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An antipope (Latin : antipapa) is a person who, in opposition to the lawful pope, makes a significant attempt to occupy the position of Bishop of Rome and leader of the Catholic Church. [1] At times between the 3rd and mid-15th centuries, antipopes were supported by important factions within the Church itself and by secular rulers.


Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish which of two claimants should be called pope and which antipope, as in the case of Pope Leo VIII and Pope Benedict V. [2]

Persons who merely claim to be pope and 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 Catholic Church with a shared feast day on 13 August. Whether two or more persons have been confused in this account of Hippolytus [3] 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 quotes [4] from an unnamed earlier writer the story of Natalius, a 3rd-century priest who accepted the bishopric of the Adoptionists, [5] a heretical group in Rome. Natalius soon repented and tearfully begged Pope Zephyrinus to receive him into communion. [6] [7]

Novatian (d. 258), another third-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 antipope Clement VII as a rival to the Roman Pope—led eventually to two competing lines of antipopes: the Avignon line (Clement VII took up residence in Avignon, France), and the Pisan line. The Pisan line, which began in 1409, was named after the town of Pisa, Italy, where the (Pisan) council had elected antipope Alexander V as a third claimant. To end the schism, in May 1415, the Council of Constance deposed antipope John XXIII of the Pisan line. Pope Gregory XII of the Roman line resigned in July 1415. In 1417, the Council also formally deposed antipope 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.[ citation needed ]

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). [8]

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. [9]

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, [10] but with the annotation: "Considered by some to be an antipope". Other sources classify him as an antipope. [11] [12]

Those with asterisks (*) were counted in subsequent Papal numbering.

