pick up those chestnuts!

Pope Alexander VI was quite the party animal and a grave embarrassment to the Church.


“He has a unique record among the popes for the public prominence of his illegitimate children and the blatancy of his amours in the “Sacred Palace”. With his 12 bastard children, including Cesare, Juan, Lucrezia and Jofre, and his numerous mistresses, the “Vatican was a brothel” with a debauched papal court. Alexander VI was a sexual pervert, and lurid stories were bandied about by the intellectual underworld of Rome.


“Once he became Pope Alexander VI, Vatican parties, already wild, grew wilder. They were costly, but he could afford the lifestyle of a Renaissance prince; as vice chancellor of the Roman Church, he had amassed enormous wealth. As guests approached the papal palace, they were excited by the spectacle of living statues: naked, gilded young men and women in erotic poses. Flags bore the Borgia arms, which, appropriately, portrayed a red bull rampant on a field of gold. Every fete had a theme. One, known to Romans as the Ballet of the Chestnuts, was held on October 30, 1501. The indefatigable Burchard describes it in his Diarium. After the banquet dishes had been cleared away, the city’s fifty most beautiful whores danced with the guests, “first clothed, then naked.” The dancing over, the “ballet” began, with the Pope and two of his children in the best seats.


Candelabra were set up on the floor, scattered among them were chestnuts, “which”, Burchard writes, “the courtesans had to pick up, crawling between the candles.” Then the serious sex started. Guests stripped and ran out onto the floor, where they mounted, or were mounted by, the prostitutes. “The coupling took place,” according to Burchard, “in front of everyone present.” Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the Pope greatly admired virility, and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity. After eveyone was exhausted, His Holiness distributed prizes- cloaks, boots, caps, and fine silken tunics. “The winners”, the diarist wrote, “were those who made love with the courtesans the greatest number of times.”

image by Franz von Bayros

His death was not such a grand and exciting affair. Johann Burchard was the man who dressed and prepared the Pope’s body for burial.

“With the help of three others, I took hold of the bier and moved it so that the pope’s head was close to the altar. There we shut the bier in behind the choir. The Bishop of Sessa, however, wondered if the ordinary people might not climb up to the body there, which would cause a great scandal and perhaps allow somebody who had been wronged by the pope to get his revenge. He therefore had the bier moved into the chapel entrance between the steps, with the pope’s feet so close to the iron door that they could be touched through the grill. There the body remained through the day, with the iron door firmly closed.

At four o’clock on that afternoon when I saw the corpse again, its face had changed to the color of mulberry or the blackest cloth and it was covered in blue-black spots. The nose was swollen, the mouth distended where the tongue was doubled over, and the lips seemed to fill everything. The appearance of the face then was far more horrifying than anything that had ever been seen or reported before.

Later after five o’clock, the body was carried to the Chapel of Santa Maria della Febbre and placed in its coffin next to the wall in a corner by the altar. Six laborers or porters, making blasphemous jokes in contempt of his corpse, together with two master carpenters, performed this task.

Chapel Santa Maria

The carpenters had made the coffin too narrow and short, and so they placed the pope’s miter at his side, rolled him up in an old carpet, and pummeled and pushed it into the coffin with their fists. No wax tapers or lights were used, and no priests or any other persons attended to his body.

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 9:31 am  Comments (37)  
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37 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Church was never that fun when I attended. Wild stroy nursie.

    From now on, I will call my journal a “Diarium,” which kinda makes sense.

    • I wondered who would be the first to comment on that – isn’t it a wonderful word?

  2. Even if he was dead and couldn’t possibly feel a thing, the thought of being wrapped up and pummeled into a coffin sounds awful.

    • I don’t mind the wrapping so much, especially if the carpet is one of those lovely old Oriental hand knotted ones

  3. Damned clergy.

  4. Gather your chestnuts while you may … that’s an exhausting way to win a new cloak.

    • Yeah, I don’t mind the chestnut gathering but if I’m going to have serious sex I want it to be with the satyr of my choosing

  5. Showtime is going to do a series about them. (I don’t know if you get their programming there) You might under a different channel name.


    • Showtime is a pay tv channel here. The Tudors was on the ABC, so maybe they’ll buy this program as well. I’d certainly watch it if it was shown here

  6. You’ve got me singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” and laughing at the visual.

  7. Now that’s a vatican i can get on board with!

  8. Oh for the days when the Pope could whore and debauch his way through life AND set his kids up in prominent posts. I bet Ratzinger is secretly jealous

  9. fascinating story, but i got stuck on the first photo – and am thinking you need a wonderwoman corset!

    • Daisy’s right. We need a Wonder Woman Friday. Complemented by Daisy’s Xena outfit, of course.

  10. Sounds like I should reconsider this religion malarky

  11. well at least the vatican has remained consistent throughout years.

  12. I’d have to agree with Lynn, in some ways things haven’t changed all that much!

  13. Twelve bastards? He obviously took his duties as the Father of the Church very, very seriously.

  14. So basically nothing has changed, except the participants were actually willing. Hmmmmm . . .

  15. I won a cap as a prize at a party once! It was a baseball cap and I don’t recall that it had anything to do with multiple orgasms. I think I answered a trivia question. Other than that- pretty similar!

    H. Don Istic

    • Almost identical!

  16. Sweet suffering Jaysus…. yis is gonnae go straight to hell for the blasphemy of the little queer Pope fella himself. Any chance you’se could wear that little red basque number for the journey if I save you a seat on the bus?

    • Anything for you Jimmy. But I thought you preferred white?

  17. Perhaps the coffin was too small because the carpenters based their measurements on a particular part of the Pope’s anatomy.

  18. A pope an embarrassment to the Church? No way!

    Especially one who really knew how to throw a party.

  19. Wonderful stuff!
    Do you think this was in the days before the fashion for child abuse among the catholics?

    • It may have been what started it off!

      Though I think the ‘fashion’ for religion based child abuse has been with us since A.D.

  20. I love the Borgia family’s story!

  21. Hey, those 14th – 16th Century Popes knew how to live

  22. What an unceremonious end to a guy who knew how to have a good time. This was a pope, you’d thing they’d not let the slightest thing happen to the body. Airline luggage is handled better.

  23. Wow seriously? I’ll have to read up on the church. Maybe they should have left it as it was and they wouldn’t have needed to be diddling little kids.

  24. The history of the Catholic Church is juicier than any airport blockbuster.

    They should have full histories for reading on hotel bedside tables instead of Bibles.

    • Now there’s a marketing ploy. I’d spend my evenings in ordering room service and reading if that were the case

  25. I love your self-portrait with the fan.

  26. That’s a Pope I can get behind…so to speak.

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