Pope Nicholas III

Pope Nicholas III (Latin: Nicolaus III; c. 1225 – 22 August 1280), born Giovanni Gaetano Orsini,[1] was Pope from 25 November 1277 to his death in 1280.

He was a Roman nobleman who had served under eight popes, been made Cardinal-Deacon of St. Nicola in Carcere Tulliano by Pope Innocent IV (1243–54), protector of the Franciscans by Pope Alexander IV (1254–61), inquisitor-general by Pope Urban IV (1261–64), and succeeded Pope John XXI (1276–77) after a six-month vacancy in the Holy See resolved in the papal election of 1277, largely through family influence.


Nicholas III
Papacy began25 November 1277
Papacy ended22 August 1280
PredecessorJohn XXI
SuccessorMartin IV
Created cardinal28 May 1244
by Innocent IV
Personal details
Birth nameGiovanni Gaetano Orsini
Bornc. 1225
Rome, Papal States
Died22 August 1280
Viterbo, Papal States
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Coat of armsNicholas III's coat of arms
Other popes named Nicholas

Personal life

The future pope, Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, was born in Rome,[2] a member of the prominent Orsini family of Italy, the eldest son of Roman nobleman Matteo Rosso Orsini[3] by his first wife, Perna Caetani. His father was Lord of Vicovaro, Licenza, Bardella, Cantalupo, Roccagiovine, Galera, Fornello, Castel Sant'Angelo di Tivoli, Nettuno, Civitella, Bomarzo, San Polo and Castelfoglia, of Nerola from 1235; Lord of Mugnano, Santangelo and Monterotondo; Senator of Rome 1241-1243. His brother Giordano was named Cardinal Deacon of San Eustachio by Nicholas III on 12 March 1278. His brother Gentile became Lord of Mugnano, Penna, Nettuno and Pitigliano. Another brother, Matteo Rosso of Montegiordano, was Senator of Rome (probably) in 1279, War Captain of Todi, and Podestà of Siena in 1281. There were five other younger brothers and two sisters.

The Orsini family had already produced several popes: Stephen II (752-757), Paul I (757-767) and Celestine III (1191-1198).[4]

He did not, as some scholars used to think, study at Paris—though his nephew did.[5] His career shows no indication that he was a legal professional or a theologian. He never became a priest, until he became pope in 1277.


Giovanni Gaetano Orsini was one of a dozen men created a Cardinal by Pope Innocent IV (Sinibaldo Fieschi) in his first Consistory for the creation of cardinals, on Saturday, May 28, 1244, and was assigned the Deaconry of San Nicola in Carcere.[6] He was a Canon and Prebendary of York,[7] and also of Soissons and Laon [8] In the summer of 1244, he was one of five cardinals who fled to Genoa with Pope Innocent IV.[9] He was at Lyons,[10] and was present in June and July for the Ecumenical Council of Lyons.[11] Cardinal Orsini and the Curia did not return to Italy until May 1251—after the death of Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen. After spending the summer in Genoa, Milan and Brescia, they finally reached Perugia in November 1251, where the Papal Court resided continuously until April 1253.[12] The Curia returned to Rome in mid-October, where Pope and Curia resided continually until the end of April, 1254. In May they went on pilgrimage to Assisi, then visited Anagni, where the Court stayed from June until the second week in October, when they went off in pursuit of Manfred, the claimant to the Hohenstaufen imperial crown. At the beginning of December, the Battle of Foggia took place, and the papal army was routed. Innocent IV died in Naples, where he had taken refuge, on 7 December 1254, and the meeting to elect his successor was therefore held in Naples in the palace in which he had died. Voting began on Friday, 11 December, with ten of the twelve cardinals present, but no candidate received the required votes. But on Saturday, 12 December, Cardinal Rinaldo dei Conti di Segni, the nephew of Pope Gregory IX, who had a reputation of a conciliator, was elected pope. He chose to be called Alexander IV and was crowned on Sunday, December 20, 1254, in the Cathedral of Naples.[13] As for Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, in his first eleven and a half years as a cardinal, he had only spent six months in the city of Rome. A peripatetic Curia had its disadvantages.

Pope Alexander IV and the Curia continued to live in Naples, until the first week of June 1255 when they returned to Anagni, and it was not until mid-November that the Pope was back in Rome. There the Curia stayed until the end of May, 1256, when it was off to Anagni for the summer, until the beginning of December. The problem was that Rome was in the hands of Senator Brancaleone degli Andalo, Count of Casalecchio, since 1252, and the Ghibbelines and Alexander was repeatedly driven out by unruly mobs.[14] Rome was home again until the end of May, 1257, until the summer vacation at Viterbo began. The vacation lasted until the end of October, 1258, when the Court visited Anagni again; they stayed until the beginning of November, 1260. The Pope then was able to reside at the Lateran until the first week of May, 1261, when the Court was off to Viterbo again. Alexander IV died at Viterbo on 25 May 1261. A total of nineteen months was spent in Rome, out of a total of seventy-eight months. Alexander had created no new cardinals, and so the Electoral meeting following his death had only eight participants. The Election was a long-drawn-out one, lasting from 25 May to 29 August 1261. Unable to agree on one of themselves, the Cardinals chose Jacques Pantaléon, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who, since 1255, was Papal Legate with the Crusade in the Holy Land. He became Pope Urban IV, and was crowned at Viterbo on 4 September 1261.[15]

