The Banquet of Chestnuts: A Perverse Pastime at the House of Borgia?

On Oct 30, 1501, the most decadence of festivals transpired in the papal palace of Cardinal Cesare Borgia. A celebration that his very own father, Pope Alexander VI, not only attended but participated in. The Banquet of Chestnuts was rumored to consist of decadent foods and wine, invigorating tunes and dance, and an unending orgy with Rome’s most distinctive courtesans known as the  “Cortigiana.”

It is stated that all clergy ended up expected to love indulgences and take part in the pope’s fetish for male virility in sexual ejaculative prowess. This sinful aspect took location the day prior to All Hallows (Halloween), which was a sanctified getaway focused to the dead. 

This evening in October 1501 turned the most infamous bash acknowledged as the Banquet of Chestnuts, because of to the functions of the dancing courtesans selecting up the chestnuts thrown on the flooring by the eagerly perverse attending clergymen. And it’s a decadent bash that is nevertheless gossiped about today!

A black and white view of Roman decadence. And the Banquet of Chestnuts is even now stated to be the most decadent celebration at any time, whilst only two accounts of the social gathering exist. (Erica Guilane-Nachez /  Adobe Stock )

The Banquet of Chestnuts: Gossip That Has Lasted to This Day

The Banquet of Chestnuts was so infamous that scholars, writers, and bloggers to this working day gossip about it as if it took place in the recent era. Because this 1 celebration,  the Catholic Church  now collaborates with historians to disprove the debaucherously infamous occasion considering the fact that it signifies the hypocrisy and sacrilege to every little thing the Church stands for. 

What can make this banquet most interesting is that it defines  the Borgia spouse and children , what all considered they stood for, and their nepotic hold over the papal church. Nevertheless, a a lot more detailed assessment of this party reveals that most of the accounts are dependent on a person diary entry created by the banquet’s grasp of ceremonies Liber Notarum Johann Burchard, a guy who was deemed no buddy of the Borgias.

Irrespective of whether this occasion was as scandalous as lots of scholars have made it out to be, or irrespective of whether this is very little additional than an example of slander in opposition to the Borgias is constantly debated. A nearer appear can help us independent simple fact from fiction. 

The Papal Palace in Rome was the setting of what was “apparently” the most sinful occasion at any time, hosted by the tremendous effective Property of Borgia. ( Andressa / Adobe Stock)

The House of Borgia

All through the 15th and 16th hundreds of years, the  Home of Borgia , a popular noble family members from  Aragon, Spain , grew to become intertwined in the political affairs of the church. Their notoriety increased together with their acceptance when Alfons de Borja was elected pope and renamed Pope Callixtus III (dominated 1455-1458). It wasn’t right up until 1492 that Rodrigo Lanzol Borgia turned Pope Alexander VI. Nonetheless, his reign, nevertheless only 11 many years, was the most infamous of any Borgia.

Pope Alexander VI  was viewed as one particular of the most corrupt popes in all of Catholic historical past. His title was related with  incest, adultery, bribery, and  murder. In the Property of Borgia’s increase to the papal business, quite a few other households, these kinds of as the Medici and Sforza families, grew to become unexpected enemies of the Borgias.

Alexander VI was also regarded for selling formal positions inside of the Church and securing power and wealth only for the Household of Borgia. This purpose, above all else, was why the House of Borgia also experienced enemies in the church.

With such detest designed from outstanding families and significant-position officers of the church, there was a powerful motive for students to portray the Property of Borgia as  decadent and sinful . 

A creepy view of Rome on All Hallows eve or Halloween. Which was the evening following the Banquet of Chestnuts celebration. ( scaliger / Adobe Inventory)

Did Burchard Slander the Borgias?

The Banquet of Chestnuts is referenced as the most popular example of what was completely wrong with the Borgia loved ones. 

