NICHOLAS III. (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini), pope from the 25th of November 1277 to the 22nd of August 1280, was a Roman nobleman who had served under eight popes, been made cardinal-deacon of St Nicola in carcere Tulliano by Innocent IV., protector of the Franciscans by Alexander IV., inquisitor-general by Urban IV., and succeeded John XXI., largely through family influence, after a six-months' vacancy in the Holy See. His brief pontificate was marked by several important events. A born politician, he greatly strengthened the papal position in Italy. He concluded a concordat with Rudolph of Habsburg in May 1278, by which the Romagna and the exarchate of Ravenna were guaranteed to the pope; and in July he issued an epochmaking constitution for the government of Rome, which forbade foreigners taking civil office. Nicholas issued the bull Exiit on the 14th of August 1279 to settle the strife within the Franciscan order between the parties of strict and loose observance. He repaired the Lateran and the Vatican at enormous cost, and erected a beautiful country house at Soriano near Viterbo. Nicholas, though a man of learning and strength of character, brought just reproach on himself for his efforts to found principalities for his nephews and other relations. He died from a stroke of apoplexy and was succeeded by Martin IV.
See "Les Registres de Nicolas III.," published by Jules Gay in Bibliotheque des ecoles francaises d'Athenes et de Rome (Paris, 1898-1905); A. Potthast, Regesta pontif. Roman. vol. 2 (Berlin, 18 75); A. Demski, "Papst Nikolaus III." in Kirchengeschichtliche Studien (Munster, 1903); F. Gregorovius, Rome in the Middle Ages, vol. 5, trans. by Mrs G. W. Hamilton (London, 1900-1902); Fr. Wertsch, Die Beziehungen Rudolfs von Habsburg zur rom. Kurie bis zum Tode Nikolaus III. (Bochum, 1880); G. Palmieri, Introiti ed esiti di Papa Niccolb III. (Rome,1889). (C. H. HA.)
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