Pope Benedict XIII

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Pope Servant of God

Benedict XIII
Bishop of Rome
Benedetto XIII.jpg
Papacy began29 May 1724
Papacy ended21 February 1730
Predecessor Innocent XIII
Successor Clement XII
Ordination24 February 1671
by  Clement X
Consecration3 February 1675
by  Paluzzo Paluzzi Altieri Degli Albertoni
Created cardinal22 February 1672
by Clement X
Personal details
Birth namePietro Francesco Orsini
Born(1649-02-02)2 February 1649 [1]
Gravina in Puglia, Kingdom of Naples
Died21 February 1730(1730-02-21) (aged 81)
Rome, Lazio, Papal States
Previous post
Coat of arms C o a Benedetto XIII.svg
Venerated in Catholic Church
Title as Saint Servant of God
Other popes named Benedict
Ordination history of
Pope Benedict XIII
Priestly ordination
Ordained by Clement X
Date24 February 1671
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecrator Paluzzo Card. Paluzzi (Card. Nep.)
Co-consecrators Stefano Brancaccio (Vit. & Tusc.)
Costanzo Zani (Imola)
Date3 February 1675
Elevated byClement X
Date22 February 1672
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Pope Benedict XIII as principal consecrator
Tiberio Muscettola 19 May 1680
Domenico Diez de Aux 13 November 1689
Fabrizio Cianci 30 November 1689
Marcello Cavalieri 15 January 1690
Giuseppe Rosa 22 January 1690
Giuseppe Ponzi 22 January 1690
Pietro Vecchia 12 March 1690
Benedict XIV 16 July 1724

Pope Benedict XIII (Latin : Benedictus XIII; 2 February 1649 – 21 February 1730), born Pietro Francesco Orsini and later called Vincenzo Maria Orsini, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 29 May 1724 to his death in 1730. [2]


A Dominican friar, Orsini focused on his religious responsibilities as bishop rather than on papal administration. Orsini's lack of political expertise led him to increasingly rely on an unscrupulous secretary (Cardinal Niccolò Coscia) whose financial abuses ruined the papal treasury, causing great damage to the Church in Rome.

In the process towards sainthood, his cause for canonization opened in 1755, but it was soon closed. It was re-opened on 21 February 1931, but it was closed once again in 1940. It was opened once more on 17 January 2004, with the official process commencing in 2012 and concluding later in 2017. He now has the posthumous title of Servant of God.

Early life

He was born in Gravina in Puglia, the eldest of six sons of Ferdinando III Orsini, duke of Gravina, and Giovanna Frangipani della Tolfa, from Toritto. A member of the Orsini of Rome, he was the third and last member of that family to become Pope. At the age of eighteen he resigned his inheritance and entered the Dominican Order where he received the name of "Vincenzo Maria". He was ordained to the priesthood in February 1671. [3]

Through the influence of his family, he was named, by Pope Clement X, Cardinal-Priest of San Sisto on 22 February 1672 (allegedly against his will). He also lectured in philosophy at Brescia. Later he was bishop of Manfredonia, bishop of Cesena and then archbishop of Benevento. After an earthquake in 1688 and another in 1702 he organized relief efforts for the victims. [3] He remained a close friend of a local mystic, Serafina di Dio.

Rise to the papacy

Upon the death of Pope Innocent XIII in 1724, a conclave was convoked to elect a successor. There were four divisions in the College of Cardinals and there were no clear candidates. At the conclave, Orsini was considered one of the papabili. Orsini was then proposed to be elected because he led a modest, austere life, considered to be a pastor. His lack of political expertise suggested that he would be neutral and malleable. [4]

Orsini refused to be elected prior to the final ballot, explaining that he was unworthy of it. Eventually he was persuaded to accept by Agustín Pipia, Master of the Order of Preachers and on 29 May 1724, Orsini was elected pontiff. [3] He chose the regnal name of "Benedict XIII" in honour of Pope Blessed Benedict XI because he was also of the Dominican Order.

