Cesar Borgia in Viana historical memory in Navarra

by Allyson Laule'a Mizumoto-Gitter

Institution: University of Hawaii – Manoa
Year: 2015
Keywords: Italian Renaissance; Spanish; Cesare Borgia
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2064882
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/100454


M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014. Viana is a small town a little south of the Pyrenees in the Spanish autonomous community of Navarra best known for being the final resting place of Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI and brother of the infamous Lucretia Borgia. Cesare has been written about for various (and sometimes contradictory) ends throughout the centuries, by both scholars foreign to the lands he lived in and those intimately familiar with him as a feature of their own local history.1 Because of the number and variety of retellings of his dramatic life and scandalous lineage, as well as for his impact on folklore in Viana in particular, Cesare provides an interesting case study for the creation and use of history and of the symbolic in maintaining and shaping local culture. Historians have relied upon Cesare Borgia's life as a way to explore the Italian Renaissance in general and the years of Alexander VI's papacy in particular, from 1492 to 1503. As Cesare played a very visible role in his father's ecclesiastical and political state, he came to be associated with it in near-contemporary writings and, through them, in later secondary sources as well. As the historian Ivan Cloulas put it, 'as the Renaissance became more fashionable than ever, Alexander and his family entered a new phase of notoriety.'2 With scant documentation of Cesare's life, historical interpretation has relied as much on earlier historiography as it has on primary sources to reach to portray Cesar and the times he lived in. Therefore, the popularity of Cesare as a historical actor, in both academic in popular sources, has been dependent primarily upon trends in fcenturies since his death, 'Cesare' is less an historical actor and more of a metaphor of Renaissance culture, constantly presented with new meanings as interest in the early modern era changes. Cesare Borgia was born in 1475 to Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and his long-term mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei. As Grace Coolridge argues, Spanish men often had longstanding sexual and romantic relationships with women outside of marriage, and children produced from these unions were often not only seen as members of their family but also were legally naturalized, creating what she terms alternative (but still legally and socially legitimate) families.3 This was part of 'almost a system of polygamy among Spanish noblemen, many of whom had a wife and several mistresses,' and which was not uncommon among Italian families as well.4 Cesare was the oldest of his three full siblings, although he was Rodrigo's fourth child and had at least one younger half-brother as well. As was common practice for the second son of a well-off family, Cesare was put on track for an ecclesiastical career and he began receiving church benefices and titles at an early age through Rodrigo's influence as Vice-Chancellor of the Church and his great wealth. Rodrigo for his part had been made cardinal (and emphasized his maternal surname of de Borja, translated from Spanish into Italian as Borgia,…