Callistus III


August 13, 2022

Callistus III (born Alfonso de Borja on 31 December 1378 in La Torreta which was then part of Canals in Valencia, but then in Señorío de Torre de Canals, died on 6 August 1458 in Rome was the Pope of the Catholic Church from 8 April 1455 to his death.

Life and work


He was baptized in Xàtiva near Valencia in Spain and belonged to the Borgia family. After a career as a law professor in Lleida and as a diplomat for the kings of Aragón, he was created cardinal by Pope Eugenius IV at the consistory in May 1444 after reconciling the pope with Alfonso V of Aragón, with Santi Quattro Coronati al Laterano as titular church.


In 1455 he was elected Pope. He was then 77 years old, which in the Middle Ages was a very old age. He is said to have been chosen as a compromise candidate, because he was clumsy and incompetent and would thus hand over control to the cardinals. His great project as pope was to launch a crusade against the Turks, who had taken Constantinople in 1453, but he was unable to gather support among Christian princes. His appointment of two nephews as cardinals is considered a good example of the nepotism that was common in the papacy in the Middle Ages. One of them, Rodrigo Borgia, later became Pope under the name Alexander VI. The other was Luis Julian de Milà. Callistus III ordered a new trial for Joan of Arc, where she was posthumously acquitted. A famous story about Callistus, which first appeared in a biography from 1475 and which was further elaborated by Pierre-Simon Laplace three hundred years later, tells that in 1456 he excommunicated Halley's Comet because it was considered a bad omen for the Christian defenders of Belgrade. There are no primary sources to support this, and his bull from June 1456, where he asks the people to pray for the fight against the Turks, does not mention the comet. An excommunication - exclusion from the ecclesiastical communion - is in any case a church punishment that affects people, not soulless objects . He died on 6 August 1458 in Rome and was buried in St. Peter's Church. In 1610, his body was moved to the Spanish National Church in Rome, Santa Maria de Monserrato degli Spagnoli.



(de) Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz: "Calixt III" in Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 1, Hamm 1975, sp. 860–861.