Pope Benedict XIII – Pope #245

Pope Benedict XIII, born Pietro Francesco Orsini in 1649, ascended to the papacy in 1724, bringing with him a reputation for personal piety and asceticism that would define his pontificate.

Benedict XIII was the 245th leader of the Catholic Church and the 13th among that lot to choose the papal name of Benedict.

Amid the complexities of the early 18th century, marked by political machinations and the challenges of maintaining church unity, Benedict XIII’s tenure was a testament to his deep spiritual commitment and his efforts to reform the Church from within.

This piece seeks to shed light on the life and legacy of Benedict XIII, a pope whose dedication to spiritual renewal and ecclesiastical discipline stood out in an age often characterized by its secular concerns and royal intrigues.

From his humble beginnings as a Dominican friar to his elevation to one of the highest spiritual offices on earth, explore the journey of a pontiff who, despite the controversies and challenges of his time, remained steadfast in his mission to lead the Church towards greater holiness and integrity.

Pope Benedict XIII Profile

PontificateEnglish / Latin NameBirth nameDate and Place of birthAge at start/
end of papacy
#24529 May 1724 –
21 February 1730
(5 years, 268 days)
Servant of God Benedict XIII
BENEDICTVS Tertius Decimus
Pietro Francesco Orsini, O.P.2 February 1649 Gravina in Puglia75 / 81

Life Before the Papacy.

Pietro Francesco Orsini was born in the city of Gravina in Puglia. He was the firstborn son, of six, to hail from the union of Giovanna Frangipani della Tolfa and Duke Ferdinando III Orsini. Upon reaching age 18, he gave up his inheritance and changed his name in order to enter the Dominican Order. “Vincenzo” Orsini joined the priesthood in February of 1671.

Thanks to the political and financial clout of his family, Pope Clement X decided to appoint Vincenzo the Cardinal-Priest of San Sisto roughly one year after he become a priest.

He taught philosophy at Brescia, served as bishop of Mandredonia and Cesena, then became the archbishop of Benevento. After the a pair of earthquakes jostled the area in 1688 and 1702, he decided to organize charities to assist victims of the tremors.

Papal Legacy.

Pope Benedict XIII was a man more concerned with good works and spirituality than politics and statesmanship.

  • He dissolved the national lottery because he believed it was nothing more than a way to make profit.
  • He opened several hospitals yet had no idea how to handle their management, staffing or upkeep.
  • He inaugurated the Spanish Steps that sloped between the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinità dei Monti.
  • He founded the University of Camerino.
  • He settled an argument regarding the authenticity of St. Augustine’s bones, deigning them to be legitimate.
  • Most of the politics of Benedict XIII’s position were managed by Cardinal Niccolò Coscia. Cardinal Coscia did not serve his duty in the most benign of lights and did much damage to the Papal treasury while keeping Benedict XIII as little more than a puppet.

List of Events In The Life of Pope Benedict XIII ( Pietro Francesco Orsini )

2 Feb 1649Born
13 Feb 166819.0ProfessedMember of Order of Friars Preachers
22 Feb 167122.0Ordained DeaconDeacon of Order of Friars Preachers
24 Feb 167122.0Ordained PriestPriest of Order of Friars Preachers
22 Feb 167223.0Elevated to Cardinal
16 May 167223.2InstalledCardinal-Priest of San Sisto
4 Jan 167323.9AppointedPrefect of the Congregation of the Council
28 Jan 167525.9AppointedArchbishop of Manfredonia, Italy
3 Feb 167526.0Ordained BishopArchbishop of Manfredonia, Italy
22 Jan 168030.9AppointedArchbishop (Personal Title) of Cesena, Italy
18 Mar 168637.1AppointedArchbishop of Benevento, Italy
3 Jan 170151.9AppointedCardinal-Bishop of Frascati
18 Mar 171566.1AppointedCardinal-Bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina
29 May 172475.3ElectedPope (Roma, Italy)
4 Jun 172475.3InstalledPope (Roma, Italy)
21 Feb 173081.0DiedPope (Roma, Italy)

Quick Facts About Benedict XIII.

  • He was born on February 2nd, 1649 within the Kingdom of Naples.
  • While his given name was Pietro Francesco Orsini, he began to go by the name Vincenzo Maria Orsini upon entering the Dominican Order.
  • He died on February 21st, 1730.
  • The circumstances surrounding his death are the result of officiating over the funeral of Cardinal Marco Antonio Ansidei. Benedict developed a catarrh, a major surge of mucus and white blood cells around the nose and throat that arose from inflammation of his mucous membranes. The ailment was so severe that he was unable to properly breathe. When an autopsy was performed upon his corpse, it was discovered that he had lived his entire life with an over-sized heart-this may have been a factor in his declining health.
  • His papacy began May 29th, 1724.
  • His papacy ended with his life.
  • His papal successor was Clement XII.

Five Interesting Facts About Benedict XIII.

  • Prior to assuming the papacy, there was another Benedict XIII, an Aragonese noble, who was later deemed to be an antipope with Pietro’s donning of the papal crown.
  • He was the third and final member of clan Orsini to become pope.
  • He was a close friend to Serafina di Dio, a mystic.
  • Its believed by some that his promotion to Cardinal-Priest of San Sisto was made against Orsini’s wishes. Despite this, Orsini was not one to go against the Pope’s decisions.
  • After the work to canonize him concluded in 2017, he retained status as “Servant of God.”

List of Other Popes Named Benedict

There has has been 15 Popes that have taken the name Benedict in the history of the papacy. Below are links to all of them. Also check out all of the other Popes the begin with the letter B.