Pope Callixtus III

Pope Callixtus III

Infobox Pope
English name=Calixtus III

birth_name=Alfonso de Borja
term_start=April 8, 1455
term_end=August 6, 1458
predecessor=Nicholas V
successor=Pius II
birth_date=birth date|1378|12|31|mf=y
birthplace= Xàtiva, València, Spain
dead=dead|death_date=death date and age|1458|8|6|1378|12|31|df=y
deathplace=Rome, Italy

Pope Calixtus III (December 31, 1378 – August 6, 1458), né "Alfonso de Borja", was Pope from April 8, 1455 to his death in 1458.


Alfonso de Borja was born near Xàtiva, València, today Spain but then Kingdom of Valencia under the Crown of Aragon. His early career was spent as a professor of law at University of Lleida and then as a diplomat in the service of the Kings of Aragon, especially during the Council of Basel (1431–1439). He became a cardinal after reconciling Pope Eugene IV (1431–1447) with King Alfonso V of Aragon (1416–1458).

He was raised to the papal chair in 1455 as Calixtus III at a very advanced age as a compromise candidate. He was viewed by historians as being feeble and incompetent. In the same year, he issued a Papal bulle (bulletin/edict) to Portugal. This bulle authorized it to reduce to servitude (enslave) "infidels" (non-christian) people. Thus, the Catholic Church gave permission to Portugal and its other subjugate countries to engage in the Trans-Atlantic, African Slave Trade. Therefore, assuring that the enslavement of Africans was not contradictory to the word of God nor the teachings of the church itself - without retaliation or penalization from either.

The great object of his policy was the urging of a crusade against the Turks, who had captured Constantinople in 1453, but he did not find the Christian princes responsive to his call despite his every effort.

Pope Calixtus III made two of his nephews cardinals, one of whom, Roderic de Borgia, later became Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) and was infamous for corruption.

On June 29, 1456, he ordered the bells to be rung at noon (see noon bell) in all the Churchs to call Christians for prayer. As news spread with some delay, this order became connected with the crusade to lift the Siege of Belgrade (which happened on July 22), which was a signal victory against the Turks. To commemorate this victory, Calixtus III ordered the feast of the Transfiguration to be held on August 6.

He ordered a new trial for St. Joan of Arc (c. 1412–1431), at which she was posthumously vindicated after being controversially tried and executed.

Calixtus III's pre-papal coat of arms featured a grazing ox.

The "bull against the comet."

According to one story, first appearing in a posthumous biography in 1475 and later embellished and popularized by Pierre-Simon Laplace, Calixtus III excommunicated the 1456 apparition of Halley's Comet, believing it to be an ill omen for the Christian defenders of Belgrade, who were at that time being besieged by the armies of the Ottoman Empire. No known primary source supports the authenticity of this account. Calixtus III's papal bull of June 29, 1456, which called for public prayer for the success of the crusade, makes no mention of the comet, and by August 6, when the Turkish siege was broken, the comet had not been visible from Europe or Turkey for several weeks.

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