Pope Innocent XIII

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Innocent XIII
Papacy began 8 May 1721
Papacy ended 7 March 1724
Predecessor Clement XI
Successor Benedict XIII
Consecration 16 June 1695
by Galeazzo Marescotti
Created Cardinal 7 June 1706
by Pope Clement XI
Personal details
Birth name Michelangelo dei Conti
Born (1655-05-13)13 May 1655
Poli, Lazio, Papal States
Died 7 March 1724(1724-03-07) (aged 68)
Rome, Papal States
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Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Other popes named Innocent

Pope Innocent XIII (Latin: Innocentius XIII; 13 May 1655 – 7 March 1724) was born as Michelangelo dei Conti and was Pope from 8 May 1721 to his death in 1724. He is the last pope to date to take the pontifical name of "Innocent" upon his election.

Pope Innocent XIII was reform-oriented, and he imposed new standards of frugality, abolishing excessive spending. He took steps to finally end the practice of nepotism by issuing a decree which forbade his successors from granting land, offices or income to any relatives - something opposed by many cardinals who hoped that they might become pope and benefit their families.


Early life[edit]

Michelangelo dei Conti was born on 13 May 1655 in Poli, near Rome as the son of Carlo II, Duke of Poli, and Isabella d'Monti. Like Pope Innocent III (1198–1216), Pope Gregory IX (1227–1241) and Pope Alexander IV (1254–1261), he was a member of the land-owning family of the Conti, who held the titles of counts and dukes of Segni. He included the family crest in his pontifical coats of arms.[1]

Conti commenced his studies in Ancona and then with the Jesuits in Rome at the Collegio Romano and then later at the La Sapienza University. After he received his doctorate in canon law and civil law, he was ordained to the priesthood. Conti also served as the Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura in 1691, later to be appointed as the Governor of Ascoli until 1692. Conti was also the Governor of Campagna and Marittima from 1692 to 1693 and the Governor of Viterbo from 1693 to 1695.[2]

Pope Innocent XII selected Conti as the Titular Archbishop of Tarso on 13 June 1695 and he received his episcopal consecration on 16 June 1695 in Rome. Conti was also the nuncio to both Switzerland and Portugal.


On 7 June 1706, Conti was elevated to the cardinalate and was made the Cardinal-Priest of Santi Quirico e Giulitta under Pope Clement XI (1700–21). His appointment came about as the replacement of Gabriele Filippucci who declined the cardinalate. He would receive his titular church on 23 February 1711. From 1697 to 1710 he acted as papal nuncio to the Kingdom of Portugal, where he is believed to have formed those unfavourable impressions of the Jesuits which afterwards influenced his conduct towards them.

He was also transferred to Osimo as its archbishop in 1709 and was later translated one last time to Viterbo e Toscanella in 1712. He also served as Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals from 1716 to 1717 and resigned his position in his diocese due to illness in 1719.


Papal election[edit]

Main article: Papal conclave, 1721

After the death of Pope Clement XI in 1721, a conclave was called to choose a new pope. It took 75 ballots just to reach a decision and choose Conti as the successor of Clement XI. After all candidates seemed to slip, support turned to Conti. The curial factions also turned their attention to him. In the morning of 8 May 1721, he was elected. He chose the name of Innocent XIII in honour of Pope Innocent III. On the following 18 May, he was solemnly crowned by the protodeacon, Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili.


In 1721 his high reputation for ability, learning, purity, and a kindly disposition secured his election to succeed Clement XI as Pope Innocent XIII. His pontificate was prosperous, but comparatively uneventful. He held two consistories that saw three new cardinals elevated on 16 June 1721 and 16 July 1721.

The Chinese Rites controversy that started under his predecessor continued during his reign. Innocent XIII prohibited the Jesuits from prosecuting their mission in China, and ordered that no new members should be received into the order. This indication of his sympathies encouraged some French bishops to approach him with a petition for the recall of the bull Unigenitus by which Jansenism had been condemned; the request, however, was peremptorily denied.

The pope also assisted the Venetians in their struggles and also assisted Malta in their struggles against the Turks.

Innocent XIII, like his predecessor, showed much favour to James Francis Edward Stuart, the "Old Pretender" to the British throne and liberally supported him. The pope's cousin, Francesco Maria Conti, from Siena, became chamberlain of James' little court in the Roman Muti Palace.

Beatifications and canonizations[edit]

The pope did not canonize any saints in his short pontificate but he beatified John of Nepomuk on 31 May 1721.

Death and legacy[edit]

The tomb of Pope Innocent XIII.

Innocent XIII fell ill in 1724. He was tormented by a hernia of which he spoke to nobody but his valet. At one point, it had burst and caused inflammation and fever. Innocent XIII asked for the last rites, made his profession of faith, and died on 7 March 1724, at the age of 69. His pontificate was unremarkable, given that he was hampered by physical suffering. He was interred at St Peter's.

Innocent XIII was above the middle height and strongly built, with light eyes and a large nose. He was quite grave and was majestic in bearing, believing that his predecessor had perhaps shown somewhat too much mildness and affability. He never allowed people, except cardinals and ambassadors, to be seated in his presence; all others were obliged to remain kneeling or standing at all times. He was not wanting in either modesty or humility, but he thought it necessary to be of a reserved bearing, and no one better than he could sustain the dignity of the office.

In 2005 upon the occasion of the 350 years since the birth of the late pontiff, the citizens in the late pope's village of birth asked the Holy See to introduce the cause of beatification for Innocent XIII.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Pope Innocent XIII". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  2. ^ "CONTI, Michelangelo (1655-1724)". Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
Papal styles of
Pope Innocent XIII
C o a Innocenzo XIII.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Clement XI
8 May 1721 – 7 March 1724
Succeeded by
Benedict XIII