Cardinal Orsini was named General Inquisitor by Urban IV on November 2, 1262,[16] the first known Grand Inquisitor.[17]

Cardinal Orsini attended the first Conclave of 1268-1271, and was one of the cardinals who signed the letter of complaint against the authorities and people of Viterbo for their treatment of the cardinals and the Curia. He was one of the six cardinals who were chosen by the rest of the Sacred College on September 1, 1271, to select a compromise candidate for election as pope. He was therefore instrumental in bringing to the papal throne the Archdeacon of Liège, Teobaldo Visconti, who was not a cardinal, and who was not even in Italy, but in the Holy Land on crusade.[18] He traveled with the Curia to France in 1273, and was present at the Ecumenical Council of Lyons. He was not one of the cardinals in the suite of Pope Gregory X when he left Lyons in 1275 to return to Rome, nor was he at Arezzo where the Pope died on 10 January 1276, before reaching the City. He did not attend the first conclave which began on 20 January 1276, and concluded the next day with the election of Peter of Tarantaise, who became Pope Innocent V.[19][20] Pope Innocent V (Peter of Tarantaise) died in Rome at the Lateran, on 22 June 22, 1276.

The second Conclave of 1276 began, therefore, according to the rules set down by Pope Gregory X, on July 2. Thirteen cardinals were present, including Giovanni Gaetano Orsini. King Charles I of Sicily acted as the Governor of the Conclave, in which position he is said to have been rigorous, but understandably partisan in favor of the French faction. Cardinal Ottobono Fieschi of Genoa was elected on July 11 and chose the name Pope Adrian V.[21] He lived only thirty-nine days longer, dying at Viterbo, where he had gone to meet King Rudolf and avoid the summer heat of Rome.[22] According to Bernardus Guidonis, he was never ordained priest, consecrated bishop or crowned pope (nondum promotus in sacerdotem nec coronatus nec consecratus).[23] His one memorable act was to suspend the Constitution of Gregory X "Ubi periculum" which regulated conclaves. He intended, on the advice of his cardinals, to improve Gregory's regulations. Cardinal Orsini was present at the discussion and decision. Shortly after his accession, moreover, Pope Adrian V had wanted King Charles I of Sicily to come to Viterbo to carry out the usual fealty, and sent the Suburbicarian Bishop of Sabina (Bertrand de Saint Martin); Cardinal Giovanni (Orsini), Cardinal Deacon of Saint Nicholas in Carcere Tulliano; and Cardinal Giacomo (Savelli), Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, to effect his wishes. Charles arrived in Viterbo from Rome on July 24. Unfortunately, Pope Adrian died, on August 18, leaving his negotiations with King Charles unfinished.[24]

The third Conclave of 1276 began at the beginning of September in Viterbo, where Adrian V had died. The opening ceremonies, which should have taken place on August 29, had to be delayed for several days because of the riotous behavior of the people of Viterbo. Since Pope Adrian had created no new cardinals, the number of cardinals was twelve; Cardinal Simon de Brion was still in France, serving as Papal Legate. Once the tumults had been put down, however, the cardinals did their business quickly. On September 8, 1276, the senior Cardinal-Bishop, Peter Julian of Lisbon, was elected on the first ballot. He chose to be called John XXI, and on September 20 he was crowned at the Cathedral of San Lorenzo in Viterbo by Cardinal Giovanni Caetano Orsini. Since John XXI was already a bishop, there was no ordination or consecration necessary.[25] He was the fourth pope of 1276. On 18 October, Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini was appointed Archpriest of St. Peter's, in place of Cardinal Riccardo Annibaldi, who had recently died, and who may have been too ill to participate in the Conclave or the Coronation.[26]

Pope Adrian V's suspension of the regulations of Gregory X, however imperfect they may have been, was under attack. Some critics even claimed that the cardinals who vouched for the truth of the suspension, including Cardinal Peter Julian, were liars, or that the revocation was uncanonical. These were probably the same troublemakers in the Curia who had instigated the disturbances that delayed the Conclave.[27] John XXI immediately struck back, on 30 September 1276, making it perfectly clear that the suspension had taken place and that it was valid.[28] Ptolemy of Lucca states that the issue of this bull of revocation by John XXI was made at the suggestion of Cardinal Giovanni Caetano Orsini.[29] The negotiations which Cardinal Giovanni Caetano had been engaged in with King Charles I were brought to a completion, and Charles swore his oath of fealty to Pope John on 7 October 1276.[30] It appeared that his reign was going to be a successful one, when one day in mid-May 1277, while the Pope was in a new room which he had just had built in the Episcopal Palace in Viterbo, suddenly the roof caved in. There was nothing suspicious about this, since the palace had been under construction since 1268 and was still being worked on. The Pope was severely injured from the falling stones and timber. He lingered in pain for several days (three, or six), and died on 20 May 1277, exactly eight months after his coronation.[31] He had named no cardinals.

