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Title: Antipope  
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Subject: Pope Leo VIII, Antipope Alexander V, Pope Benedict XIII, Antipope Nicholas V, History of the papacy
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The coat of arms of Benedict XIII displayed the papal tiara and cross. During this period, papal heraldry varied greatly and the crossed keys had not yet fully developed as a symbol of the papacy.

An antipope (Latin: antipapa) is a person who, in opposition to the one who is generally seen as the legitimately elected Pope, makes a significantly accepted competing claim to be the Pope,[1] the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. At times between the 3rd and mid-15th century, antipopes were supported by a fairly significant faction of religious cardinals and secular kings and kingdoms. Persons who claim to be pope, but have few followers, such as the modern sedevacantist antipopes, are not classified with the historical antipopes.


Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235) is commonly considered to be the earliest antipope, as he headed a separate group within the Church in Rome against Pope Callixtus I. Hippolytus was reconciled to Callixtus's second successor, Pope Pontian, and both he and Pontian are honoured as saints by the Roman Catholic Church with a shared feast day on 13 August. Whether two or more persons have been confused in this account of Hippolytus[2] and whether Hippolytus actually declared himself to be the Bishop of Rome, remains unclear, since no such claim by Hippolytus has been cited in the writings attributed to him.

Eusebius of Caesarea quotes[3] from an unnamed earlier writer the story of Natalius, a 3rd-century priest who accepted the bishopric of a heretical group in Rome. Natalius soon repented and tearfully begged Pope Zephyrinus to receive him into communion.[4][5]

Novatian (d. 258), another 3rd-century figure, certainly claimed the See of Rome in opposition to Pope Cornelius, and if Natalius and Hippolytus were excluded because of the uncertainties concerning them, Novatian could then be said to be the first antipope.

The period in which antipopes were most numerous was during the struggles between the popes and the Holy Roman Emperors of the 11th and 12th centuries. The emperors frequently imposed their own nominees to further their own causes. The popes, likewise, sometimes sponsored rival imperial claimants (anti-kings) in Germany to overcome a particular emperor.

The Western Schism—which began in 1378, when the French cardinals, claiming that the election of Pope Urban VI was invalid, elected Clement VII as Pope—led to two, and eventually three, rival lines of claimants to the papacy: the Roman line, the Avignon line (Clement VII took up residence in Avignon, France), and the Pisan line. The Pisan line was named after the town of Pisa, Italy, where the (Pisan) council had elected Alexander V as a third claimant. To end the schism, in May 1415, the Council of Constance deposed John XXIII of the Pisan line. Pope Gregory XII of the Roman line resigned in July 1415. In 1417, the Council also formally deposed Benedict XIII of Avignon, but he refused to resign. Afterwards, Pope Martin V was elected and was accepted everywhere except in the small and rapidly diminishing area that remained faithful to Benedict XIII. The scandal of the Western Schism created anti-papal sentiment and fed into the Protestant Reformation at the turn of the 16th century.

List of historical antipopes

The following table gives the names of the antipopes included in the list of popes and antipopes in the Annuario Pontificio, with the addition of the names of Natalius (in spite of doubts about his historicity) and Antipope Clement VIII (whose following was insignificant).[6]

An asterisk marks those who were included in the conventional numbering of later Popes who took the same name. More commonly, the antipope is ignored in later papal regnal numbers; for example, there was an Antipope John XXIII, but the new Pope John elected in 1958 was also called John XXIII. For the additional confusion regarding Popes named John, see Pope John (numbering).

The list of popes and antipopes in the Annuario Pontificio attaches the following note to the name of Pope Leo VIII (963–965):

At this point, as again in the mid-11th century, we come across elections in which problems of harmonising historical criteria and those of theology and canon law make it impossible to decide clearly which side possessed the legitimacy whose factual existence guarantees the unbroken lawful succession of the successors of Saint Peter. The uncertainty that in some cases results has made it advisable to abandon the assignation of successive numbers in the list of the popes.[7]

Thus, because of the obscurities about mid-11th-century canon law and the historical facts, the Annuario Pontificio lists Sylvester III as a pope, without thereby expressing a judgement on his legitimacy. The Catholic Encyclopedia places him in its List of Popes,[8] but with the annotation: "Considered by some to be an antipope". Other sources classify him as an antipope.[9][10]

