Little Bits of History

Banquet of the Chestnuts

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 30, 2014
Cesare Borgia

Cesare Borgia

October 30, 1501: Cesare Borgia throws a party. Cesare was born on September 13, 1475. His parents were Pope Alexander VI and his long time mistress, Vannozza dei Cattanei. His sister, Lucrecia, came to be synonymous with Machiavellian politics and sexual corruption which characterized the Renaissance Papacy. Cesare entered the priesthood and became a cardinal. After his brother’s death, Cesare resigned his cardinalcy and his father set him up as a prince over territory carved from the Papal States. On this day, he hosted a banquet in his apartments in the Palazzo Apostolico or Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope.

Johann Burchard wrote about the event in his diary. The Latin diary, called Liber Notarum, may be inaccurate. According to Burchard’s report, invited to the party were “fifty honest prostitutes” also called courtesans. The lovely ladies danced with the guests after dinner. They began dancing while clothed, but shed their garments and danced naked. The candles were removed from the tables and chestnuts were strewn around. The naked women picked them up while on their hands and knees. The Pope, Casare, and Lucrecia looked on. Finally, prizes of silk tunics, shoes, and other finery were offered for those who could “perform the act” most often with the women.

William Manchester (1922-2004) added some details in his book, A World Lit Only by Fire. According to this much later rendition of the tale, servants kept score of each man’s orgasms. The pope greatly admired virility and machismo and not only the number of pairings, but the ejaculative capacity was calculated. After everyone was exhausted, prizes were given. The party was such a hit it received its own name and is called the Banquet of the Chestnuts of the Ballet of the Chestnuts. Peter de Roo (1839-1926), a Vatican researcher and Catholic priest, does not agree with the account as given in Burchard’s diary. He claims that although the Borgias may have hosted a party, it was not an orgy as described and certainly not attended by the Pope.

He believes the story was made up and inconsistent with facts. First, Alexander VI was a decent but much maligned man. Second, Burchard’s writing of this event is unlike the rest of writing. And lastly, the majority of writers of the time questioned the veracity of the story and rejected it as lies. Writers of the time have Cesare throwing a party but with valets rather than prostitutes and his sister was missing from the event. If there were any “low harlots” involved, they were at the behest of Cesare and not the Pontiff. Other letters of the times say there were prostitutes there, but no Borgias at all.

I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade… And try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party. – Ron White

You come home, and you party. But after that, you get a hangover. Everything about that is negative. – Mike Tyson

At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom. – George Carlin

At every party there are two kinds of people – those who want to go home and those who don’t. The trouble is, they are usually married to each other. – Ann Landers

Also on this day: “Isn’t there … anyone?”– In 1938, the radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds led to panic in the streets.
Europe and Asia Linked – In 1973, the first Bosphorus Bridge was completed.
Rebuilding – In 2005, the rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche was reconsecrated.
Transplant – In 1960, the first kidney transplant in the UK was performed.