Yet another Conclave took place in Viterbo, therefore, with seven cardinals in attendance. Cardinal Simon de Brion was still in France as papal legate. But this was not an easy conclave. Three of the electors belonged to the Angevin faction, and three opposed it. The only surviving Cardinal-Bishop, the Benedictine Bertrand de Saint Martin, wavered back and forth, providing little leadership. The Conclave therefore went on for more than five and a half months. Finally, on the Feast of S. Catherine, 25 November 1277, Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini was elected.[32] He chose the name Nicholas III. The new pope set out immediately for Rome. He was ordained a priest on December 18, consecrated a bishop on December 19, and crowned on the Feast of S. Stephen, 26 December. His election portended serious difficulties, for he was not a candidate of King Charles of Sicily. Quite the contrary, he believed that King Charles had entirely too much influence in church affairs and in the operation of the Papal States.[33]

Activities as pope


The lands under direct Papal rule were threatened by surrounding powers. In the second quarter of the 13th century, they were threatened by the expansionist policies of the Emperor Frederick II, who aimed to unite his inheritance in the south (Sicily and southern Italy) with his acquisition of the German Empire in northern Italy. He spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to gain control over Lombardy and Tuscany, which brought him into direct conflict with the Papacy. Frederick was repeatedly excommunicated by one pope after another. In order to drive off the Hohenstaufen, the Papacy contrived a deal with the brother of Louis IX of France, Charles of Anjou, Count of Provence, who was invited to Italy to assume the crown of Sicily and be a counterweight against the Empire. He was too successful, however, and the Papacy found itself in the deadly embrace of the Angevins. Nicholas' prime goal was to loosen Charles I's grip on the Papacy, Rome, and the lands of the Church.

Nicholas' pontificate, though brief, was marked by several important events. He greatly strengthened the papal position in Italy. On 1 October 1273, Rudolph I of Habsburg, the godson of Frederick II, had been elected King of Germany and King of the Romans. Pope Gregory X had recognized him as King, after some hard negotiation, but the imperial title and coronation were withheld. Pope Nicholas was willing to negotiate, but he refused to crown Rudolf as Emperor until Rudolph had acknowledged all the claims of the Church, including many that were quite dubious. The concordat with Rudolph I of Habsburg was concluded in May 1278. In it the city of Bologna, the Romagna, and the exarchate of Ravenna were guaranteed to the papacy.[34] According to the chronographer Bartholomew of Lucca (Ptolemy of Lucca), he discussed with Rudolph, in general terms at least, the splitting the German empire into four separate kingdoms – Lombardy, Burgundy, Tuscia and Germany – where Rudolph's kingdom would be made hereditary and he himself would be recognized as Holy Roman Emperor.

Nicholas III was even able to persuade King Charles I of Naples and Sicily to give up his position as Roman Senator in 1278, at the conclusion of ten years of tenure,[35] as well as the position of Papal Vicar for Tuscany.[36] In July 1278, Nicholas III issued an epoch-making constitution for the government of Rome, Fundamenta militantis [37] which forbade foreigners from taking civil office. It depends for its justification not only on the biblical phrase, "Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam" (Matthew 16:18), but also on the forged Donations of Constantine.


Nicholas' father had been a personal friend of Francis of Assisi, and he himself had to focus much of his attention on the Franciscan order. More than 165 of his bulls and letters address the subject. Most importantly, he issued the papal bull Exiit qui seminat [38][39][40] on 14 August 1279, to settle the strife within the order between the parties of strict and relaxed observance.

He repaired the Lateran Palace and the Vatican at enormous cost,[41] and erected a beautiful country house at Soriano nel Cimino near Viterbo,[42] where he died of a cardiovascular event (sources differ on whether it was a heart-attack or a stroke).


Nicholas III, though a man of learning noted for his strength of character, was known for his excessive nepotism. He elevated three of his closest relatives to the cardinalate and gave others important positions. This nepotism was lampooned both by Dante and in contemporary cartoons, depicting him in his fine robes with three "little bears" (orsetti, a pun on the family name) hanging on below.

After the death of Nicholas III, in December, 1316, his namesake Giovanni Gaetano Orsini was appointed a cardinal by Pope John XXII. This was not, of course, a case of nepotism. John XXII, was nonetheless a nepotist, having appointed five of his nephews to the cardinalate.[43]


Nicholas III created nine cardinals in one consistory celebrated on 12 March 1278:[44]

  • Ordonho Alvares, Archbishop of Braga – named Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati, † 21 December 1285.
  • Bentivenga da Bentivengi, O.F.M., Bishop of Todi – named Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, † 25 March 1289.
  • Latino Malabranca Orsini, O.P., nephew of Nicholas – named Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia e Velletri,† 10 August 1294
  • Robert Kilwardby, O.P., Archbishop of Canterbury – named Cardinal-Bishop of Porto and S. Rufina, † 12 September 1279.
  • Gerard de Lessines, Bishop of Auxerre – named cardinal-bishop of Palestrina, † 18 July 1278.
  • Gerardo Bianchi – named Cardinal-Priest of SS. XII Apostoli, then cardinal-bishop of Sabina (12 April 1281), † 1 March 1302.
  • Girolamo Masci, O.Min. – Minister General of the Franciscans. Named Cardinal-Priest of S. Pudenziana, then cardinal-bishop of Palestrina (12 April 1281) and Pope Nicholas IV (22 February 1288), † 4 April 1292
  • Giordano Orsini, brother of Pope Nicholas III – named Cardinal-Deacon of S. Eustachio, † 8 September 1287.
  • Giacomo Colonna – named Cardinal-Deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata; excommunicated and deposed on 10 May 1297, restored as Cardinal-Deacon without a title on 15 December 1305, † 14 August 1318.

