Pius III, Pope
PIUS III, POPE
Pontificate: Sept. 22, 1503, to Oct. 18, 1503; b. Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, Siena, c. 1440. His father was Nanno Todeschini; his mother, Laodinica Piccolomini, was a sister of pius ii. Pius conferred upon him the use of the Piccolomini surname. Although his father had wealth, it was his uncle who fostered his studies in law at Perugia, where he received the doctorate. He was then made archbishop of Siena although only 20 years old and a deacon. In March 1460 he was created cardinal deacon of S. Eustachio. He served as papal legate under four pontiffs. His diplomatic service began in 1460 when Pius II sent him as legate to the Marches. Paul II made him legate in Germany. Having learned German, he defended the interests of the Church effectively both with the emperor and before the Imperial Diet at Regensburg (1471). Under Sixtus IV he remained in Rome, winning praise for his upright life, gentleness, and culture. Innocent VIII entrusted him with the task of restoring peace in Umbria, which was torn by factional strife. Alexander VI sent him as emissary to Charles VIII, but this mission was not successful.
The election of the reformist Cardinal Piccolomini as pope, following the death of Alexander VI, took place under unusual conditions. Cesare Borgia had gathered troops and amassed money in preparation for an attack on Tuscany. Though stricken by the same fever that had caused the death of his father, Alexander VI, Borgia still hoped to dominate the conclave, and his troops took possession of the Vatican. But the cardinals then assembled in the Church of the Minerva, where, defended by the Roman populace against troops under Michelotto Coreglia, they elected Cardinal Piccolomini. Eight days after his election Pius III was ordained by Cardinal Guiliano Della Rovere; he was consecrated on October 1 and crowned a week later. Pius III's brief pontificate marked the beginning of the collapse of Borgia power. After the election Borgia was permitted to reenter Rome, but without troops. While he was placed under protective guard in the Castel Sant' Angelo, local lords with Venetian help were moving into Rimini and Pesaro and other Borgia holdings. This shift in power affected the next conclave; for although Borgia hoped that the Spanish cardinals might prevent the election of Cardinal Guiliano Della Rovere, his weakened position led him to negotiate with Della Rovere and to assist in the latter's election as JuliusII. Pius III is remembered in Siena for commissioning Pinturicchio to paint the frescoes in the cathedral library, which he founded.
Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London–St. Louis 1938–61) 6:191–207. e. piccolomini, "Il pontificato di Pio III …," Archivio-storico italiano 32:102–138. j. schlecht, Pius III und die deutsche Nation (Kempten, Ger. 1914). c. wirz, Die Pontifikate Alexanders VI und Pius III (Bern 1918). g. b. picotti, La Giovinezza di Leone X (Milan 1928). g. voigt, Enea Silvio de'Piccolomini, als Papst Pius der Zweite und sein Zeitalter, 3 V. (Berlin 1856–63). j. a. f. thomson, Popes and Princes, 1417–1517 (London 1980). r. bireley, The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450–1700 (Washington D.C. 1999).
[d. r. campbell]