PontificateCommon English nameRegnal (Latin) namePersonal namePlace of birthAge at election / Death or resignedYears as antipope (days)NotesIn opposition to
c. 199 – c. 200 Natalius NataliusNataliusc. 159 Rome, Roman Empire 38 / 481 year, 0 days (365)Later reconciled (see above) Zephyrinus
20 Dec 217 – 28 Sept 235 Saint Hippolytus HippolytusHippolytus170 Rome. Roman Empire 45 / 65 (†66)17 years, 282 days (6491)Later reconciled with Pope Pontian (see above) Callixtus I
Urban I
Mar 251 – Aug 258 Novatian NovatianusNovatianc. 200 Rome, Roman Empire 51 / 58 (†93)7 years, 153 days (2710)Founder of Novatianism Cornelius
Lucius I
Stephen I
Sixtus II
20 Apr 309 – 16 Aug 310 Heraclius HeracliusHeracliusc. 265 Rome, Roman Empire 45 / 461 year, 118 days (483) Eusebius
355 – 26 Nov 365 Felix II*Felix secundusFelixc. 270 Rome, Roman Empire 80 / 9010 years, 329 days (3982)Installed by Roman Emperor Constantius II Liberius
1 Oct 366 – 16 Nov 367 Ursicinus UrsicinusUrsinusc. 200 Rome, Roman Empire 66 / 671 year, 46 days (411) Damasus I
27 December 418 – 3 April 419 Eulalius EulaliusEulaliusc. 370 Rome, Roman Empire 38 / 39 (†42)1 year, 46 days (411) Boniface I
22 Nov 498 – Aug 506/08 Laurentius LaurentiusLorenzo Celioc. 460 Rome, Roman Empire 38 / 46 (†48)9 years, 283 days (3569)Supported by Byzantine emperor Anastasius I Symmachus
22 Sep 530 – 14 Oct 530 Dioscorus DioscurusDióskorosc. 450 Alexandria 70 / 7022 days (22) Boniface II
21 Sep 687 Theodore TheodorusTheodorec. 599 Rome, Western Roman Empire 88 / 88 (†92)97 days (97) Sergius I
21 Sep 687 Paschal (I) PaschalisPascalec. 598 Rome, Western Roman Empire 89 / 89 (†94)97 days (97)
28 Jun 767 – 6 Aug 768 Constantine II Constantinus secundusKonstantinusc. 700 Rome, Western Roman Empire 67 / 68 (†69)1 year, 39 days (405)Between Paul I and Stephen III
31 Jul 768 Philip PhilippusPhilipc. 701 Rome, Western Roman Empire 68 / 68 (†99)0 days ()Installed by envoy of Lombard King Desiderius Stephen III
25 Jan – 31 May 844 John VIII Joannes octavusGiovannic. 800 Rome, Papal States 44 / 44 (†91)151 days (151)Elected by acclamation Sergius II
Jan 855 – 31 Mar 855 Anastasius III Bibliothecarius Anastasius tertiusAnastasiusc. 810 Rome, Papal States 45 / 45 (†68)89 days (89) Benedict III
3 Oct 903 – 27 Jan 904 Christopher ChristophorusChristoforoc. 850 Rome, Papal States 53 / 54116 days (116)Between Leo V and Sergius III
Jul 974 Boniface VII*BonifaciusFranco Ferruccic. 900 Rome, Papal States 73 / 73 and 84 / 8530 days (30)
334 days (334)
total 364 days (364 days)
Between Benedict VI and Benedict VII
20 Aug 984 – 20 Jul 985Between John XIV and John XV
Apr 997 – Feb 998 John XVI*JoannesJohn Filagattoc. 941 Rossano, Calabria, Papal States (Italy)56 / 56 (†59)1 year, 0 days (365)Supported by Byzantine emperor Basil II Gregory V
Jun 1012 Gregory VI Gregorius SextusGregorioc. 960 Rome, Papal States 52 / 52 (†60)29 days (29) Benedict VIII
4 Apr 1058 – 24 Jan 1059 Benedict X*Benedictus DecimusGiovanni Mincio dei Conti di Tusculo c. 1000 Rome, Papal States,58 / 59 (†80)295 days (295 )Supported by the Counts of Tusculum Nicholas II
July 1061 – 31 May 1064 Honorius II Honorius SecundusPietro Cadalus1010 Verona, Papal States 51 / 54 (†62)2 years, 335 days (1065)Supported by Agnes, regent of the Holy Roman Empire Alexander II
25 Jun 1080, 21 Mar 1084 – 8 Sep 1100 Clement III Clemens TertiusGuibert of Ravennac. 1029 Parma, Papal States 51 / 51, 54 / 7120 years, 44 days (7348)Supported by Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor Gregory VII
Victor III
Urban II
Paschal II
8 Sep 1100 – Jan 1101 Theodoric TheodoricusTheodoroc. 1030 Rome, Papal States,70 / 71 (†72)121 days (−244)Successor to Clement III Paschal II
Jan 1101 – Feb 1102 Adalbert or Albert AdalbertusAlbertc. 1046 Atella, Campania, Papal States,55 / 56 (†85)31 days (31)Successor to Theodoric
8 Nov 1105 – 11 Apr 1111 Sylvester IV Sylvester QuartusMaginulfc. 1050 Rome, Papal States 49 / 55 (†56)5 years, 324 days (31)Supported by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
10 Mar 1118 – 22 Apr 1121 Gregory VIII*Gregorius OctavusMaurice Burdainc. 1057 Limousin, Occitania, France 61 / 65 (†72)3 years, 43 days (1139) Gelasius II
Callixtus II
16 Dec 1124 Celestine II Cœlestinus SecundusTeobaldo Boccapeccic. 1050 Rome, Papal States 74 / 74 (†86)0 days () Honorius II
14 Feb 1130 – 25 Jan 1138 Anacletus II Anacletus SecundusPietro Pierleonic. 1090 Rome, Papal States 48 / 487 years, 345 days (2902) Innocent II
23 Mar 1138 Victor IV Victor QuartusGregorio Contic. 1057 Ceccano, Papal States 81 / 81 (†90)2 days (2)Successor to Anacletus II
7 Sep 1159 – 20 Apr 1164 Victor IV Victor QuartusOttavio di Montecelioc. 1095 Tivoli, Papal States 64 / 694 years, 226 days (1687)Supported by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor Alexander III
22 Apr 1164 – 28 Sep 1168 Paschal III Paschalis TertiusGuido di Cremac. 1110 Crema, Lombardy, Papal States 54 / 584 years, 159 days (1620 days)
Sep 1168 – 29 Aug 1178 Callixtus III Callixtus TertiusGiovanni of Strumac. 1090 Arezzo, Papal States 78 / 88 (†90)9 years, 362 days (3649 days)
29 Sep 1179 – Jan 1180 Innocent III Innocentius TertiusLanzo of Sezzac. 1120 Sezze, Papal States 59 / 60 (†63)95 days (95 days)
12 May 1328 – 12 Aug 1330 Nicholas V Nicolaus QuintusPietro Rainalduccic. 1258 Corvaro, Papal States 70 / 742 years, 92 days (822 days)Supported by Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor John XXII
20 Sep 1378 – 16 Sep 1394 Clement VII ClemensRobert of Geneva1342 Annecy, France 36/5215 years, 361 days (5840 days) Avignon Urban VI
Boniface IX
28 Sep 1394 – 23 May 1423 Benedict XIII BenedictusPedro de Luna25 November 1328 Illueca, Aragon 65/9428 years, 237 days (10463 days) Avignon
Innocent VII
Gregory XII
Martin V
25 Jun 1409 – 3 May 1410 Alexander V*AlexanderPietro Philarghic. 1339 Crete, Republic of Venice 70 / 71312 days (312 days) Pisa Gregory XII
25 May 1410 – 29 May 1415 John XXIII Ioannes Vicecimus TertiusBaldassare Cossac. 136545 / 50 (†54)5 years, 6 days (1832 days) Pisa
10 Jun 1423 – 26 Jul 1429 Clement VIII Clemens OctavusGil Sánchez Muñoz y Carbón1370 Teruel, Aragon 52 / 59 (†77)6 years, 49 days (2241 days) Avignon Martin V
1424–1430 Benedict XIV Benedictus Quartus DecimusBernard Garnier1370 France 54 / 59 (†89)6 years, 211 days (2403 days)Claimed successor to Benedict XIII  
1430–1437 Benedict XIV Benedictus Quartus DecimusJean Carrierc. 1370 France 59 / 667 years, 242 days (2799 days)The "hidden pope"  
5 Nov 1439 – 7 Apr 1449 Felix V FœlixDuke Amadeus VIII of Savoy4 September 1383 Chambéry, Savoy 56/65 (†67)9 years, 153 days (3441)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-cardinalNephew ofElevatedNotes
Giacomo Alberti Antipope Nicholas V 15 May 1328 Excommunicated by Pope John XXII. [13]
Amedeo Saluzzo Antipope Clement VII 23 December 1383Abandoned 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. [13]
Tommaso Brancaccio Antipope John XXIII 6 June 1411Attended the Council of Constance, and the conclave of Pope Martin V. [14]
Gil Sánchez Muñoz Antipope Clement VIII 26 July 1429Submitted to Pope Martin V after his uncle abdicated. [15]

