Pope Callixtus III

Pope Callixtus III (31 December 1378 – 6 August 1458), also known as Alfonso de Borgia (Spanish: Alfons de Borja), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 8 April 1455 to his death in 1458.

He is the most recent pope to have taken the pontifical name of "Callixtus" upon his election. He was also responsible for the retrial of Joan of Arc that saw her vindicated. A member of the powerful Borgia family, Callixtus III was the uncle of Pope Alexander VI, whom he appointed to the College of Cardinals.


Callixtus III
Bishop of Rome
Alfonso de Borja, obispo de Valencia y papa Calixto III (cropped)
Papacy began8 April 1455
Papacy ended6 August 1458
PredecessorNicholas V
SuccessorPius II
Consecration31 August 1429
by Pierre de Foix
Created cardinal2 May 1444
by Eugene IV
Personal details
Birth nameAlfons de Borja
Born31 December 1378
Died6 August 1458 (aged 79)
Rome, Papal States
ChildrenFrancisco de Borja
Previous post
Coat of armsCallixtus III's coat of arms
Other popes named Callixtus


Early life

Alfonso de Borgia was born in La Torreta in 1378. La Torreta was at the time in the Señorío de Torre de Canals (but is now a neighborhood of Canals in Valencia).[1] At the time he was born in the Kingdom of Valencia under the Crown of Aragon.

He was the son of Domingo de Borgia and Francina Llançol. He was the eldest child and his siblings were Isabel, Juana, Catalina and Francisca. He was baptized at Saint Mary's Basilica in Xativa, where he is now honored with a statue in his memory.[2][3]

Church career


Cardinal Borgia

During the Great Western Schism he supported Antipope Benedict XIII and was also the driving force behind Antipope Clement VIII's submission to Pope Martin V in 1429.[4]

Borgia studied grammar, logic and the arts in Valencia and went in 1392 to the University of Lleida where he obtained a doctorate in both canon law and civil law. His early career was spent as a professor of law at the University of Lleida and he then served as a diplomat to the Kings of Aragon, especially during the Council of Basel (1431–1439).

When he was a priest he attended a sermon that Vincent Ferrer held around 1411. At the end of his message, the Dominican said to the future pope: "My son, you one day will be called to be the ornament of your house and of your country. You will be invested with the highest dignity that can fall to the lot of man. After my death, I shall be the object of your special honour. Endeavor to persevere in a life of virtue."[5] As pope, Borgia canonized Ferrer on 3 June 1455.[6]

Borgia was chosen as a delegate of the Diocese of Lerida to the Council of Constance in 1416, but did not partake in the proceedings as King Alfonso V of Aragon was opposed to the council. Because of this he went to Barcelona as a representative of his diocese in a synod. Borgia cared strongly for the reestablishment of the unity of the church and his influence with the Aragonese monarch was the factor that allowed for the conclusion of the accord between the king and the new pope.

In 1418 he was named as the rector of San Nicolas of Valencia. He was also the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lerida from 1420 to 1423. In 1424 he resigned his position and dedicated his service to the Aragonese king. In 1424 he was named as the apostolic administrator of the see of Mallorca. It was at that time that the king desired that he be made a Cardinal; Pope Martin V refused the request that Borgia be made a Cardinal.

Episcopate and cardinalate

Borgia was appointed Bishop of Valencia by Pope Martin V on 20 August 1429 and was consecrated on 31 August 1429. He authorized Pedro Llorens to take possession of the see in his name.[7] Borgia also tutored Alfonso V's illegitimate son Ferrante.

Pope Eugene IV elevated him to the cardinalate on 2 May 1444 after he managed to reconcile the pope and King Alfonso V of Aragon. He was elevated as the Cardinal-Priest of Santi Quattro Coronati. He took up his official residence in Rome and was a member of the Roman Curia. He participated in the papal conclave of 1447 that saw the election of Pope Nicholas V. He was known for an austere and charitable life.

Borgia's coat of arms after he was consecrated featured a grazing ox. As pope it remained the same.



Papal styles of
Pope Callixtus III
C o a Callistus III
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleNone

Borgia was raised to the papal chair on 8 April 1455 at an advanced age as a "compromise candidate" in the papal conclave of 1455. He took the pontifical name of "Callixtus III".[7] He was crowned as pope on 20 April 1455 by the Cardinal Protodeacon Prospero Colonna.