Most of these new Cardinals were not of the French party, and among them were five members of religious orders. Two died before the next Conclave, which was to take place on the death of Nicholas III in 1280, and the rest had to be terrorized into voting for a candidate of Charles I of Sicily.[45]


Pope Nicholas III was stricken ill quite unexpectedly. The Curia was residing at the time in the city of Viterbo. Pope Nicholas was at his country retreat at Castro Soriano. According to the Chronicon Parmense he was suddenly deprived of consciousness and movement (privatus subito omni sensu et motu). Bartholomeus (Ptolemy) of Lucca says, subito factus apoplecticus, sine loquela moritur ('suddenly stricken with apoplexy, he died without speaking'). Nicholas was unable to make his confession, and died at his palace at Castro Soriano, in the diocese of Viterbo, on 22 August 1280.[46] He had been pope for two years, eight months, and twenty-eight days. His remains were taken to Rome, where he was buried in the Vatican Basilica, in the Chapel of S. Nicholas.[47]

There was an alternative story circulating, as was frequently the case in the sudden deaths of medieval and renaissance popes—that the pope had been poisoned.[48] This can safely be discounted.

Portrayal in The Inferno

Dante, in The Inferno (of the Divine Comedy), talks briefly to Nicholas III, who was condemned to spend eternity in the Third Bolgia of the Eighth Circle of Hell, reserved for those who committed simony, the ecclesiastical crime of paying for offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church.[49]

In Dante's story, the Simoniacs are placed head-first in holes, flames burning on the soles of their feet (Canto XIX).[50] Nicholas was the chief sinner in these pits, which is demonstrated by the height of the flames on his feet. At first he mistakes Dante for Pope Boniface VIII. When the confusion is cleared up, Nicholas informs Dante that he foresees the damnation (for simony) not only of Boniface VIII, but also Clement V, an even more corrupt pope.

