Pope Pius III
Elected Pope September 22, 1503; d. in Rome, October 18, 1503, after a pontificate of four weeks
Pius III, POPE (FRANCESCO TODESCHINI PICCOLOMINI), b. at Siena, May 29, 1439; elected September 22, 1503; d. in Rome, October 18, 1503, after a pontificate of four weeks. Piccolomini was the son of a sister of Pius II. He had passed his boyhood in destitute circumstances when his uncle took him into his household, bestowed upon him his family name and arms, and superintended his training and education. He studied law in Perugia and immediately after receiving the doctor-ate as canonist was appointed by his uncle Archbishop of Siena, and on March 5, 1460, cardinal-deacon with the title of S. Eustachio. The following month he was sent as legate to the March of Ancona, with the experienced Bishop of Marsico as his counsellor. “The only thing objectionable about him”, says Voigt (Enea Silvio, III, 531), “was his youth; for in the administration of his legation and in his later conduct at the curia he proved to be a man of spotless character and many-sided capacity.” He was sent by Paul II as legate to Germany, where he acquitted himself with eminent success, the knowledge of German that he had acquired in his uncle’s house being of great advantage to him. During the worldly reigns of Sixtus IV and Alexander VI he kept away from Rome as much as possible. Sigismondo de Conti, who knew him well tells us that “he left no moment unoccupied; his time for study was before daybreak; he spent his mornings in prayer and his midday hours in giving audiences, to which the humblest had easy access. He was so temperate in food and drink that he only allowed himself an evening meal every other day.” Yet this is the excellent man to whom Gregorovius in his “Lucrezia Borgia”, without a shadow of authority, gives a dozen children—the calumny being repeated by Brosch and Creighton. After the death of Alexander VI, the conclave could not unite on the principal candidates, d’Amboise, Rovere, and Sforza; hence the great majority cast their votes for Piccolomini, who though only sixty-four was, like his uncle, tortured with gout and was prematurely old. He took the name of Pius III in honor of his uncle, was crowned on October 8, after receiving priestly and episcopal orders. The strain of the long ceremony was so great that the pope sank under it. He was buried in St. Peter’s, but his remains were later transferred to S. Andrea della Valle where he rests by the side of Pius II.
JAMES F. LOUGHLIN