He is viewed by historians as being an extremely pious person and a firm believer in the authority of the Holy See.


Crusade calls

Not quite two years after the Fall of Constantinople, he was chiefly concerned with the organization of Christian Europe against an invasion by the Turks. An extensive building program under way in Rome was cancelled and the money funneled toward a crusade. Papal Nuncios were dispatched to all the countries of Europe to beseech the princes to join once more in an effort to check the danger of a Turkish invasion. Missionaries were sent to England, France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, and Aragon to preach the Crusade, and to engage the prayers of the faithful for the success of the enterprise. It was by order of Callixtus III that the bells were rung at midday to remind the faithful that they should pray for the welfare of the crusaders.[7]

The princes of Europe were slow in responding to the call of the pope, largely due to national rivalries. England and France's Hundred Years' War had just ended in 1453. Forces led by John Hunyadi (Hungarian: Hunyadi János), Captain-General of Hungary, met the Turks and defeated them at Belgrade (22 July 1456). Shortly after his victory, Hunyadi himself died of a fever.[7] On 29 June 1456, Callixtus III ordered the church bells to be rung at noon (see noon bell) as a call to prayer for the welfare of those defending Belgrade. To commemorate this victory, Callixtus III ordered the Feast of the Transfiguration to be held annually on 6 August.

Foreign policies

In 1456 the pope issued the papal bull Inter Caetera to Portugal (not to be confused with Inter Caetera of 1493). This bull reaffirmed the earlier bulls Dum Diversas and Romanus Pontifex which recognized Portugal's rights to territories it had discovered along the West African coast as well as the enslavement of infidels and non-Christians captured there.

This confirmation of Romanus Pontifex also gave the Portuguese the military Order of Christ under Prince Henry the Navigator.[8] Inter Caetera of 1456 was in direct contradiction to the stance taken by Pope Eugene IV in the 1435 bull Sicut Dudum, which prohibited capturing slaves in the Canary Islands.


On 20 February 1456, Callixtus III elevated two of his nephews to the cardinalate. The first of them was Rodrigo de Borgia who later became Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), infamous for his alleged corruption and immorality.[9] The second was Luis Julian de Milà.

Retrial of Joan of Arc

Callixtus III ordered a new trial for St. Joan of Arc (c. 1412–1431), at which she was posthumously vindicated.[10]

Other activities

The pope approved of the establishment of the University of Greifswald that took place in 1456.

Callixtus III elevated nine new cardinals into the cardinalate in two consistories on 20 February 1456 and 17 December 1456.[11]

S M in Monserrato - tomba dei papi Borgia P1000272
Tomb of Callixtus III and Alexander VI in Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli.

Callixtus III canonized the following four saints during his pontificate:

The "bull against the comet"

Halley's Comet - May 29 1910
Halley's Comet – May 29, 1910

According to one story that first appeared in a 1475 posthumous biography and was subsequently embellished and popularized by Pierre-Simon Laplace, Callixtus III excommunicated the 1456 appearance of Halley's Comet, believing it to be an ill omen for the Christian defenders of Belgrade from the besieging armies of the Ottoman Empire.[12] No known primary source supports the authenticity of this account. The 29 June 1456 papal bull of Callixtus III calling for a public prayer for the success of the crusade makes no mention of the comet. By 6 August, when the Turkish siege was broken, the comet had not been visible in either Europe or Turkey for several weeks.[13]


Callixtus III died on 6 August 1458. His remains were transferred in 1586 and again in 1610 with the remains of Pope Alexander VI to Santa Maria in Monserrato. His remains were transferred once more on 21 August 1889 in the chapel of San Diego.

In his will he left 5000 ducati to establish a hospital.


