Pope Saint Benedict XI was born Nicholas Boccasini at Treviso, Italy, 1240; died at Perugia, 7 July, 1304. He entered the Dominican Order at the age of fourteen. After fourteen years of study, he became lector of theology, which office he filled for several years.
In 1296 he was elected Master General of the Order. As at this time hostility to Boniface VIII was becoming more pronounced, the new general issued an ordinance forbidding his subjects to favour in any way the opponents of the reigning pontiff; he also enjoined on them to defend in their sermons, when opportune, the legitimacy of the election of Boniface. This loyalty of Boccasini, which remained unshaken to the end, was recognized by Boniface, who showed him many marks of favour and confidence. Thus with the two cardinal-legates, the Dominican General formed the important embassy, the purpose of which was the concluding of an armistice between Edward I of England and Philip IV of France, then at war with each other.
In the year 1298 Boccasini was elevated to the cardinalate; he was afterwards appointed Bishop of Ostia and Dean of the Sacred College. As at that time Hungary was rent by civil war, the cardinal-bishop was sent thither by the Holy See as legate to labour for the restoration of peace. At the time of the return of the legate to Rome, the famous contest of Boniface VIII with Philip the Fair had reached its height. When, in 1303, the enemies of the pope had made themselves masters of the sacred palace, of all the cardinals and prelates only the two Cardinal-Bishops of Ostia and Sabina remained at the side of the venerable Pontiff to defend him from the violence of William of Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna, whom he excommunicated.
A month after this scene of violence, Boniface having died, Boccasini was unanimously elected Pope, 22 October, taking the name of Benedict XI. The principal event of his pontificate was the restoration of peace with the French court. After a brief pontificate of eight months, Benedict died suddenly at Perugia. It was suspected, not altogether without reason, that his sudden death was caused by poisoning through the agency of William of Nogaret.
Benedict XI was beatified in the year 1773. His feast is celebrated at Rome and throughout the Dominican Order on the 7th of July. He is the author of a volume of sermons and commentaries on a part of the Gospel of St. Matthew, on the Psalms, the Book of Job, and the Apocalypse.