Pope Benedict XIII

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.

Servant of God, Pope

Benedict XIII
Bishop of Rome
Benedetto XIII
Papacy began29 May 1724
Papacy ended21 February 1730
PredecessorInnocent XIII
SuccessorClement 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
Born2 February 1649[1]
Gravina in Puglia, Kingdom of Naples
Died21 February 1730 (aged 81)
Rome, Lazio, Papal States
Previous post
Coat of armsBenedict XIII's coat of arms
Venerated inCatholic Church
Title as SaintServant of God
Other popes named Benedict
Ordination history of
Pope Benedict XIII

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
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleServant 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

Benedict XIII on horseback
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

Doctor of the Church

The pope named Saint 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 May 26, 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.

Tomb of Pope Benedict XIII
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 Benedictus XIII - San Domenico - Palermo - Italy 2015
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, Cardinal 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 Cardinal Agostino Vallini. The diocesan phase for the beatification process concluded on 24 February 2017 at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran with Cardinal Vallini celebrating the conclusion of the inquest.[9] He now has the posthumous title of Servant of God.

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

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

See also


  • Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Benedict XIII" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Rendina, Claudio (1993). I papi. Storia e segreti. Rome: Newton Compton.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "s: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (1966)/Benedetto XIII, papa" in the 1966 Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani.


  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. ^ a b c "Inquiry for the Process of Canonisation of the Dominican Pope Benedict XIII", Order of Preachers, February 24, 2017
  4. ^ a b c Kunst, Richard. "Pope Benedict XIII", Papal Artifacts
  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.
  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
1730 papal conclave

The papal conclave of 1730 elected Pope Clement XII as the successor to Pope Benedict XIII.

Alessandro Caputo

Alessandro Caputo was Bishop of Mazara del Vallo from 21 May 1731 – 24 Feb 1741.Born in Catania in 1672, Caputo was a master of theology and had a doctorate in theology (Catania, 1715). He had been Provincial of the Carmelite Province of Sicily, and Prior of the convent in Catania. He had been Titular Bishop of Thagaste (1728-1731), and was consecrated in Rome on 21 November 1728 by Pope Benedict XIII. He was transferred to the diocese of Mazara on 21 May 1731. He died on 24 February 1741.

Alexandre de Alexandris

Alexandre de Alexandris, B. (died October 10, 1738) served as the Apostolic Vicar of Cochinchina (1728–1738) and Coadjutor Apostolic Vicar of Cochinchina (1725–1728)).

Antipope Benedict XIII

Pedro Martínez de Luna y Pérez de Gotor (25 November 1328 – 23 May 1423), known as el Papa Luna in Spanish and Pope Luna in English, was an Aragonese nobleman, who as Benedict XIII, is considered an antipope (see Western Schism) by the Catholic Church.

Filippo Anastasio

Filippo Anastasio (1656–1735) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Titular Patriarch of Antioch (1724–1735) and Archbishop of Sorrento (1699–1724).

Francesco Onofrio Hodierna

Francesco Onofrio Hodierna (born 1643) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Titular Bishop of Berytus (1727), Bishop of Valva e Sulmona (1717–1727) and Bishop of Bitetto (1669–1717).

Francisco Mendigaña y Armendáriz

Francisco Mendigaña y Armendáriz (17 May 1674 – 30 October 1728) was a Spanish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. Born in Navarre, he moved to New Granada as an adult, serving in leadership positions in the Archdiocese of Bogotá. Following Archbishop Francisco del Rincón's death in 1723, he became the diocesan administrator of the archdiocese, and was appointed Archbishop of Santo Domingo in April 1726. He remained in Bogotá until 1727 or 1728, when he left for his new position in Santo Domingo, but he died along the way in 1728.

Francisco Mendigaño Armendáriz

Francisco Mendigaño Armendáriz (1674–1728) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Santo Domingo (1726–1728).

Geoffrey Boucicaut

Geoffrey Boucicaut, was the brother of the illustrious marshal of France Jean le Maingre. He and his army occupied Avignon in 1398 and started a five-year siege of the Palais des Papes where the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII was, which ended when Benedict managed to escape from Avignon on 12 March 1403 and find shelter in territory belonging to Louis II of Anjou.

Giacomo Lanfredini

Giacomo Lanfredini (26 Oct 1670 – 16 May 1741) was a Roman Catholic cardinal who served as Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Portico (1734–1741) and Bishop of Osimo e Cingoli (1734–1740).

Gilbert de Greenlaw

Gilbert de Greenlaw (1354–1421) was a medieval Bishop of Aberdeen and Bishop-elect of St. Andrews. He was a Licentiate in the Arts, and had been a canon of Bishopric of Moray by the late 1370s, before being provided by Avignon Pope Clement VII the church of Liston in the Bishopric of St. Andrews in 1379. By the later 1380s, he was in the diocese of Aberdeen. In 1389, he was elected to hold the bishopric of Aberdeen, a position to which he was consecrated in 1390. Gilbert subsequently went on to hold the position of Chancellor of Scotland for many years, albeit in an interrupted manner. Gilbert was subsequently postulated to the more prestigious bishopric of St. Andrews after the death of Walter de Danyelston, its previous Bishop-elect. However, Avignon Pope Benedict XIII quashed the postulation, and chose Henry Wardlaw in his stead. Gilbert, then, remained Bishop of Aberdeen, and died in 1421.

