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Callistus III

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Callistus III

"Calistus III" and "Calixtus III" redirect here. For the antipope, see Antipope Callixtus III.
Callixtus III
Papacy began 8 April 1455
Papacy ended 6 August 1458
Predecessor Nicholas V
Successor Pius II
Consecration 31 August 1429
by Pierre de Foix
Created Cardinal 2 May 1444
Personal details
Birth name Alfonso de Borja
Born (1378-12-31)31 December 1378
Canals, Valencia, Crown of Aragon
Died 6 August 1458(1458-08-06) (aged 79)
Rome, Papal States
Other popes named Callixtus
Papal styles of
Pope Callixtus III
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

Pope Callixtus III or Callistus III (31 December 1378 – 6 August 1458), born Alfons de Borja, was the head of the Catholic Church from 8 April 1455 to his death in 1458.[1] He is the last pope to take the name "Callixtus" upon his election.


Alfons de Borja was born in La Torreta, now a neighbourhood of Canals, Valencia – today in Spain – but at that time in the Kingdom of Valencia under the Crown of Aragon. He was the son of Domingo de Borja and Francina Llançol. During the western schism he supported Antipope Benedict XIII, and was the driving force behind Antipope Clement VIII's submission to Pope Martin V in 1429.[2] His early career was spent as a professor of law at the 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 with King Alfonso V of Aragon.

He was raised to the papal chair in 1455 as Callixtus III at a very advanced age, as a "compromise candidate" in the papal conclave that year. He is viewed by historians as being extremely pious, a firm believer in the authority of the Holy See and, like the second Borgia pope, he went to great lengths to advance his immediate family. In 1456, he issued the papal bull Inter Caetera to Portugal (not to be confused with Inter Caetera of 1493). This bull reaffirmed the Portuguese right to reduce infidels and the Moors to servitude by the earlier bulls Romanus Pontifex and Dum Diversas, thus reaffirming the papal consent to the enslavement of Africans. This confirmation of Romanus Pontifex also gave the Portuguese the military Order of Christ under Prince Henry the Navigator.[3]

Inter Caetera of 1456 was in direct opposition, however, to the stance taken by Pope Eugene IV in the 1435 bull Sicut Dudum, where infidels were acknowledged to have been created in the image of God and having souls, which implied that no Christian had the right to take away their liberty.

The pope urged a crusade against the Turks who had captured Constantinople in 1453, but his call did not receive support among the Christian princes.

On 20 February 1456, Pope Callixtus III elevated two of his nephews to the position of cardinal. The first of them was Rodrigo de Borja ("Borgia" in Italian), who later became Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), infamous for his alleged corruption and immorality.[4] The second was Luis Julian de Milà.

On 29 June 1456, Callixtus ordered the church bells to be rung at noon (see noon bell) as a call to prayer. As the order spread, the ringing of the bells was taken also as a crusading call to lift the Siege of Belgrade. The Siege of Belgrade took place on 22 July and was a notable victory against the Turks. To commemorate this victory, Callixtus III ordered the Feast of the Transfiguration to be held on 6 August.

Callixtus ordered a new trial for St. Joan of Arc (c. 1412–1431), at which she was posthumously vindicated.[5]

He approved of the founding of the University of Greifswald that took place in the year 1456.

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

The "bull against the comet"

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 apparition 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.[6] 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.

See also



  • 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.
  • The Lives and Times of the Popes, Vol.4, Ed. Artaud de Montor, Catholic Publication Society of America, 1911.

External links

  • European treaties bearing on the history of the United States and its Dependencies to 1648, Ed. Frances Gardiner Davenport, Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1917.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Nicholas V
8 April 1455 – 6 August 1458
Succeeded by
Pius II

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