See also


  1. ^ George L. Williams, Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes, (McFarland & Company Inc., 1998), 36. Richard Sternfeld, Der Kardinal Johann Gaëtan Orsini, in a separate Excursus I, pp. 315-316, argues for a date of birth around 1216. He points out that one must take into account that Giovanni Gaetano's mother was a first wife.
  2. ^ Richard Sternfeld, Der Kardinal Johann Gaëtan Orsini, p. 1.
  3. ^ Matteo Rosso Orsini was a member of the Third Order of S. Francis (Tertiary): Richard Sternfeld, Der Kardinal Johann Gaëtan Orsini, p. 2. It was Giovanni Gaetano's father, also called Matteo Rosso Orsini ('Il Grande'), who, as Senator of Rome, locked the Cardinals up in a sort of proto-conclave in August, 1241.  Ryccardus de S. Germano, Chronica.
  4. ^ Williams, Papal Genealogy, p. 215.
  5. ^ Demski, p. 7. Sternfeld, p. 3, n. 8.
  6. ^ Conrad Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi I, editio altera (Monasterii 1913), p. 7. A. Demski, Papst Nikolaus III. Eine Monographie (Münster 1903), p. 8 and n. 2.
  7. ^ Potthast, no. 21268.
  8. ^ Demski, p. 9 n. 2.
  9. ^ August Potthast, Regesta Pontificum Romanorum II (Berlin 1875), 11459-11460 (September 27–28, 1244); A. Demski, Papst Nikolaus III. Eine Monographie (Münster 1903), p. 9.
  10. ^ Potthast, no. 11518 (July 23, 1145).
  11. ^ Potthast, no. 11729 (July 15), no. 11749 (July 23), and no. 11750 (July 24).
  12. ^ A. Parracivini Bagliani, "La mobilità della curia romana nel secolo XIII. Reflessi locali," in Società e istituzioni dell' Italia communale: l' esempio di Perugia (Secoli XII-XIV) (Perugia 1988) 155-278.
  13. ^ Adams, Dr. J. P. "Sede Vacante and Election, December 1254".
  14. ^ Gregorovius History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages V.1, 280-299; 310-311; 317-324, Karl Hampe, Urban IV und Manfred (1261-1264) (Heidelberg: Carl Winter 1905), p. 13. Giuseppe Rovere, Brancaleone degli Andaló senatore di Roma: contributo alla storia del comune di Roma nel Medio Evo (Udine 1895). Girolamo Giuliani, Il comune di Roma sotto il senatorato di Brancaleone degli Andalò (1252-1258) (Roma 1957).
  15. ^ Adams, Dr. J. P. "Sede Vacante and Election, May—August, 1261".
  16. ^ Fr. Joannis Hyacinthi Sbarale,Bullarium Franciscanum II, p. 453; Potthast, no. 18422.
  17. ^ J. B. Sägmüller, Thätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinale bis Papst Bonifaz VIII. (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder 1896) p.111.
  18. ^ Adams, Dr. J. P. "Sede Vacante and Conclave of November, 1268—1 September, 1271".
  19. ^ He was consecrated bishop and crowned pope at the Vatican Basilica on 22 February
  20. ^ Adams, Dr. J. P. "The Conclave of 20-21 January, 1276".
  21. ^ Gregorovius, pp. 474-475. Demski, pp. 34-37. Sternfeld, pp. 251-263.
  22. ^ Adams, Dr. J. P. "Sede Vacante and Conclave, June—July, 1276".
  23. ^ "Life of Adrian V," in Ludovico Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores III, 605.
  24. ^ F. Cristofori, Le tombe dei pape in Viterbo (Siena 1887), p. 175.
  25. ^ Adams, Dr. J. P. "Sede Vacante and Conclave of August—September, 1276".
  26. ^ Potthast, no. 21171.
  27. ^ Potthast, no. 21152.
  28. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 22 (Bar-le-Duc 1870), under the year 1276, §29, p. 376.
  29. ^ Demski, 33 n, 3.
  30. ^ Cristofori, 343-348.
  31. ^ Sources are cited by Potthast, at p. 1718.
  32. ^ Demski, pp. 35-37. Sternfeld, pp. 288-300.
  33. ^ F. Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages, Volume V.2 second edition, revised (London: George Bell, 1906) pp. 475-481.
  34. ^ Johann Lorenz Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern Vol. II (New York 1839), p. 296. A. Theiner, Codex diplomaticus dominii temporalis S. Sedis I (Rome: Imprimerie du Vatican, 1861), pp. 228-243.
  35. ^ Luigi Pompili Olivieri, Il senato romano I (Roma 1886), p. 198-199.
  36. ^ Demski, pp. 38-55.
  37. ^ A. Tomassetti (Editor), Bullarum Diplomatum et Privilegiorum Sanctorum Romanorum Pontificum Tomus IV (Turin 1859), pp. 42-45.
  38. ^ Nicholas III (21 January 1997). "Exiit qui seminat". The Franciscan Archive. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  39. ^ Nicholas III. "Exiit qui seminat". Papal Encyclicals Online. Papal Encyclicals Online webmaster. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  40. ^ Nicholas III. "Exiit qui seminat". Document Library. EWTN. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  41. ^ Demski, pp. 337-349.
  42. ^ Maria Giulia Aurigemma and Alberto Caprani, Palaces of Lazio: from the 12th to the 19th century (Roma: NER 1991), pp. 180-181.
  43. ^ Conradus Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi I, editio altera (Monasterii 1913), pp. 15-16.
  44. ^ Conradus Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi I, editio altera (Monasterii 1913), pp. 9-10.   The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.
  45. ^ F. Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages, Volume V.2 second edition, revised (London: George Bell, 1906) pp. 491-495.
  46. ^ Demski, 347-348.
  47. ^ Ptolemy of Lucca Historia ecclesiastica XXIII. § 35.
  48. ^ Annales S. Rudiberti Salisburgensis, in G. H. Pertz (editor), Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptorum Tomus IX (Hannover 1851),p. 806.
  49. ^ Prue Shaw, Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity (New York: W.W. Norton, 2014), pp. 45-51.
  50. ^ Charles T. Davis, "Simoniacs," in Allen Mandelbaum, Anthony Oldcorn, Charles Stanley Ross (editors and contributors), Lectura Dantis: Inferno (Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), pp. 262-274.


  • Jules Gay (editor), Les registres de Nicolas III (1277-1280): Nicolaus III. Recueil des bulles de ce pape publiées et analysées d'après les manuscrits originaux des archives du Vatican (1898) (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome Sér. 2, Volume 14).
  • Fr. Joannis Hyacinthi Sbarale, Bullarium Franciscanum Romanorum Pontificum constitutiones, epistolas... tribus ordinibus Minorum, Clarissarum, et Poenitentium a... Sancto Francisco institutis concessa... Tomus III (Roma: typis Sacrae congregationis de Propaganda fide, 1765), pp. 279–468. (The Franciscan collection of papal bulls, 165 documents)
  • Thomas Ripoll and Antonino Bremond (editors), Bullarium ordinis ff. praedicatorum Tomus primus (Roma: ex Typographia Hieronymi Mainardi, 1729), pp. 553–575. (The Dominican collection of papal bulls, 19 documents)
  • A. Demski, Papst Nikolaus III. Eine Monographie (Münster 1903).
  • Richard Sternfeld, Der Kardinal Johann Gaëtan Orsini (Papst Nikolaus III) 1244-1277 (Berlin 1905).
  • Ferdinand Gregorovius (tr. Annie Hamilton), History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages Volume V, part 2 (London: George Bell, 1906), pp. 477–491.
  • Daniel Waley, The Papal State in the Thirteenth Century (London: Macmillan 1961), pp. 189–201.
  • F. Elizondo, "Bulla "Exiit qui seminat" Nicolai III (14 Augusti 1279)," Laurentianum 4 (1963), pp. 59-119.
  • Charles T. Davis, "Roman Patriotism and Republican Propaganda: Ptolemy of Lucca and Pope Nicholas III," Speculum 50 (1975), pp. 411–433.
  • F. Allegrezza, Organizzazione del potere e dinamiche familiari. Gli Orsini dal Duecento agli inizi del Quattrocento (Roma 1998), pp. 15–6, 19-22, 36-41.
  • S. Carocci, Il nepotismo nel medioevo. Papi, cardinali e famiglie nobili (Roma 1999), pp. 124–127.
  • Kristin A. Triff, "Rhetoric and Romanitas in Thirteenth-Century Rome: Nicholas III and the Sancta Sanctorum," Artibus et Historiae Vol. 30, No. 60 (2009), pp. 71–106.
  • Erika Starr Nelson, The religious, political, and personal aspirations of Pope Nicholas III in the frescoes at Old St. Peter's and the Sancta Sanctorum (Austin TX, USA: University of Texas at Austin, 2002).

