Cistercian Monk and bishop of Pamiers, he is elected with the first conclave of Avignon. Contrary to his predecessor, he puts forth the example of an austere life and puts an end to nepotism.
He tries to reform the church and to re-establish peace between France and England, and restores relations with Louis of Bavaria.
He tries to bring peace back to Italy and pacifies the revolts of the Church states. Twice, he tries to bring the papacy back to Rome but fails and remains in Avignon.
In 1340 he begins the construction of a bigger and better protected residence than the former episcopal palace ; this will be the start of the construction of the Popes' Palace.
Benoît XII dies on April 25, 1342.
According to his wishes, he was buried in the Notre Dame des Doms Cathedral. The lack of maintenance and the desecration by the revolutionaries almost completely destroyed the sepulchre. The tomb was reconstructed in great part using elements from another mausoleum.