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Indoors / Outdoors (Defuse)

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Synecdoche is a powerful, expressive linguistic device

The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Cesare Borgia’s Party

Recently in the news, Silvio Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga parties have caused something of a furore across the various spectra of political media, both here in Europe and abroad. His actions have been seen as unbecoming of a politician, much less a head of state. In this day and age, they probably are.
But anyone hearing about them in an earlier Italy, during the renaissance, that time of a great flowering of learning and creativity, would have had a much less elevated response. In fact they would have sounded fairly boring.
Cesare Borgia was the son of a pope (after the Gregorian reforms), Alexander VI, and was made a bishop at 16, later a cardinal at 18. Cardinals are considered princes of the Catholic Church and among their duties is the election of popes. As a pope, having one with filial obligations supporting you must be reassuring. It is fairly obvious why one of Alexander’s first duties was to elevate his son.
Anyway, Cesare did not like the life of a priest. The Church at the time was a strong, military, sovereign state with the Pope as de facto king. So between them father and son did what any others who felt unbound by duty or expectation would do – they married Cesare off into the French aristocracy, which was a mutually beneficial alliance for both countries. They also granted him lands in Italy, raising his star even further. He became the commander of the Papal Armies and in effect was answerable to nobody – cue a string of murders and the party, described below, that he threw for his father and sister.
Bear in mind that what follows is in official recorded history. In short, these are the bits they did not mind if you heard. It is recorded by Johann Burchard, the Vatican’s Master of Ceremonies from 1483 until his death in 1506.
“On Sunday the last day of October 1501 there took place a supper attended also by fifty honest prostitutes, those who are called courtesans. After supper they danced with the servants and others who were there. They did so clothed at first, later naked. After supper, the lighted candelabra, which had been on the table were placed on the floor and chestnuts placed among them, which the prostitutes had to pick up as they crouched between the candles, crawling. The Pope, the Duke (Cesare) and Lucrezia, his sister were looking on. At the end they displayed prizes; silk mantles, boots, caps and other objects which were promised to whoever could fuck these prostitutes the greatest number of times.”

Johann Burchard, the Vatican’s Master of Ceremonies, and chronicler
Lapham’s Quarterly refers to the party in a modern context
Johann Burchard’s chronicle of Alexander VI’s court
The Borgias, Christopher Hibbert, Constable, 2011

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