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Orsini(ōrsē`nē), powerful Roman family that included three popes and numerous other churchmen, soldiers and statesmen. The eponymous ancestor was one Ursus. Giacinto Orsini, who became Pope Celestine III in 1191, founded the family's greatness. Matteo Rosso Orsini was elected a Roman senator in 1241, and in 1277 Giovanni Gaetano Orsini ascended the papal throne as Nicholas III. The long rivalry between the Guelph Orsini family (see Guelphs and GhibellinesGuelphs and Ghibellines
, opposing political factions in Germany and in Italy during the later Middle Ages. The names were used to designate the papal (Guelph) party and the imperial (Ghibelline) party during the long struggle between popes and emperors, and they were also used
..... Click the link for more information. ) and the Ghibelline ColonnaColonna
, noble Roman family that played a leading part in the history of Rome from the 12th to the 16th cent. They were hereditary enemies of the Orsini and Caetani families, generally siding with the Ghibellines, or antipapal faction, against the Guelph alliance (see Guelphs
..... Click the link for more information. family lasted until the early 16th cent. and often plunged Rome into anarchy. The Orsini were made princes of the Holy Roman Empire in the 17th cent. Among the prominent members of the family were Lorenzo Orsini (d. 1536), who defended (1527) Rome and the Castel Sant' Angelo against the troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; the princesse des UrsinsUrsins, Marie Anne de la Trémoille, princesse des
, 1642–1722, French noblewoman and unofficial diplomat. After the death of her first husband, she married (1675) Duke Flavio Orsini, whose name was gallicized into Ursins. She soon separated from her husband.
..... Click the link for more information. ; and Pietro Francesco Orsini, who became Pope Benedict XIII in 1724. Representatives of the family are still living.
a Roman feudal family. The first reliable information on the Orsini dates from the 12th century. The family attained considerable power and landed wealth during the 13th century. Five Orsini served as popes, including Nicholas III (1277–80) and Benedict XIII (1724—30), and some served as cardinals and condottieri. The family exerted great influence on papal elections. They were long rivals of the Colonna, an old Roman family. The rivalry intensified in the 14th century, on the eve of the Cola di Rienzi uprising; it ended in the second half of the 16th century.