Pontificate Common English name Regnal (Latin) name Personal name Place of birth Age at Election / Death or Resigned # years as Antipope Notes In opposition to
c. 200 Natalius Natalius Later reconciled (see above) Zephyrinus
217–235 Saint Hippolytus Hippolytus Later reconciled with Pope Pontian (see above) Callixtus I
Urban I
251–258 Novatian Novatianus Founder of Novatianism Cornelius
Lucius I
Stephen I
Sixtus II
355–365 Felix II* Felix secundus Installed by Roman Emperor Constantius II Liberius
366–367 Ursicinus Ursicinus Ursinus Damasus I
418–419 Eulalius Eulalius Boniface I
Laurentius Laurentius Supported by Byzantine emperor Anastasius I Symmachus
530 Dioscorus Dioscurus Boniface II
687 Theodore Theodorus Sergius I
687 Paschal (I) Paschalis
767–768 Constantine II Constantinus secundus between Paul I and Stephen III
768 Philip Philippus Installed by envoy of Lombard King Desiderius Stephen III
844 John VIII Joannes octavus Elected by acclamation Sergius II
855 Anastasius III Bibliothecarius Anastasius tertius Benedict III
903–904 Christopher Christophorus Between Leo V and Sergius III
974 Boniface VII* Bonifacius Between Benedict VI and Benedict VII
984–985 Between John XIV and John XV
997–998 John XVI* Joannes John Filagatto Supported by Byzantine emperor Basil II Gregory V
1012 Gregory VI Gregorius Benedict VIII
1058–1059 Benedict X* Benedictus John Mincius Supported by the Counts of Tusculum Nicholas II
1061–1064 Honorius II Honorius Pietro Cadalus Supported by Agnes, regent of the Holy Roman Empire Alexander II
1080, 1084–1100 Clement III Clemens Guibert of Ravenna Supported by Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor Gregory VII
Victor III
Urban II
Paschal II
1100–1101 Theodoric Theodoricus Successor to Clement III Paschal II
1101 Adalbert or Albert Adalbertus Successor to Theodoric
1105–1111 Sylvester IV Sylvester Maginulf Supported by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
1118–1121 Gregory VIII Gregorius Maurice Burdanus Gelasius II
Callixtus II
1124 Celestine II Cœlestinus Thebaldus Buccapecus Honorius II
1130–1138 Anacletus II Anacletus Pietro Pierleoni Innocent II
1138 Victor IV Victor Gregorio Conti Successor to Anacletus II
1159–1164 Victor IV Victor Ottavio di Montecelio Supported by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor Alexander III
1164–1168 Paschal III Paschalis Guido di Crema
1168–1178 Callixtus III Callixtus Giovanni of Struma
1179–1180 Innocent III Innocentius Lanzo of Sezza
1328–1330 Nicholas V Nicolaus Pietro Rainalducci Supported by Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor John XXII
1378–1394 Clement VII Clemens Robert of Geneva Geneva 36/52 15 y, 11 m, 27 d Avignon Urban VI
Boniface IX
1394–1423 Benedict XIII Benedictus Pedro de Luna Illueca, Aragon 66/95 28 y, 7 m, 25 d Avignon
Innocent VII
Gregory XII
Martin V
1409–1410 Alexander V* Alexander Pietro Philarghi Pisa Gregory XII
1410–1415 John XXIII Joannes Baldassare Cossa Pisa
1423–1429 Clement VIII Clemens Gil Sánchez Muñoz Avignon Martin V
1424–1429 Benedict XIV Benedictus Bernard Garnier  
1430–1437 Benedict XIV Benedictus Jean Carrier  
1439–1449 Felix V Fœlix Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy Chambéry, Savoy 56/65 (†67) 9 y, 5 m, 2 d Elected by the Council of Basel Eugene IV
Nicholas V


Many antipopes created cardinals, known as quasi-cardinals, and a few created cardinal-nephews, known as quasi-cardinal-nephews.
Quasi-cardinal Nephew of Elevated Notes
Giacomo Alberti Antipope Nicholas V 15 May 1328 Excommunicated by Pope John XXII.[11]
Amedeo Saluzzo Antipope Clement VII 23 December 1383 Abandoned Antipope Benedict XIII after having been deposed by him on 21 October 1408; participated in the Council of Pisa, the election of Pope Alexander V (now regarded as an antipope), the Council of Constance, and the conclave of Pope Martin V.[11]
Tommaso Brancaccio Antipope John XXIII 6 June 1411 Attended the Council of Constance, and the conclave of Pope Martin V.[12]
Gil Sánchez Muñoz Antipope Clement VIII 26 July 1429 Submitted to Pope Martin V after his uncle abdicated.[13]

Modern claimants to papacy

In modern times various people claim to be pope and, though they do not fit the technical definition of "antipope", are sometimes referred to as such. They are usually leaders of sedevacantist groups who view the See of Rome as vacant and elect someone to fill it. They are sometimes referred to as conclavists because of their claim, on the basis of an election by a "conclave" of perhaps half a dozen laypeople, as in the case of David Bawden ("Pope Michael I"), to have rendered the See no longer vacant. A significant number of these have taken the name "Peter II", owing to its special significance. From the point of view of the Roman Catholic Church, they are schismatics, and as such are automatically excommunicated.[14]


Palmarian Catholic Church

The Palmarian Catholic Church regards Pope Paul VI, whom they revere as a martyr, and his predecessors as true popes, but hold, on the grounds of claimed apparitions, that the Pope of Rome is excommunicated and that the position of the Holy See has, since 1978, been transferred to the See of El Palmar de Troya.