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John XXI
November 25, 1277 – August 22, 1280
Succeeded by
Martin IV
1277 papal election

The papal election of 1277 (May 30 – November 25), convened in Viterbo after the death of Pope John XXI, was the smallest papal election since the expansion of suffrage to cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons, with only seven cardinal electors (following the deaths of three popes who had not created cardinals). Because John XXI had revoked Ubi periculum, the papal bull of Pope Gregory X establishing the papal conclave, with his own bull Licet felicis recordationis, the cardinal electors were able to take their time. After six months of deliberation, the cardinals eventually elected their most senior member Giovanni Gaetano Orsini as Pope Nicholas III. From the end of the election until Nicholas III's first consistory on March 12, 1278, the number of living cardinals—seven—was the lowest in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

1280–81 papal election

The papal election of 1280–81 (September 22 – February 22) elected Simon de Brion, who took the name Pope Martin IV, as the successor to Pope Nicholas III.

The protracted election is unique due to the violent removal of two cardinals—Matteo Orsini and Giordano Orsini—by the magistrates of Viterbo on the charges that they were "impeding" the election. Only a decade earlier, the magistrates of Viterbo had intervened in the papal election, 1268–1271 by removing the roof tiles of the Palazzo dei Papi di Viterbo to speed up another deadlocked contest. The expulsion of the Orsini and the subsequent election of Simon was due to the influence of Charles I of Naples ("Charles of Anjou").

Giordano Orsini

Giordano Orsini may refer to:

Giordano Bobone Orsini (died after 1154), a.k.a. Jordan of Santa Susanna, Carthusian monk, created Cardinal Deacon

Giordano Orsini (died 1287), cardinal, brother of pope Nicholas III

Giordano Orsini (Senatore 1341), Rome's Senatore in 1341, nephew of Pope Nicholas III

Giordano Orsini (died 1438)

Giordano Orsini di Monterotondo (1525–1564),

Jourdan des Ursins, a.k.a. Giordano degli Orsini (died 1564)

Giordano Orsini (Senatore 1341)

Giordano Orsini was a Roman nobleman of the 14th century. Exponent of the powerful Orsini family, he was son of Matteo Rosso II Orsini, and because of that nephew of Pope Nicholas III and of cardinal Giordano Orsini. Senatore of Rome in 1341 together with Orso dell'Anguillara, on 8 April of that year they bestowed the laurel crown to Francesco Petrarca on the Capitoline Hill. During the revolutionary attempt of Cola di Rienzo, he favoured the tribune, unlike the rest of the Roman nobility. Chief of the Montegiordano line of the family, he possibly gave the name to this Roman hill.

Giordano Orsini (died 1287)

Giordano Orsini (Rome, thirteenth century - Rome, 8 September 1287) was an Italian cardinal.

Giovanni Gaetano Orsini

Giovanni Gaetano Orsini may refer to:

Pope Nicholas III (died 1280), born Giovanni Gaetano Orsini

Giovanni Gaetano Orsini (cardinal) (died 1335), nephew of Pope Nicholas III

Giovanni Gaetano Orsini (cardinal)

Giovanni Gaetano Orsini (ca. 1285 - 27 August 1335), Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church from 17 December 1316 until his death, was a Roman nobleman, a nephew of Pope Nicholas III and a grandson of Matteo Rosso Orsini.

He was sometimes recorded under the names Gian Gaetano Orsini and Giangaetano Orsini.In 1326 the Avignon Pope John XXII sent him as his Legate a latere to Italy, then much troubled by civil wars, with the task of bringing peace. In the event, Orsini found himself embroiled in battles with the Emperor, Ludwig of Bavaria and his antipope, Nicholas V. After taking Rome and becoming Captain of the City, he pursued his own Orsini interests, however, and lost the support of the Pope. He was dismissed as legate in 1334 and died the next year.

John of Procida

John of Procida (Italian: Giovanni da Procida) (1210–1298) was an Italian medieval physician and diplomat.

He was born at Salerno, educated in the Schola Medica as a physician. He was a noted physician for his age and received a professorial chair at this university. He came to the attention of Frederick II, who was patron of the university, and he eventually became Frederick's personal physician and attended him to his death. He was also personal physician to Cardinal John Orsini, the future Pope Nicholas III. Being noticed for his intelligence and pragmatism, he rose through the diplomatic ranks in the Hohenstaufen Kingdom of Sicily. He was actually John III, son of John II of Procida and Clemenza Logoteta, of the family of the lords of the island of Procida.