Catholic historian Ludwig von Pastor opined:

"Except for his nepotism, Calixtus III deserves high praise, more especially for the energy, constancy and purpose which he displayed in dealing with the burning question of the day – the protection of Western civilization from the Turkish power. In this matter he gave a grand example to Christendom, and it is to be observed that in the midst of the military and political interest which claimed so large a share of his time and attention, he did not neglect the internal affairs of the Church, and vigorously opposed heresies."[14]


  1. ^ "Anna y Canals. Valencia". palomatorrijos (in Spanish). 12 June 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2014. ... En el siglo XIV se construyó junto a la torre, y aprovechando parte de sus murallas, un pequeño Palacio Gótico que era la sede de la baronía de La Torre, independiente de Canals, cuyos titulares eran los Borgia. En este lugar nació en 1378 Alfonso Borgia, el que fuera futuro papa Calixto III. ...'
  2. ^ Rolfe, p. 12
  3. ^ Statue of Pope Calixtus III,St. Mary's Basilica,La Seu Cathedral,Xàtiva,Valencia,Spain, Archived 20 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ McBrien, Richard P. (2000). Lives of the Popes: The pontiffs from St Peter to John Paul II. San Francisco: HarperCollins. p. 260. ISBN 978-0060653040.
  5. ^ Rolfe, p. 12-13
  6. ^ Reinhart, Albert. "St. Vincent Ferrer." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 24 Jul. 2014
  7. ^ a b c d MacCaffrey, James. "Pope Callistus III." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 24 Jul. 2014
  8. ^ European treaties bearing on the history of the United States and its Dependencies to 1648, ed. Frances Gardiner Davenport, (Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1917), 27.
  9. ^ The Lives and Times of the Popes, Vol.4, Ed. Artaud de Montor, (Catholic Publication Society of America, 1911), 190.
  10. ^ Helen Castor, Joan of Arc, (HarperCollins, 2015), 231,241.
  11. ^ Miranda, Salvador. Consistories for the creation of Cardinals: 15th Century (1394-1503) The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  12. ^ John Stein (1913). "Bartolomeo Platina". In Charles George Herbermann (ed.). The Catholic Encyclopedia. 12. Robert Appleton Co. pp. 158–159. OCLC 1017058.
  13. ^ Rigge, William F. "An Historical Examination of the Connection of Calixtus III with Halley's Comet", Popular Astronomy, p.214, 1910
  14. ^ Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Popes, Vol. 2, p. 479-480

See also

Further reading

  • European treaties bearing on the history of the United States and its Dependencies to 1648, Ed. Frances Gardiner Davenport, Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1917.
  • Gower, Ronald Sutherland, Joan of Arc, BiblioBazaar LLC, 2007.
  • Hibbert, Christopher, The Borgias and their enemies: 1431–1519, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008.
  • Artaud de Montor, Alexis François (1911). The Lives and Times of the Popes, Vol.4. Catholic Publication Society of America, 1911.
  • Rolfe, Frederick, Chronicles of the House of Borgia, 1901. [Rolfe was also 'Baron Frederick Corvo', author of the fantasy Hadrian VII]
  • Pastor, Ludwig von, History of the Popes, Vol. 2 (Second Edition, translated by Frederick Ignatius Antrobus), 1899.

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Nicholas V
8 April 1455 – 6 August 1458
Succeeded by
Pius II
Preceded by
Hug de Llupià
Bishop of Valencia
20 August 1429 – 8 April 1455
Succeeded by
Rodrigo de Borja (later Alexander VI)
Preceded by
Louis de Luxembourg
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Quattro Coronati
12 July 1444 – 8 April 1458
Succeeded by
Luis Juan del Milà y Borja
1455 papal conclave

The papal conclave of 1455 (April 4–8) elected Alfons Borja Pope Callixtus III following the death of Pope Nicholas V. The conclave was the first in the Apostolic Palace, the site of all but five papal conclave thereafter. The conclave was also the first to feature accessus voting (votes cast in accessit), derived from a practice of the Roman Senate, where a cardinal could change their vote after an unsuccessful scrutiny to any cardinal already receiving votes.The early defeat of Greek Cardinal Basilios Bessarion—a potential compromise candidate between the Colonna and Orsini factions—is a notable display of the lingering antipathy towards certain characteristics of the Eastern church, such as bearded priests, centuries after the East-West Schism. Although Western canon law had prohibited beards for priests since at least the eleventh century, the issue would continue to be debated well into the sixteenth century.

1458 papal conclave

The papal conclave of 1458 (August 16–19) convened after the death of Pope Callixtus III, elected as his successor Cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who took the name Pius II.

1464 papal conclave

The papal conclave of 1464 (August 28–30) convened after the death of Pope Pius II, elected as his successor cardinal Pietro Barbo, who took the name Paul II.

