He was born in Gravina in Puglia to Ferdinando III Orsini, duke of Gravina, and Giovanna Frangipani della tolfa, from Toritto. He was a member of the Orsini of Rome, the third and last member of that family to become Pope. He entered the Dominican Order and received the name Vincenzo Maria. He was named cardinal on February 22 1672 (allegedly, against his will); later he was bishop of Manfredonia, bishop of Cesena and then archbishop of Benevento.
At first, he called himself Benedict XIV, but afterwards altered the title to Benedict XIII. (The previous Benedict XIII having been considered an antipope.)
He endeavoured to put a stop to the decadent lifestyles of the Italian priesthood and of the cardinalate. He also abolished the lottery in Rome. A man fond above all of asceticism and religious celebrations, according to Cardinal Lambertini (later Pope as Benedict XIV) he "did not have any idea about how to rule". The government was effectively held in his lieu by Cardinal Niccolò Coscia, who had been Benedict's secretary when he was archbishop of Benevento, and who committed a long series of financial abuses at his own advantage, causing the ruin of the Papal treasure. According to Montesquieu, "All the money of Rome go to Benevento... as the Beneventani direct [Benedict's] weakness.
Benedict died in 1730 and was buried in a tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva completed by Pietro Bracci and others. Coscia fled from the city in the circumstance, being excommunicated under the new Pope Clement XII. He was later restored and took part to the conclaves of 1730 and 1740.
The comment to Benedict's death by Pasquino, the popular satirist of Rome, was: