Born in Treviso, he succeeded Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303), but was unable to carry out his policies. Benedict XI was a Dominican and when he was made Master of the Order in 1296, he issued ordinances forbidding public questioning of the legitimacy of Boniface VIII's election on the part of any Dominican. At the time of the seizing of Pope Boniface VIII at Anagni, Boccasini was one of only two cardinals to defend the papal party in the Lateran Palace itself. However, upon being elected Pope, he released Philip IV of France (1285–1314) from the excommunication that had been laid upon him by Boniface VIII, and practically ignored the bull Unam sanctam. Nevertheless, on June 7, 1304, he excommunicated Philip IV's implacable minister, Guillaume de Nogaret, and all the Italians who had played a part in the seizure of Boniface VIII at Anagni.
After a brief pontificate of eight months, Benedict XI died suddenly at Perugia. As original report had it, suspicion would fall primarily on Nogaret and that his sudden death was caused by poisoning through the agency of Nogaret. However, there is no direct evidence to support Nogaret poisoned the pope. Benedict XI's successor, Pope Clement V (1305–14), removed the papal seat from Rome to Avignon, inaugurating the period sometimes known as the Babylonian Captivity (1309–77). He and the French popes who succeeded him were completely under the influence of the kings of France.
Benedict XI was the author of a volume of sermons and commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew, on the Psalms, the Book of Job, and John's Apocalypse.
(Note on numbering: Pope Benedict X is now considered an antipope. At the time, however, this status was not recognized and so the man the Roman Catholic church officially considers the tenth true Pope Benedict took the official number XI, rather than X. This has advanced the numbering of all subsequent Popes Benedict by one. Popes Benedict XI-XVI are, from an official point of view, the tenth through fifteenth popes by that name.)