lectures and private parties, a monthly magazine as well as access to an exclusive shop. And if you buy one of these passes you are also helping Art Fund to help museums and galleries across the country buy art to go on display.

It really is a fantastic little card and one I intend to make good use of! Especially since there are many museums included in the list of sites that accept this card around my area! And when I do eventually get to one of these places I shall be doing a little review here!

I would highly recommend getting yourself one of these passes here

For more information on the National Art Pass and ArtFund please do visit their website.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

[Looking Back] An Interview With Isolda Dychauk

Looking back again today. Not long ago, the lovely Isolda Dychauk did an interview with me about her role in the second season of Borgia: Faith & Fear. Here is is again!

Isolda as Lucrezia in Borgia: Faith & Fear

First of all Isolda, thank you so much for agreeing to do to this interview for me, it’s an absolute honour to have you here. What was it that attracted you to the role of Lucrezia in Canal +’s “Borgia: Faith & Fear”? "
The are a lot of things I love about the interpretation of Lucrezia. First of all it is an incredible honor to breathe life into a character, who really existed  It also is a great challenge to create this amazing development from a little girl to a liberated, strong women."

Before you auditioned for the role, and even after you got the role and began to prepare, what were your initial thoughts on the historical character of Lucrezia Borgia?
"There are a lot of rumors about the Borgia family, especially Lucrezia. Most people think of her as the wife, which poisoned her husband or as the daughter, which slept with her father and her brother. Therefore in the beginning, I was trying to find some of the the 'good sides' of Lucrezia."

Isolda as Lucrezia and John Doman as Pope Alexander VI (screencap from Season 1)

How did you prepare to play Lucrezia? Are there any particular books that you would recommend?
"To be honest, I didn't read many books about the Borgias, partly because of all these rumors. For the first episodes my preparation has been the directions of Tom Fontana and Oliver Hirschbiegel."

There are many rumours that have come down to us about the Borgia family. The one that sticks in most people's minds is that there was a lot of incest going on between Lucrezia and the male members of her family. In the show we see these rumours taking shape - what are your thoughts on these rumours and do you think there was any truth in them?
"I certainly don't think all of them are true. The Borgia has been a powerful and successful family, with many enemies. Therefore many rumors has been created only for the sake of harming them. I believe Lucrezia and Cesare had a very close relationship, I am not sure about the incest, though." 

What particular moment of Borgia history particularly interests you?
"I don't have any particular moments which I find more interesting than others. After filming for 2 years I love more or less everything about this period of time. Even though I'm glad I don't have to struggle with the problems they had back then..."

Isolda (Lucrezia) and Mark Ryder (Cesare) - photo manipulation by me.

As I watch watching Season 1 of Borgia, I could tell just how close all of the cast were. What was it like working with such distinguished actors as Stanley Weber, Assumpta Serna and Marta Gastini?
"Working with this cast and crew has been a blessing. Each of them is wonderful in their own way. Marta and I are like sisters by now, I trust her with every thought I have, she has always the right words to help."

In history, Lucrezia was described as an innocent pawn in the politics of her family. What are your thoughts on this, and how did you bring this into your portrayal of her?
"Season 1 is focused on Lucrezia becoming a woman, therefore there was not much politics involved. In season 2, she becomes Governor of Spoleto, which is her first step into politics. It was a huge challenge for her but she trusted her intuition and made the right decisions."

If you could play any other character in history, who would you play and why?
"There are so many fascinating characters in history, I don't think I can focus on just one."

Promotional photo of Lucrezia in Season 2 of Borgia

Are there any other projects that you’re taking part in, that we can look forward to?
"There are a few films coming up, after we finish filming season 3, but it's not official yet."

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I can’t wait to see Season 2!
"Thanks to you, it's been a pleasure."

Season 1 of "Borgia" is available to buy on Amazon, and Season 2 is now available to purchase from Amazon.fr (with English audio). Please do check them out!

Friday, 9 August 2013

[Looking Back] The Borgia Apartments, The Vatican

Due to a bit of writers block I thought I would share a post I did a while ago, all about my trip to the Borgia apartments at the Vatican.

The Disputation of St Catherine - Pinturicchio

After Rodrigo Borgia became Pope in 1492, he planned a whole new set of rooms for his personal use. These rooms still exist today, and in them survive a fascinating insight into the Borgia mindset. The walls are covered in frescoes of the Borgia bull, and the entire set of apartments show the Spanish roots of the new Pope - the floor tiles were imported especially from Spain, giving the rooms a completely Spanish look, and mixed in with the frescoes of the Borgia bull are are representations of the Aragonese double crown, to which they added sun rays or flames mixed in a grazing bull.