Other examples

The following were elected by allegedly faithful Catholics, none of whom was a cardinal:

  • Popes of the "Legio Maria", based in western Kenya (not technically Conclavist): Timothy Joseph Blasio Ahitler (1963–1998). Pius Lawrence Jairo Chiaji Adera (1998–2004). Raphael Titus Otieno (2004–present).
  • David Bawden (Pope Michael I), (1990–present) elected in Kansas, USA.[15]
  • Pope of the "True Catholic Church": Lucian Pulvermacher (Pope Pius XIII), (1998–2009), elected in Montana, USA.
  • Mirko Fabris (Pope Krav I), (1978–2012), elected in Zagreb, Croatia.[16]
  • Joaquín Llorens (Pope Alexander IX), (2005–present), elected in Elx, Spain.[17]
  • Popes of the "Iglesia Católica Apostólica Remanente", based in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Oscar Michaelli, elected on 24 March 2006 by a group of 34 episcopi vagantes as Pope Leo XIV. On his death on 14 February 2007, he was succeeded by Juan Bautista Bonetti, who took the name of Pope Innocent XIV, but resigned on 29 May 2007. Alexander IX was chosen in his place.[18]


Antipopes have appeared as fictional characters. These may be either in historical fiction, as fictional portraits of well-known historical antipopes or as purely imaginary antipopes.

  • Jean Raspail's novel l'Anneau du pêcheur (The Fisherman's Ring), and Gérard Bavoux's "Le Porteur de lumière" (The Light-bringer).[19][20]
  • The fictional synth-pop artist Zladko Vladcik claims to be "The Anti-Pope" in one of his songs.[21]
  • Dan Simmons's novels Endymion and Rise of Endymion feature a Father Paul Duré who is the routinely murdered antipope Teilhard I. At the end of the last novel, it is mentioned that the person calling himself the pope of the Technocore loyal Catholics is recognized by very few even among those, and he is referred to as an antipope.
  • Ralph McInerny's novel The Red Hat features a schism between liberals and conservatives following the election of a conservative African Pope; the liberal faction elect an Italian cardinal who calls himself "Pius XIII".
  • In the video game Crusader Kings II by Swedish developer Paradox Interactive, the player may appoint one of their bishops as an antipope.

See also


  1. ^ "One who opposes the legitimately elected bishop of Rome, endeavours to secure the papal throne, and to some degree succeeds materially in the attempt" (AntipopeEncyclopædia Britannica: ).
  2. ^
  3. ^ Historia Ecclesiastica, V, 28
  4. ^ Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature: Zephyrinus
  5. ^
  6. ^ (New York 1910)Catholic EncyclopediaMichael Ott, "Pope Martin V" in
  7. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0), p. 12*
  8. ^
  9. ^ Charles William Previté-Orton The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History (Cambridge University Press 1952, republished 1975 ISBN 0-521-20962-5), vol. 1, p. 477
  10. ^ , vol. III, p. 58A General History of the Catholic ChurchJoseph Épiphane Darras,
  11. ^ a b Miranda, Salvador. 1998. "14th Century (1303–1404)."
  12. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Biographical Dictionary: Antipope] John XXIII (1410–1415): Consistory of 6 June 1411 (I)."
  13. ^ Miranda, Salvador. 1998. "15th Century (1404–1503)."
  14. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 1364
  15. ^
  16. ^ (Rowman & Littlefield 2011 978-0-81087967-6)Historical Dictionary of New Religious MovementsGeorge D. Chryssides,
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Jean Raspail, "L'Anneau du pêcheur," Paris: Albin Michel, 1994. 403 p. ISBN 2-226-07590-9
  20. ^ Gérard Bavoux, "Le Porteur de lumière," Paris: Pygmalion, 1996. 329 p. ISBN 2-85704-488-7
  21. ^

External links and bibliography

  • : "Antipope"Catholic Encyclopedia
  • : "Antipope"Encyclopædia Britannica
  • : "Antipope"The Pope Encyclopaedia
  • Kelly, J.N.D, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, Oxford University Press, USA (1 June 1986), ISBN 0-19-213964-9.
  • Raspail, Jean, 'L'Anneau du pêcheur, Paris: Albin Michel, 1994. 403 pp. ISBN 2-226-07590-9.
  • Bavoux, Gérard, Le Porteur de lumière, Paris: Pygmalion, 1996. 329 pp ISBN 2-85704-488-7.
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