He was originally a counsellor of Frederick II of Sicily and was entrusted with the education of Frederick's son Manfred. He was at Manfred's side until his defeat at the Battle of Benevento in 1266. In that year he went to Viterbo, Italy and arranged the marriage of his daughter to the Neapolitan Guelph, Bartholomew Caracciolo, and then served with the Hohenstaufen army. After the defeat of the Hohenstaufens at Tagliacozzo he escaped to Venice. His estates were confiscated by Charles; and his wife and daughter were mistreated or raped by the French knight sent to evict them and one of his sons murdered. In 1269 or 1270 he was in Germany trying to drum up support for the return of the Hohenstaufen to the throne of Sicily. While existing Sicilian legends overplay John of Procida's role in the dramatic politics of this time, Runciman concurs that he was at the centre of a "vast political conspiracy" in support of the House of Hohenstaufen (backed by the Byzantines and their Genoese allies) and against Charles of Anjou and his ally the Pope.In 1279 and 1280 John (or, as Runciman argues, one of his sons at his behest) travelled to Sicily to stir up the discontents in favour of King Peter of Aragon and thence to Constantinople to procure the support of the emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus. Michael refused to aid the Aragonese king without papal approval and so diplomatic efforts turned to Rome, where he gained the consent of Pope Nicholas III, who feared the ascent of Charles of Anjou in the Mezzogiorno. John of Procida then returned to Barcelona. The result of these travels was to link Byzantine gold and Genoese assistance behind Aragonese ambitions in Sicily. Through John's secret diplomatic actions the conditions were set for the 1282 uprising of the Sicilian Vespers which destroyed Charles' crusading invasion fleet (aimed first at recapturing Constantinople) at anchor in Messina, providing the conditions for the security of Constantinople and the ability of Peter III to recover the island.

On 2 February 1283, Peter, who had invaded Sicily in the wake of the Vespers uprising, nominated John as Grand Chancellor. He was put in charge of the island when Peter went to France to take up a challenge by Charles later that year. All this did not stop the aged diplomat from continuing his frenetic activity at the varied courts of Europe's monarchs. It was on one of these trips that he died, at Rome, at the age of eighty-eight years, in 1298.

The legacy of John of Procida is controversial. Lu rebellamentu di Sichilia, a Sicilian-language tract from 1290, lauds him highly and it may well be his own memoir as dictated to a scribe. He is more typically portrayed, particularly by Guelph partisans, as cospiratore contro l'autorità costituita, a "conspirator against the constitutional authority", as in the Tuscan Liber Jani de Procida et Palialoco, which presents him in negotiations with Michael VIII, and in the Leggenda di Messer Gianni di Procida, written by a Modenese Guelph. His reputation has experienced a bit of a rehabilitation, and he has been called one of the first politicians and diplomats in the modern senses of the terms. Clearly, his diplomatic role was important: the Sicilian uprising began the War of the Sicilian Vespers, the "world war" of the 13th century, a key event in the subsequent history of Europe.

According to legend, he was in Naples incognito on 29 October 1268, when they executed Conradin. He supposedly recovered the guanto di sfida (gauntlet) Conradin threw into the crowd before his execution.

List of papal relatives created cardinal

This is a list of papal relatives created cardinal by a pope other than their relative. These creates are similar to cardinal-nephews but this list does not include cardinals included in the list of cardinal-nephews

Matteo Rosso Orsini

Matteo Rosso Orsini (1178–1246), called the Great, was an Italian politician, the father of Pope Nicholas III. He was named senatore of the City of Rome by Pope Gregory IX in 1241: in this capacity he took a firm stand against the ventures in Italy of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, and defeated him in 1243.

He was an effective lord of the Eternal City during sede vacante of 1241 and had a considerable influence on the papal election of that year, when the cardinal electors were confined in the Septizodium by his orders. He extended the territories of the Orsini family. He was also a personal friend of St Francis of Assisi and protector of his order.

Nicholas III

Nicholas III may refer to:

Patriarch Nicholas III of Alexandria (ruled 1389–1398)

Patriarch Nicholas III of Constantinople (ruled 1084–1111)

Pope Nicholas III (ruled 1277–1280)

Nicholas III, Duke of Opava (c. 1339–1394)

Nicholas III of Saint Omer (died 1314)

Nicholas III Zrinski (1488 or 1489–1534)

Emperor Nicholas III of the Romanov Empire (state with limited recognition) (micronation), a.k.a. Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen (born 1952)


Orsini is a surname of Italian origin, ultimately derived from Latin ursinus ("bearlike") and originating as an epithet or sobriquet describing the name-bearer's purported strength. Notable people with the surname include the following:

Orsini family, Italian noble family

Alessandro Orsini (1592–1626), cardinal

Angel Orsini, American professional wrestler and bodybuilder

Clarice Orsini (1453–1488), mother of Pope Leo X

Felice Orsini (1819–1858), Italian revolutionary who attempted to assassinate Napoléon III

Francesca Orsini, Italian scholar of South Asian literature

Fulvio Orsini (1529–1600), Italian historian

Giordano Orsini (died 1438), 15th-century Italian cardinal

Giordano Orsini (died 1173), Catholic prelate

Giorgio Orsini (1410–1475), architect and sculptor

Pope Nicholas III, born Giovanni Gaetano Orsini

Giovanni Gaetano Orsini (cardinal) (c.1285–1335), nephew of Pope Nicholas III

John II Orsini (died 1335), known as the Despot of Epirus

Latino Orsini (1411–1477), Catholic cardinal

Latino Malabranca Orsini (d. 1294), Catholic prelate

Marina Orsini (born 1967), Canadian actress

Matteo Orsini (d. 1340), Catholic prelate

Napoleone Orsini (1420–1480), condottiero and papal commander

Paolo Giordano Orsini (disambiguation)