Giovanni Battista Braschi

Giovanni Battista Braschi or Giambattista Braschi (1657–1736) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Titular Archbishop of Nisibis (1724–1736) and Bishop of Sarsina (1699–1724).

Giuseppe de Carolis

Giuseppe de Carolis (1652–1742) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Aquino e Pontecorvo (1725–1742) and Bishop of Aquino (1699–1725).

Jean François Fouquet

Jean François Fouquet, S.J. (1663–1741) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Titular Bishop of Eleutheropolis in Macedonia (1725–1741).

Juan de Galavís

Juan de Galavís y Mendez, OPraem (29 January 1683 – 14 November 1739) was a Spanish Premonstratensian canon regular and a prelate of the Catholic Church in what is now the Dominican Republic and Colombia. He served as Archbishop of Santo Domingo from 1731 to 1737 and as Archbishop of Bogotá from 1737 to 1739. His is the brother and uncle of two mayors of Bogotá, Pedro Galavís y Mendez and Eustaquio Galavís y Hurtado, respectively.

Galavís was born in Robledillo de Gata, Extremadura. He became abbot of his monastery and superior general of the Spanish congregation of the Premonstratensians. He went on to serve as rector of a school in Salamanca and a professor of theology at the University of Salamanca. In September 1729, he was selected by King Philip V to be Archbishop of Santo Domingo. His appointment was confirmed later that year by Pope Benedict XIII and he was consecrated in April 1731. He remained in Santo Domingo until 1737, when he was selected to be the next Archbishop of Santafé en Nueva Granada. He arrived in Bogotá on 29 July 1739 to take possession of the archdiocese, but died a few months later.

Pope Benedict

Benedict has been the regnal name of sixteen Roman Catholic popes. The name is derived from the Latin benedictus, meaning "blessed"

Pope Benedict I (575–579)

Pope Benedict II (684–685)

Pope Benedict III (855–858)

Pope Benedict IV (900–903)

Pope Benedict V (964)

Pope Benedict VI (972–974)

Pope Benedict VII (974–983)

Pope Benedict VIII (1012–1024)

Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, 1045–1046 & 1047–1048)

Pope Benedict XI (1303–1304)

Pope Benedict XII (1334–1342)

Pope Benedict XIII (1724–1730)

Pope Benedict XIV (1740–1758)

Pope Benedict XV (1914–1922)

Pope Benedict XVI (2005–2013) – Now pope emeritus (born 1927)Additionally, four antipopes have used the name Benedict:

Antipope Benedict X (1058–1059) – Several cardinals alleged that his election was irregular and he was deposed. His papacy, though later declared illegitimate, has been taken into account in the conventional numbering of subsequent Popes who took the same name.

Antipope Benedict XIII (1394–1423)

Antipope Benedict XIV (1424–1429) & (1430–1437) – Two individuals

Raimundo Rubí

Raimundo Rubí, O. Cart. (18 October 1665 – 20 January 1729) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Catania (1727–1729).

William Stephani

William Stephen, sometimes William Stephani (probably Stephenson), was a medieval prelate based in Scotland, who became Bishop of Orkney and then Bishop of Dunblane. A reader in divinity at the University of St Andrews at its first establishment, he was provided by Avignon Pope Benedict XIII as Bishop of Orkney 15 November 1415. He was a canon of Moray at this date. The consecration took place at the Papal court.

Despite having his provision confirmed by Pope Martin V on 15 July 1419, he does not seem to have gotten possession of fruits by the time he was translated to the bishopric of Dunblane on 30 October 1419. He was elected as conservator of the provincial synod of the Scottish church held at Perth on 16 July 1420. On 28 October 1420 he witnessed as charter of Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany. He was an auditor and receiver of the ransom of King James I of Scotland in 1424. He was sent as an ambassador to Rome by the king in 1425.

He is last attested in 1428, and he died sometime before 25 February 1429. The next bishop of Dunblane was Michael de Ochiltree.

Łukasz Krzysztof Wielewiejski

Łukasz Krzysztof Wielewiejski (16 October 1660 – 28 January 1743) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Titular Bishop of Cambysopolis (1726–1743).

Priestly ordination
Ordained byClement X
Date24 February 1671
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorPaluzzo Card. Paluzzi (Card. Nep.)
Co-consecratorsStefano 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 Muscettola19 May 1680
Domenico Diez de Aux13 November 1689
Fabrizio Cianci30 November 1689
Marcello Cavalieri15 January 1690
Giuseppe Rosa22 January 1690
Giuseppe Ponzi22 January 1690
Pietro Vecchia12 March 1690
Benedict XIV16 July 1724
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