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"It is a most effective form of arsenic and difficult to trace."
―Silvio Barbarigo describing cantarella to Rodrigo Borgia, 1485.[src]-[m]

Cantarella was a variation of arsenic which was often used by the Borgia family and other Templars who wished to rid themselves of unwanted people or enemies. Rodrigo Borgia, and his daughter Lucrezia Borgia, in particular, had a preference for using it in political assassinations.


In 1485, after failing to recruit the Venetian Doge Giovanni Mocenigo to the Templar cause, Carlo Grimaldi placed a fatal dose of cantarella in the Doge's wine when he was invited to a meal with him in the Palazzo Ducale di Venezia.[1]

In 1503, Cesare Borgia ordered Micheletto Corella to poison Pietro Rossi, because he was jealous of Pietro's relationship with Lucrezia. As Pietro was playing Jesus of Nazareth in the Passion Play held at the Colosseo, Micheletto placed cantarella into the wine fed to Christ during his crucifixion. Despite this, Pietro was saved by Ezio Auditore da Firenze, who quickly brought him to a doctor, Brunelleschi.[2]

Later that same year, in August, Lucrezia Borgia ordered a shipment of cantarella to be delivered to the Castel Sant'Angelo, though her intentions for it were unknown. The following day, Rodrigo Borgia secretly took the shipment for himself. On the 18 August, 1503, Rodrigo Borgia attempted to poison Cesare with a cantarella-laced apple to stop Cesare from what he saw as abusing his position as Captain General of the Papal army. Cesare did not consume a lethal amount of the poison, however, but it did render him ill for months after. Following Rodrigo's attempt to poison him, Cesare force-fed him the same cantarella-filled apple, resulting in his death.[2]


  • Both in the game as well as in the novelization, it was mentioned by the doctor who cured Pietro Rossi that in addition to the antidote, leeches would ensure full recovery. In the novel, it was further elaborated that the doctor, Brunelleschi, had developed an effective antidote due to experience with numerous victims of the poison.
  • It is generally assumed by historians that cantarella was simply a variation of arsenic. On the other hand, its actual historical use by the Borgias and even its very existence have been doubted by others. [citation needed]
  • Cantarella's later prolific use by the Borgia seems to have been inspired by Silvio Barbarigo, who procured the poison used on Doge Mocenigo, and dialogue between Silvio and Rodrigo Borgia implies Rodrigo was otherwise unaware of its existence.