Pope Benedict XIII, born Pietro Francisco Orsini

Rinaldo Orsini (d. 1450), Lord of Piombino

Umberto Orsini (born 1934), stage, television and film actor

Valentino Orsini (1927–2001), film director

Virginio Orsini (1434–1497), Lord of Bracciano

Passetto di Borgo

The Passetto di Borgo, or simply Passetto, is an elevated passage that links the Vatican City with the Castel Sant'Angelo. It is an approximately 800 metres (2,600 ft) long corridor, located in the rione of Borgo. It was erected in 1277 by Pope Nicholas III, but parts of the wall were built by Totila during the Gothic War. On two occasions it served as an escape route for Popes in danger.

Pope Alexander VI crossed it in 1494, when Charles VIII invaded the city and the pope's life was in peril.

Clement VII escaped to safety through this passage during the Sack of Rome in 1527, when troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, massacred almost the entire Swiss Guard on the steps of St Peter's Basilica.

Pope Nicholas

Pope Nicholas could refer to:

Pope Nicholas I

Pope Nicholas II

Pope Nicholas III

Pope Nicholas IV

Pope Nicholas V

Antipope Nicholas V

Saint John's Tower (Vatican City)

Saint John's Tower (Italian: Torre San Giovanni) is a round structure located on a hilltop in the westernmost tip of Vatican City, near Vatican Radio and overlooking the Vatican Gardens. The Medieval tower is located along an ancient wall built by Pope Nicholas III, but it fell into disuse at the beginning of the 16th century. It was rebuilt by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s.In modern times, the Tower houses papal apartments used by popes when maintenance work is being done on the Apostolic Palace and also is reserved for illustrious guests of the Pontiffs. In 1979, Pope John Paul II temporarily moved into Torre San Giovanni while the work in his official apartment was being completed. In 1971, Hungarian Cardinal József Mindszenty was allowed to stay in the tower by Pope Paul VI, when the prelate was allowed to leave Budapest, where he had lived in asylum at the U.S. Embassy. After Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone replaced Cardinal Angelo Sodano as Vatican Secretary of State in 2006, Cardinal Bertone lived in the tower while Cardinal Sodano continued to live in the official residence.In June 2008, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI would welcome U.S. President George W. Bush in the Torre San Giovanni during the American President's visit to the Vatican that month, to repay Bush for the warm reception the Pope enjoyed at the White House during his April 2008 visit to the United States of America. Normally the Pope greets heads of state in his private library in the Apostolic Palace.

Currently, Saint John's Tower is the seat of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Vaticinia de Summis Pontificibus

A series of manuscript prophecies concerning the Papacy, under the title of Vaticinia de Summis Pontificibus, a Latin text which assembles portraits of popes and prophecies related to them, circulated from the late thirteenth-early fourteenth century, with prophecies concerning popes from Pope Nicholas III onwards.

Viterbo Papacy

With a long history as a vantage point for anti-popes forces threatening Rome, Viterbo became a papal city in 1243. During the later thirteenth century, the ancient Italian city of Viterbo was the site of five papal elections and the residence of seven popes and their Curias, and it remains the location of four papal tombs. These popes resided in the Palazzo dei Papi di Viterbo alongside the Viterbo Cathedral intermittently for two decades, from 1257 to 1281; as a result, the papal palace in Viterbo, with that in Orvieto, are the most extensive thirteenth-century papal palaces to have survived.Shifting political and economic alliances pushed and pulled various popes of that century from Rome, taking refuge in other, not invariably hospitable, Italian city-states like Perugia and Orvieto. The primary cleavage in these divisions was between the Angevin and Hohenstaufen claimants to the title of Holy Roman Emperor, whom the pope could crown.

William Fraser (bishop of St Andrews)

William Fraser (died 1297) was a late 13th century Bishop of St Andrews and Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland. Before election to the bishopric, he had been and Royal Chancellor of King Alexander III of Scotland and dean of Glasgow. He was elected to the bishopric on 4 August 1279, and confirmed in the position the following year by Pope Nicholas III

In 1295, William was sent to France as part of the king's attempt to gain an alliance with the French king, on 20 August 1297. William was one of the leading political figures in the kingdom during the crisis that emerged in the aftermath of King Alexander. In 1290, he was elected as one of the six Guardians of Scotland, the six oligarchs who ran Scotland until the accession of King John Balliol. When the latter was appointed as King of Scots by King Edward I of England, William retained his role as one of the country's leading political players. In 1295, William was sent to France as part of the king's attempt to gaine an alliance with the King of the French. He remained in France for the remaining two years of his life, and died at Artuyl, on 20 August 1297. He was buried in the Church of the "Preaching Friars" on the Rue Saint-Jacques in Paris. His heart was returned to St Andrews, and was buried in the wall of the church by his successor, William de Lamberton.

William de Wickwane

William de Wickwane (died 1285) was Archbishop of York, between the years 1279 and 1285.

1st–4th centuries
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including under Constantine (312–337)
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