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 Catholic Church, they are schismatics, and as such are automatically excommunicated. [16]


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 were cardinals:

Antipope of Alexandria

As the Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, has historically also held the title of Pope, a person who, in opposition to someone who is generally accepted as a legitimate Pope of Alexandria, claims to hold that position may also be considered an Antipope. In 2006, the defrocked married Coptic lector Max Michel became an Antipope of Alexandria, calling himself Maximos I. His claim to the Alexandrine Papacy was dismissed by both the Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III and Pope Theodore II of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria. [22] The Coptic Pope of Alexandria and the Greek Pope of Alexandria currently view one another, not as Antipopes, but rather as successors to differing lines of apostolic succession that formed as a result of christological disputes in the fifth century.

Another Coptic (Alexandrian) Antipope is known to have laid claim in the fourth century. His name was Gregory of Cappadocia.

In fiction

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.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Pope Leader of the Catholic Church

The Pope, also known as the Supreme Pontiff, or the Roman Pontiff, is the Bishop of Rome, leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state representing the Holy See. Since 1929, the pope has official residence in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, the Holy See's city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.

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Pope Leo VIII was the head of the Catholic Church from 23 June 964 to his death in 965; before that, he was an antipope from 963 to 964, in opposition to Pope John XII and Pope Benedict V. An appointee of the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I, his pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Pope Gelasius II Pope from 1118 to 1119

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Pope Fabian pope

Pope Fabian was the Bishop of Rome from 10 January 236 to his death in 250, succeeding Anterus. He is famous for the miraculous nature of his election, in which a dove is said to have descended on his head to mark him as the Holy Spirit's unexpected choice to become the next pope. He was succeeded by Cornelius.