Ad summi apostolatus apicem

Ad summi apostolatus apicem is a papal bull issued by Pope Callixtus III on 15 May 1455. Callixtus renewed the indulgences granted by Pope Nicholas V's bull Etsi ecclesia Christi to those who took part in the crusade against the Ottoman Empire. He also regulated the tithes necessary to fund it and set 1 March 1456 as the date for the departure of the crusading expedition.

Alfonso Vázquez de Acuña

Alfonso Vázquez de Acuña (died 1474) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Jaén (1457–1474) and Bishop of Mondoñedo (1455–1457).

Cardinals created by Callixtus III

Pope Callixtus III (r. 1455–1458) created nine cardinals in two consistories.

Cum his superioribus annis

Cum his superioribus annis is a papal bull issued by Pope Callixtus III on 29 June 1456.Callixtus addressed the clergy of all Christendom and exhorted them by prayers, fasting and penance to "return to the Lord, that He may again return to us". He also ordered processions in each diocese on the first Sunday of each month to pray for the defeat of the threatened Ottoman invasion. Every priest was ordered by Callixtus to recite the following prayer: "Almighty, ever-lasting God, to whom all power belongs, and in whose hand are the rights of all nations, protect Thy Christian people and crush by Thy power the pagans who trust in their fierceness". Indulgences were granted and Callixtus further ordered that in every church, between noon and vespers, one or more bells should be rung as for the angelus, and three "Our Fathers", and "Hail Marys" recited.

Giacomo Filippo Crivelli

Giacomo Filippo Crivelli (died 1466) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Novara (1457–1466).

Heinrich von Rübenach

Heinrich von Rübenach, O.P. (died 1493) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Mainz (1457–1493).

Iñigo Manrique de Lara (archbishop)

Iñigo Manrique de Lara (died April 1485) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Seville (1483–1485), Bishop of Jaén (1475–1483), Bishop of Coria (1457–1475), and Bishop of Oviedo (1444–1457).

Johannes Frey

Johannes Frey, O.F.M. (died 1474) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Freising (1457–1474).

Johannes Schulte

Johannes Schulte, O.S.A. (died 1489) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Mainz (1466–1489) and Auxiliary Bishop of Paderborn (1455–1466).

Juan de Aragón

Juan de Aragón was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Zaragoza (1458–1475).

List of popes from the Borgia family

The Borgias, also known as the Borjas, were a European papal family of Spanish origin that became prominent during the Renaissance. The family produced three popes of the Catholic Church:

Pope Callixtus III (born Alfons de Borja; 1378–1458) – served as pope from 8 April 1455 until his death on 6 August 1458

Pope Alexander VI (born Rodrigo Lanzol Borgia; 1431–1503) – served as pope from 11 August 1492 until his death on 18 August 1503; his maternal uncle was Pope Callixtus III

Pope Innocent X (born Giovanni Battista Pamphilj (or Pamphili); 1574–1655) – served as pope from 15 September 1644 until his death on 7 January 1655; he was the great-great-great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI, but his surname was not Borgia

Lorenzo Zanni

Lorenzo Zanni or Lorenzo Zane (died 1485) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Brescia (1478–1480),Titular Patriarch of Antioch (1473–1478),Bishop of Treviso (1473–1478),Titular Patriarch of Jerusalem (1458–1473), and

Archbishop of Split (1452–1458).

Nicolas de Crucibus

Nicolas de Crucibus or Nicolò delle Croci (died 1473) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Hvar (1463–1473)

and Bishop of Chioggia (1457–1463).

Pope Callixtus

Pope Callixtus has been the papal name of three popes of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Callixtus I (217–222)

Pope Callixtus II (1119–1124)

Pope Callixtus III (1455–1458)

Thomas Kirkham

Thomas Kirkham (died 1480) was a pre-Reformation cleric who served as the Bishop of Sodor and Man in the second half of the 15th century.

A Cistercian monk, he became the Abbot of Vale Royal in Cheshire around 1438 or 1439. He was also appointed bishop of the Diocese of Sodor and Man by Pope Callixtus III on 21 June 1458. Twenty years later, he appears to have resigned the see, since his successor Richard Oldham was appointed bishop in 1478.He died in 1480 and was buried at Vale Royal Abbey.

Ulrich Aumayer

Ulrich Aumayer, O.F.M. or Ulrich Aumair (died 1468) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Regensburg (1456–1468).

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