On 4 June 1724, he was crowned by Benedetto Pamphili, the cardinal protodeacon. On the following 24 September, he took possession of the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

At first, he called himself Benedict XIV, but afterwards altered the title to Benedict XIII (the previous Benedict XIII having been considered an antipope).


Papal styles of
Pope Benedict XIII
C o a Benedetto XIII.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous style Servant of God


Not a man of worldly matters, Benedict XIII made an effort to maintain his monastic lifestyle. He endeavoured to put a stop to the decadent lifestyles of the Italian priesthood and of the cardinalate. He also abolished the lottery in Rome and the Papal States, which only served to profit the neighboring states that maintained the public lottery. A man fond above all of asceticism and religious celebrations, he built several hospitals, but according to Cardinal Lambertini (later Pope Benedict XIV) "did not have any idea about how to rule". [5]

In 1727 he inaugurated the famous Spanish Steps [4] and founded the University of Camerino.

In 1728, Benedict's intervention settled a controversy, regarding the relics of St Augustine, that erupted in Pavia, Italy. He ultimately confirmed the authenticity of Augustine's bones, that had been discovered in 1695 in the Basilica San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro. (Stone, Harold Samuel (2002). "Augustine's Bones: A Microhistory." pp. 90–93)

The government of the Papal States was effectively held in Benedict XIII's stead by Cardinal Niccolò Coscia, who had been the pope's secretary when he was archbishop of Benevento, and who committed a long series of financial abuses to his own advantage, causing the ruin of the Papal treasury. Coscia and his associates effectively isolated Benedict from other advisors. [4] According to Montesquieu, "All the money of Rome goes to Benevento... as the Beneventani direct [Benedict's] weakness". [6]

In foreign relations, he struggled with both John V of Portugal and the Jansenists in France.

Beatifications and canonizations

Pope Benedict XIII travelling on horseback Benedict XIII on horseback.jpg
Pope Benedict XIII travelling on horseback

Benedict XIII beatified Bernardine of Feltre in 1728 and also beatified Peter Fourier on 20 January 1730. He also beatified Hyacintha of Mariscotti on 1 September 1726, Fidelis of Sigmaringen on 24 March 1729, Vincent de Paul on 13 August 1729 and John del Prado on 24 May 1728.

Through the process of equipollent canonization, Benedict XIII canonized Pope Gregory VII on 24 May 1728. He conferred sainthood upon Agnes of Montepulciano in 1726, Aloysius Gonzaga on 31 December 1726, Boris of Kiev in 1724, Francis Solano on 27 March 1726, Gleb in 1724, James of the Marches and Turibius of Mogroveio on 10 December 1726, John of Nepomuk on 19 March 1729, John of the Cross and Peregrine Laziosi on 27 December 1726, Margaret of Cortona on 16 May 1728 and Serapion of Algiers on 14 April 1728.

Icon of Benedict XIII in the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls PopebenedictXIII.jpg
Icon of Benedict XIII in the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls

Doctor of the Church

The pope named Peter Chrysologus as a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

Other activities

Benedict XIII elevated 29 new cardinals into the cardinalate in a total of 12 consistories; one such new cardinal was Prospero Lambertini, who later became Pope Benedict XIV.

Benedict XIII, whose orders were descended from Scipione Rebiba, personally consecrated at least 139 bishops for various important European sees, including German, French, English and New World bishops. These bishops in turn consecrated bishops almost exclusively for their respective countries causing other episcopal lineages to die. As a result, more than 90% of present-day bishops trace their episcopal lineage through him to Cardinal Rebiba. [7]

With the papal bull Pretiosus dated 26 May 1727 Benedict XIII granted to all Dominicans major houses of study and in particular to the Roman College of St. Thomas, the future Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum the right of conferring academic degrees in theology to students outside the Order. [8]

Death and burial

Benedict XIII was suddenly attacked by a catarrh caused by his officiating at the funeral service of Cardinal Marco Antonio Ansidei, of which he died on 21 February 1730 at the age of 81. His death was made public to the people the next day.

