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The Palazzo dei Papi di Viterbo, the site of the election
Pope Nicholas III had opposed the Angevin claims

The papal election from September 22, 1280 to February 22, 1281 elected Simon de Brion, who took the name Pope Martin IV,[1] as the successor to Pope Nicholas III.

The protracted election is unique due to the violent removal of two cardinals—Matteo Orsini and Giordano Orsini—by the magistrates of Viterbo on the charges that they were "impeding" the election.[2] Only a decade earlier, the magistrates of Viterbo had intervened in the papal election, 1268–1271 by removing the roof tiles of the Palazzo dei Papi di Viterbo to speed up another deadlocked contest. The expulsion of the Orsini and the subsequent election of Simon was due to the influence of Charles I of Naples ("Charles of Anjou"), who was present at Viterbo for the election.[3]



The previous meeting of the cardinals, the papal election, 1277, had dragged on for six months as the six cardinal electors (the fewest in the history of the Roman Catholic Church), were evenly divided between the Roman and Angevin factions. The aged Giovanni Gaetano Orsini was elected Pope Nicholas III, to the dissatisfaction of Charles I of Naples, whom the three French cardinals supported.

Previously, Pope Clement IV had crowned Charles I the King of Naples and Sicily (previously a papal fief), but had failed to sufficiently stack the College of Cardinals with like-minded cardinals. Following Clement's death, the papal election, 1268–1271, was the longest in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, eventually electing outsider Tebaldo Visconti as Pope Gregory X, who concerned his papacy with little more than the advocacy of the Crusades (having been elected while not a cardinal on the Crusades). Although Gregory X had issued a papal bull Ubi Periculum (1274), mandating the stricture of the papal conclave to accelerate disputed papal elections, the bull was not in force at the time of this election, having been revoked by Pope John XXI.

Cardinal elections

Elector Nationality Cardinalatial order and title Elevated Elevator Other ecclesiastical titles Notes
Ordonho Alvares Portuguese Cardinal-bishop of Frascati 1278, March 12 Nicholas III Dean of the College of Cardinals
Latino Malabranca Orsini, O.P. Rome Cardinal-bishop of Ostia e Velletri 1278, March 12 Nicholas III Inquisitor General Cardinal-nephew
Bentivenga da Bentivengi, O.F.M. Acquasparta Cardinal-bishop of Albano 1278, March 12 Nicholas III Grand penitentiary
Anchero Pantaléone French Cardinal-priest of S. Prassede 1262, May 22 Urban IV Protopriest Cardinal-nephew
Simon de Brion French Cardinal-priest of S. Cecilia 1261, December 17 Urban IV Elected Pope Martin IV
Guillaume de Bray French Cardinal-priest of S. Marco 1262, May 22 Urban IV
Gerardo Bianchi Parma Cardinal-priest of Ss. XII Apostoli 1278, March 12 Nicholas III
Girolamo Masci, O.F.M. Lisciano Cardinal-priest of S. Pudenziana 1278, March 12 Nicholas III Future Pope Nicholas IV
Giacomo Savelli Rome Cardinal-deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin 1261, December 17 Urban IV Protodeacon Future Pope Honorius IV
Goffredo da Alatri Alatri Cardinal-deacon of S. Giorgio in Velabro 1261, December 17 Urban IV
Matteo Orsini Rome Cardinal-deacon of S. Maria in Portico 1262, May 22 Urban IV Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica Removed by the magistrates of Viterbo
Giordano Orsini Rome Cardinal-deacon of S. Eustachio 1278, March 12 Nicholas III Removed by the magistrates of Viterbo;
Giacomo Colonna Rome Cardinal-deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata 1278, March 12 Nicholas III Archpriest of the Liberian Basilica

Absentee cardinal

Elector Nationality Cardinalatial order and title Elevated Elevator Other ecclesiastical titles Notes
Bernard Ayglerius, O.S.B. French Unknown 1265 or 1268 Clement IV Abbot of Montecassino De facto retired; several sources doubt that he was ever promoted to the cardinalate[4]


From the start of the conclave, the anti-Angevin faction—mostly created cardinals by Nicholas III, who controlled many key positions in the College and includied three Orsini cardinals, had consolidated themselves as an unbreakable voting block.[5]

The breakthrough in the deadlock came when Charles I replaced Orso Orsini, the podestà of Viterbo, with Riccardello Annibaldi, who proceeded to burst into the election and arrest and remove the Orsini cardinals, allowing the pro-Angevin faction and the Aldobrandeschi partisans to push through the election of Simon de Brion, the favored candidate of Charles, as Pope Martin IV.[5] Giordano, the leader of the anti-French faction, and his nephew Matteo, were imprisoned, actions that ensured that the new French pope would find no welcome in returning to Rome.[6]


The tomb of Charles I of Naples ("Charles of Anjou"), who engineered the election of Martin IV and exercised considerable influence over him

The imprisonment of the cardinals caused an interdict to be placed on the city of Viterbo; as a result of the interdict, and of the hostility of the city of Rome to a French pontiff, Martin IV moved to Orvieto, where he was crowned on March 23.[3] Among the first acts of Martin IV were to remove from prominent positions the Orsini cardinal-nephews of his predecessor, Nicholas III, and to replace them with French and pro-French candidates.[5]

Martin IV remained dependent on Charles throughout his papacy; soon after his coronation, on 29 April he named Charles a Roman Senator and assisted in his attempts to restore the Latin Empire, including through the excommunication of Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos.[3] The latter act resulted in the undoing of the fragile union of East and West brokered at the Council of Lyons in 1274.[3] Martin IV's support of Charles continued after the Sicilian Vespers, when Martin IV excommunicated Peter III of Aragon, recently elected by the Sicilians as king, and further declared null his kingship in Aragon and ordered a crusade against him, which resulted in the ensuing War of the Sicilian Vespers.[3]

The first seven cardinals appointed by Martin IV were French, but the fact that Martin IV's death coincided with that of Charles I inevitably began to weaken the French influence.[6]


  1. ^ Popes Marinus I and Marinus II, by an old error, were counted as "Martins" I and II.
  2. ^ Miranda, Salvador. 1998. "Papal elections and conclaves of the XIII Century (1216-1294)".
  3. ^ a b c d e Wikisource-logo.svg "Pope Martin IV" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ For example, Konrad Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii Aevi, vol. I, p. 8 says that he did not find any single cardinal created by Clement IV
  5. ^ a b c Guyotjeannin, Olivier. 2002. "Martin IV" in Levillian. p. 973.
  6. ^ a b Williams, 2004, p. 37.


  • Philippe Levillain, ed.. 2002. The Papacy: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. ISBN 0415922283.
  • Williams, George L. 2004. Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes. McFarland. ISBN:0786420715.


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