Written by Al Jazeera

“The Borgia family is like, the worst”, confidently stated Marcantonio I Colonna, member of the notorious and incredibly scandalous Spanish family.

Producing two popes and several other political and church leaders, the Borgia family, who reigned during the Italian Renaissance,  remains today as one of the most heavily tainted families by charges including treachery, incest, murder, and rape. As described by Marcantonio, “The family tree looks like a circle because everyone in this family is so inbred”.

The family finds its’ root with Alfons de Borga, also known as Pope Callixtus III, who was renowned for a career of deeply entrenched corruption and nepotism. From there, his nephew Rodrigo was accused of buying and bribing his way to the papacy when he was elected as Pope Alexander VI in 1492. Because of his powerful position within the church, he became lavishly wealthy and was rumored to have taken several mistresses and fathered numerous children.

These members aren’t the worst of them all however; Rodrigo’s children committed several sins that only furthered the family’s reputation of being extremely sinful. Cesare, an established murderer by age of 25, was widely reputed to have killed his older brother and slept with his sister. Lucrezia especially has been a particular source of interest to historians around the world. Being married off in a manner that resembles cattle being auctioned, Lucrezia was passed on from husband to husband based on which would benefit her family more. Known as one of the earliest ‘femme fatales’ in history, Lucrezia was known for using her charm and beauty to win men’s hearts.

Seeped in sin and immorality, this family has lived throughout history as one of the most notorious and corrupt there ever was. However, why are they specifically targeted when history reports several other families of being equally sinful?

The easy answer is religion and power. Being so seemingly treacherous at a time when they were in such a high position of power in society, all eyes were on the Borgias and therefore all of their movements and actions, the scandalous and the honest, were being scrutinized. At the times when Lucrezia and Cesare were at the height of their mischievousness, this behavior was actually reported to be not uncommon at all in Renaissance Italy and Spain, but being the children of the already somewhat dishonored Pope, they were subjected even further to society’s religious standards.

History’s reputation of the Borgias is a prime example of how families such as the Borgias were placed under an intense eye of scrutiny because of how intertwined religion was with their power. While their actions aren’t completely preposterous and uncommon as history dictates it as because they were committed at a time where families in power were supposed to be the symbol of upholding religious standards, they will forever be known as one of the most sinful families there was.