Most accounts of this celebration arrived from the diary entry of the banquet’s learn of ceremonies, Johann Burchard, who attended the banquet and was a witness to what occurred that night. In his diary entry, Burchard talked about that fifty honest courtesans have been present. They acted as dancers, entertainers, conversationalists, and servers. But as the night continued, in accordance to Burchard, their clothes fell absent with each and every passing hour until eventually they ended up completely nude.

Once their clothes had been off, the games with  chestnuts began. Burchard detailed how keen clergymen would toss chestnuts on the ground for the bare courtesans to purchase. They would crawl on their arms and knees and pick up the chestnuts in their mouths. Then the sexual contests would start off exactly where clergymen would have to endure in sexual intercourse. Whoever lasted the longest was viewed as the winner.

Burchard’s accounts are really vivid. On the other hand, his entries are also strongly contested due to his very well-identified dislike of Pope Alexander VI, a Borgia. Since of Burchard’s bias, many historians have discounted his writings pertaining to the Banquet of Chestnuts even nevertheless this one celebration grew to become the most notorious banquet of all medieval historical past. 

The Banquet of Chestnuts took area the evening ahead of “All Hallows” competition ( Halloween) and this could have been a motive why the Banquet of Chestnuts was portrayed the way it was.

The significance of the All Hallows pageant in medieval Europe is strongly tied to Celtic and  pagan festivals . These festivals received in popularity with other cultures and finally have been included into the Christian calendar. On October 31, people today were being anticipated to feast in celebration of the Christian saints, commemorate useless cherished ones of the previous, supply flowers and rituals within just graveyards, and celebrate equally for those who are alive and individuals who are useless. 

As author Carlyn Beccia mentions, the All Hallows festival was a certified church holiday that carried ties to the useless. In medieval Rome, cadavers had been dressed in the most effective clothes their living family members could find the money for and placed on display. Persons would costume up as each spirits and saints to signify the unity of the dwelling and the useless, and farmers and craftsmen alike would rejoice the stop of a successful and bountiful yr delivering no finish of excessive to all who attended. In several approaches, the celebration of life, abundance, and joy was significant to the hardships faced  throughout the Medieval period .

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The All Hallows festivals in Rome would also be in which the loaded and wealthy would compete for the most deluxe of events, distinctive to people who were nicely linked. As the commoners masqueraded in the streets, the rich held the major of functions the place performers, courtesans, and entertainers would phase elaborate demonstrates about tables overflowing with foods and wine.

As Pope Alexander VI hoped to get further more favor with the church, he may have felt that the Borgia celebrations should really be the really finest of all. Perhaps the Banquet of Chestnuts was symbolic of all these rituals because it contained each a grand feast for all, as perfectly as an appreciation for daily life and all of its vices.

A popular portrait of Cesare Borgia by an unidentified artist (probably Bartolomeo Veneto). Cesare was the head host at the Banquet of Chestnuts. Possibly the party was described as staying infamous and sinful, by a single particular person, to slander the mounting ability of the Borgias? (Following Bartolomeo Veneto /  General public area

Conclusions . . .

Whichever the situation, the diary entries by Burchard have usually been dismissed as the writings of a bitter foe to the Borgias. Due to the fact October 31, 1501, as Beccia writes, historians have continued to debate whether or not the scandalous orgies of the Banquet of Chestnuts had been without a doubt correct or an exaggeration by a resentful Burchard.

In Becchia’s essay, she gives another source that places Burchard’s description into question. The Italian condottiere Silvio Savelli also attended the banquet, however in a letter he wrote, Savelli only described that the courtesans dined with the Borgias and their visitors without the need of any point out of sexual sin. If just about anything, Savelli went on to point out that the courtesans were terrific conversationalists who greeted company with “a most surprising sight.” What that sight was, alas, will be without end shed to record and rumour. 

Prime image: The decadence of Rome, as depicted in Thomas Couture’s well-known painting, is nevertheless celebrated these days in film and literature. And no celebration was described as a lot more scandalous than the Banquet of Chestnuts in 1501, held the night prior to Halloween.                Source: Thomas Couture /  Community domain

By B.B. Wagner