The Borgia Bull, Borgia Apartments (picture by me)

The Borgia Bull and the Aragonese Crown, Borgia Apartments (picture by me)

Spanish Tiles, Borgia Apartments (picture by me)

Borgia Coat of Arms, Borgia Apartments (picture by me)

As can be seen from the pictures above, Pope Alexander made sure the family device was everywhere - gilded Borgia bulls on the ceiling in a repeated pattern with the Aragonese arms, Spanish tiles all over the floors as well as gilded stucco frames around the frescoes. The entire space was created to reflect the pride Alexander felt in his family name, pride at their Spanish origins and the huge ambition that he had for himself and his family.

Quite possibly, the most impressive monument to the Borgia family surviving in those set of rooms hidden away in the Vatican (and used to house a contemporary art gallery, I wasn't too impressed with that!) are the frescoes that surround the walls of the main room.

The Disputation of St Catherine, Pinturicchio (Picture by me)

After his election to the Chair of St Peter in 1492, Pope Alexander hired Bernadino di Betto di Biagio (better known as Pinturicchio) to paint his new apartments. Pinturicchio was an incredibly talented artist from Sienna, and one of the most sought after artists in his day and had even assisted in the painting of the Sistine Chapel. And whilst some weren't all that impressed with his works, the Pope certainly was.

The most famous fresco is the one shown above: The Disputation of St Catherine. And it is the biggest testament to the Borgia family in the room, simply because it contains images of the Borgia family. Most are dressed in the Turkish fashion whilst St Catherine (Said to be an image of Lucrezia, and I have to say I agree wholeheartedly) argues against the Pagan emperor. 

The entire image is full of imagery - in the centre stands a triumphal arch based on the Arch of Constantine and sat atop it is the Borgia bull. The arch of Constantine is an incredible monument to Christianity - the arch itself (still standing outside the Colosseum) was built as a celebration of Constantine's victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge which established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. In essence, it's place in the painting is saying that the Borgia family are as important to Christianity as Constantine was - reinforced by the Borgia bull sat right on top of said arch. And not only are members of Alexander's family depicted (Lucrezia, Cesare, Juan, Joffre and Sancia) but also other members of the papal entourage and it is said, though I haven't yet found a source for this and will update as and when I do, that the man sat in the chair is actually a self portrait of Pinturicchio himself.

As for the imagery of the family, the main figure in the painting is St Catherine. She is portrayed as blonde, the known hair colour of Lucrezia Borgia, and this image has long been traditionally held as an image of Lucrezia although there is, of course, no certainty of this.

Detail of St Catherine showing the supposed figures of Lucrezia and Cesare (Picture by me)

The figure behind her, dressed in Turkish robes and glaring out, is said to be an image of Cesare Borgia while the figure on the left hand side (the right as we look at it) is traditionally held to be an image of Juan Borgia, second Duke of Gandia.

Detail of the figure said to be Juan Borgia in The Disputation of St Catherine

The two diminutive figures at the front of the painting are said to be of Joffre Borgia and his wife, Sancia of Aragon.

Figures said to be of Jofre Borgia and Sancia of Aragon from The Disputation of St Catherine

Pope Alexander himself is not shown in the Disputation of St Catherine. He is however shown in the fresco "Resurrection", in which he witnesses the Resurrection of Christ during a moment of prayer. He has his hands clasped in prayer, dressed in embroidered robes and his papal tiara on the floor before him. Pinturicchio also painted another portrait of Alexander above a doorway adoring a beautiful virgin who, according to Vasari was given the face of Giulia Farnese. This portrait however was destroyed when the room it was in, was destroyed for other building works.

The Resurrection by Pinturicchio

Detail of Pope Alexander VI, Pinturicchio

In all then, the Borgia apartments are a testament to the sheer self belief of the Borgia family, their belief in unbridled power and the pride that Alexander felt in his family origins. 

And one last picture from my visit last year, though this could have been carved at an point throughout the room's history - a gaming board carved into a windowsill which I found to be incredibly interesting. I have no idea how the game was played but it certainly looks interesting!

Random gaming board in the Borgia Apartments (Picture by me)

Further reading