The tomb of Benedict XIII Tomb of Pope Benedict XIII.jpg
The tomb of Benedict XIII

The pope was of middling size; his countenance was mild, his nose aquiline and he had a broad forehead. At the autopsy, it was discovered that his heart was remarkably large. His funeral ceremonies were performed at the Vatican, whence he was removed to the Santa Maria sopra Minerva where he was buried in a tomb completed by Pietro Bracci and others.

After the next papal election elevated Pope Clement XII to the pontificate, Clement excommunicated Benedict XIII's corrupt deputy, Cardinal Coscia. Coscia fled Rome and his punishment, but was later restored and took part in the conclaves of 1730 and 1740.

Pope Benedict XIV would later say of Benedict XIII: "We respectfully love that pontiff who backed his carriage rather than dispute the passage with a cartman." On that occasion Benedict XIII had exclaimed to his coachman: "Non ci far impicci"—"Do not involve us in a quarrel." On the other hand, this anonymous satirical comment on Benedict XIII's death was posted at the Pasquino:

"This tomb encloses
the bones of a little friar:
more than a saint's lover
a protector of brigands"

Cause of beatification

Statue of Pope Benedict XIII in Palermo Statue of Pope Benedictus XIII - San Domenico - Palermo - Italy 2015.jpg
Statue of Pope Benedict XIII in Palermo

The process for his beatification was opened in Tortona in 1755 under Pope Benedict XIV but it did not at all advance and so was stalled. On 21 February 1931, also in Tortona, the process was revitalized but the presumed doubts about the morality of the late pontiff's Cardinal Secretary of State, Niccolò Coscia, caused its closing in 1940.

The process was reopened on 17 January 2004. The official diocesan process commenced in Rome in early 2012 and the official opening of that process was held in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, presided by Agostino Vallini. The diocesan phase for the beatification process concluded on 24 February 2017 at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran with Vallini celebrating the conclusion of the inquest. [9] He now has the posthumous title of Servant of God.

Benedict XIII plaque at the Spanish Steps Benedict XIII plaque, Spanish Steps.JPG
Benedict XIII plaque at the Spanish Steps

The current postulator of the cause is the Dominican priest Francesco Maria Ricci. [10]

See also

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  1. Wikisource:Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Pope Benedict XIII
  2. Pope Benedict X is now considered an antipope. At the time, however, this status was not recognized and so the man the Catholic Church officially considers the tenth true Pope Benedict took the official number XI, rather than X. This has advanced the numbering of all subsequent Popes Benedict by one. Popes Benedict XI-XVI are, from an official point of view, the tenth through fifteenth popes by that name.
  3. 1 2 3 ""Inquiry for the Process of Canonisation of the Dominican Pope Benedict XIII", Order of Preachers, February 24, 2017". Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  4. 1 2 3 "Kunst, Richard. "Pope Benedict XIII", Papal Artifacts". Archived from the original on 12 June 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  5. Rendina, p. 590
  6. Rendina, p. 592
  7. Bransom, Charles. "Apostolic Succession in the Roman Catholic Church". mysite.verizon.net. Archived from the original on 24 September 2014. Archived: 24 September 2014.
  8. http://www.liberius.net/articles/Les_colleges_ecclesiastiques_de_Rome.pdf Accessed 26, May, 2014
  9. "Papa Orsini verso gli altari. Chiusa la fase diocesana della causa di Benedetto XIII". Faro di Roma. 22 February 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.[ permanent dead link ]
  10. "ORSINI, O.P., Vincenzo Maria" . Retrieved 22 January 2014.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Innocent XIII
29 May 1724 – 21 February 1730
Succeeded by
Clement XII