Pope Nicholas III
Overview
 
Pope Nicholas III born Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 from November 25, 1277 to his death in 1280, was a Roman nobleman who had served under eight Popes, been made cardinal-deacon of St. Nicola in Carcere Tulliano
San Nicola in Carcere
San Nicola in Carcere is a titular church in Rome near the Forum Boarium in rione Ripa. It is one of the traditional stational churches of Lent.-History:...

 by Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV , born Sinibaldo Fieschi, was pope from June 25, 1243 until his death in 1254.-Early life:...

 (1243–54), protector of the Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

s by Pope Alexander IV
Pope Alexander IV
Pope Alexander IV was Pope from 1254 until his death.Born as Rinaldo di Jenne, in Jenne , he was, on his mother's side, a member of the de' Conti di Segni family, the counts of Segni, like Pope Innocent III and Pope Gregory IX...

 (1254–61), inquisitor-general
Grand Inquisitor
Grand Inquisitor is the lead official of an Inquisition. The most famous Inquisitor General is the Spanish Dominican Tomás de Torquemada, who spearheaded the Spanish Inquisition.-List of Spanish Grand Inquisitors:-Castile:-Aragon:...

 by Pope Urban IV
Pope Urban IV
Pope Urban IV , born Jacques Pantaléon, was Pope, from 1261 to 1264. He was not a cardinal, and there have been several Popes since him who have not been Cardinals, including Urban V and Urban VI.-Biography:...

 (1261–64), and succeeded Pope John XXI
Pope John XXI
Pope John XXI, , born Pedro Julião Pope John XXI, , born Pedro Julião Pope John XXI, , born Pedro Julião (Latin, Petrus Iulianus (c. 1215 – May 20, 1277), a Portuguese also called Pedro Hispano (Latin, Petrus Hispanus; English, Peter of Spain), was Pope from 1276 until his death about eight...

 (1276–77), largely through family influence, after a six-month vacancy in the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

.
Nicholas' brief pontificate was marked by several important events.
Encyclopedia
Pope Nicholas III born Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 from November 25, 1277 to his death in 1280, was a Roman nobleman who had served under eight Popes, been made cardinal-deacon of St. Nicola in Carcere Tulliano
San Nicola in Carcere
San Nicola in Carcere is a titular church in Rome near the Forum Boarium in rione Ripa. It is one of the traditional stational churches of Lent.-History:...

 by Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV , born Sinibaldo Fieschi, was pope from June 25, 1243 until his death in 1254.-Early life:...

 (1243–54), protector of the Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

s by Pope Alexander IV
Pope Alexander IV
Pope Alexander IV was Pope from 1254 until his death.Born as Rinaldo di Jenne, in Jenne , he was, on his mother's side, a member of the de' Conti di Segni family, the counts of Segni, like Pope Innocent III and Pope Gregory IX...

 (1254–61), inquisitor-general
Grand Inquisitor
Grand Inquisitor is the lead official of an Inquisition. The most famous Inquisitor General is the Spanish Dominican Tomás de Torquemada, who spearheaded the Spanish Inquisition.-List of Spanish Grand Inquisitors:-Castile:-Aragon:...

 by Pope Urban IV
Pope Urban IV
Pope Urban IV , born Jacques Pantaléon, was Pope, from 1261 to 1264. He was not a cardinal, and there have been several Popes since him who have not been Cardinals, including Urban V and Urban VI.-Biography:...

 (1261–64), and succeeded Pope John XXI
Pope John XXI
Pope John XXI, , born Pedro Julião Pope John XXI, , born Pedro Julião Pope John XXI, , born Pedro Julião (Latin, Petrus Iulianus (c. 1215 – May 20, 1277), a Portuguese also called Pedro Hispano (Latin, Petrus Hispanus; English, Peter of Spain), was Pope from 1276 until his death about eight...

 (1276–77), largely through family influence, after a six-month vacancy in the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

.