Antipope Benedict X Italian anti-pope (11th century)

Pope/Antipope Benedict X was born Giovanni, a son of Guido, a brother of the notorious Pope Benedict IX, a member of the dominant political dynasty in the region at that time. He reportedly later was given the nickname of Mincius (thin) due to his ignorance.

Patriarch ecclesiastical title

The highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church, and the Church of the East are termed patriarchs.

Patriarchate is an ecclesiological term in Christianity, designating the office and jurisdiction of an ecclesiastical patriarch.

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Benedict XIV was the name used by two closely related minor antipopes of the 15th century. The first, Bernard Garnier became antipope in 1424 and died c. 1429. The second, Jean Carrier, became antipope c. 1430 and apparently left office, whether by death or resignation, by 1437.

A papal renunciation occurs when the reigning pope of the Catholic Church voluntarily steps down from his position. As the reign of the pope has conventionally been from election until death, papal renunciation is an uncommon event. Before the 21st century, only five popes unambiguously resigned with historical certainty, all between the 10th and 15th centuries. Additionally, there are disputed claims of four popes having resigned, dating from the 3rd to the 11th centuries; a fifth disputed case may have involved an antipope.

Antipope Benedict XIII Antipope from 1328 to 1423

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The papal conclave of 1406, the papal conclave of the time of the Great Western Schism, convened after the death of Pope Innocent VII. It elected Cardinal Angelo Correr, who under the name of Gregory XII became the fourth pope of the Roman Obedience.

Papal appointment

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  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" (Encyclopædia Britannica: Antipope).
  2. Of Pope Leo VIII, the Annuario Pontificio , the Holy See's yearbook, says: "At this point, as again in the mid-eleventh century, we come across elections in which problems of harmonizing 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" (note 19 to the list of popes in the Annuario Pontificio). Of Pope Benedict V it says: "If Pope Leo VIII was lawful Pope, [...] Benedict V is an antipope" (note 20 to the list of popes).
  3. "The catacombs the destination of the great jubilee". Vatican City. Archived from the original on 10 September 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007.
  4. Historia Ecclesiastica , V, 28
  5. Dix, Gregory; Chadwick, Henry (2013). The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of St Hippolytus of Rome, Bishop and Martyr. Routledge. p. xvii. ISBN   9781136101465 . Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  6. Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature: Zephyrinus
  7. "Monarchians – Dynamists, or Adoptionists". Catholic Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007.
  9. Annuario Pontificio 2012 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN   978-88-209-8722-0), p. 12*
  10. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: List of Popes" . Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  11. Charles William Previté-Orton The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History (Cambridge University Press 1952, republished 1975 ISBN   0-521-20962-5), vol. 1, p. 477
  12. "Darras "title of sylvester iii" - Google Search".
  13. 1 2 Miranda, Salvador. 1998. "14th Century (1303–1404)."
  14. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Biographical Dictionary: Antipope] John XXIII (1410–1415): Consistory of 6 June 1411 (I)."
  15. Miranda, Salvador. 1998. "15th Century (1404–1503)."
  16. "Code of Canon Law - IntraText".
  17. "Self-styled 'Pope' dies in France". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL. Reuters. 24 June 1974. Archived from the original on 17 February 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2019 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  18. "10 Most Bizarre People on Earth". Oddee. 6 December 2006. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  19. Chryssides, George D. (25 November 2011). "Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements". Scarecrow Press via Google Books.
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  21. Iglesia Católica Remanente. "Iglesia Católica Apostólica Remanente" . Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  22. "Common Statement Between The Coptic Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa Regarding Max Michel" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  23. Jean Raspail, L'Anneau du pêcheur, Paris: Albin Michel, 1994. 403 p. ISBN   2-226-07590-9
  24. Gérard Bavoux, Le Porteur de lumière, Paris: Pygmalion, 1996. 329 p. ISBN   2-85704-488-7
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