Politician

Nicholas' brief pontificate was marked by several important events. A born politician, he greatly strengthened the papal position in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. He concluded a concordat
Concordat
A concordat is an agreement between the Holy See of the Catholic Church and a sovereign state on religious matters. Legally, they are international treaties. They often includes both recognition and privileges for the Catholic Church in a particular country...

 with Rudolph I of Habsburg (1273–91) in May 1278, by which the Romagna
Romagna
Romagna is an Italian historical region that approximately corresponds to the south-eastern portion of present-day Emilia-Romagna. Traditionally, it is limited by the Apennines to the south-west, the Adriatic to the east, and the rivers Reno and Sillaro to the north and west...

 and the exarchate of Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

 were guaranteed to the Pope. According to the chronist Bartholomew of Lucca
Bartholomew of Lucca
Bartholomew of Lucca also known as Tolomeo da Lucca or Ptolemy da Lucca was a medieval Italian historian....

 he discussed with Rudolph, in general terms at least, splitting the German Empire into four separate kingdoms - Lombardy
Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

, Burgundy, Tuscia
Tuscia
Tuscia is a historical region of Italy that comprised the southern territories under Etruscan influence. While it later came to coincide with today’s province of Viterbo, it was originally much larger, including the whole Region of Tuscany, a great part of Umbria and the northern parts of...

 and Germany, where Rudolph's kingdom would be made hereditary in addition to himself becoming emperor. In July 1278 Nicholas III issued an epoch-making constitution for the government of Rome, which forbade foreigners taking civil office.

Ecclesiastical milestones

Nicholas' father had been a personal friend of Francis of Assisi
Francis of Assisi
Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the men's Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. St...

, and he himself had to focus much of his attention on the Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 order. He issued the Papal bull
Papal bull
A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it....

 Exiit qui seminat on August 14, 1279 to settle the strife within the order between the parties of strict and loose observance. He repaired the Lateran Palace
Lateran Palace
The Lateran Palace , formally the Apostolic Palace of the Lateran , is an ancient palace of the Roman Empire and later the main Papal residence....

 and the Vatican
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

 at enormous cost, and erected a beautiful country house at Soriano near Viterbo
Viterbo
See also Viterbo, Texas and Viterbo UniversityViterbo is an ancient city and comune in the Lazio region of central Italy, the capital of the province of Viterbo. It is approximately 80 driving / 80 walking kilometers north of GRA on the Via Cassia, and it is surrounded by the Monti Cimini and...

, where he died of a cardiovascular event (the sources differ on whether it was a heart attack or a stroke).

Nepotism

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 cartoon depicting the Pope in his fine robes and three "little bears" (orsatti) hanging on below, a pun on the family name. His alleged discussions with king Rudolph could be interpreted as an attempt to found principalities
Principality
A principality is a monarchical feudatory or sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title of prince or princess, or by a monarch with another title within the generic use of the term prince....

 for his nephews and other relations.

After his death, his namesake Giovanni Gaetano Orsini
Giovanni Gaetano Orsini (cardinal)
Giovanni Gaetano Orsini , 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....

 was appointed a cardinal by Pope John XXII
Pope John XXII
Pope John XXII , born Jacques Duèze , was pope from 1316 to 1334. He was the second Pope of the Avignon Papacy , elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by Philip V of France...

.

Portrayal in The Inferno

Dante
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

 in The Inferno
Inferno (Dante)
Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through what is largely the medieval concept of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as...

(of the Divine Comedy) talks briefly to Pope Nicholas III, who was condemned to spend eternity in the Third Bolgia of the Eighth Circle of Hell, reserved for those who committed Simony
Simony
Simony is the act of paying for sacraments and consequently for holy offices or for positions in the hierarchy of a church, named after Simon Magus , who appears in the Acts of the Apostles 8:9-24...

, the ecclesiastical crime and personal sin of paying for offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church. In Dante's story, the Simoniacs are placed head-first in holes, flames burning on the soles of their feet (Canto XIX). In these pits, Nicholas III was the chief sinner, which is demonstrated by the height of the flames on his feet. At first he mistakes Dante for Pope Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII , born Benedetto Gaetani, was Pope of the Catholic Church from 1294 to 1303. Today, Boniface VIII is probably best remembered for his feuds with Dante, who placed him in the Eighth circle of Hell in his Divina Commedia, among the Simonists.- Biography :Gaetani was born in 1235 in...

. When the confusion is cleared up, Nicholas informs Dante that he foresees the damnation (for simony) of not only Boniface VIII but Pope Clement V
Pope Clement V
Pope Clement V, born Raymond Bertrand de Got was Pope from 1305 to his death...

, an even more corrupt pope, as well.

External links

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