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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.

In the list of popes given in the Holy See's annual directory, Annuario Pontificio, the following note is attached 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.[2]


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[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 of Caesarea quotes[4] 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.[5][6]

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 (antikings) 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[edit]

An asterisk marks those who were included in the conventional numbering of later Popes who took the same name. (The more common case is that the antipope is ignored in later Papal regnal numbers; for example, there was 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 does not include Natalius or Antipope Clement VIII; it may be that Clement's following was considered insignificant.[7]

Sylvester III, sometimes listed as an antipope, appears in the Holy See's Annuario Pontificio as a pope: because of obscurities about mid-11th-century canon law and the historical facts, it expresses no 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". Some other sources do classify him as an antipope.[9][10]

PontificateCommon English nameRegnal (Latin) namePersonal namePlace of birthAge at Election / Death or Resigned# years as AntipopeNotesIn opposition to
c. 200NataliusNataliusLater reconciled (see above)Zephyrinus
217–235Saint HippolytusHippolytusLater reconciled with Pope Pontian (see above)Callixtus I
Urban I
251–258NovatianNovatianusFounder of NovatianismCornelius
Lucius I
Stephen I
Sixtus II
355–365Felix II*Felix secundusInstalled by Roman Emperor Constantius IILiberius
366–367UrsicinusUrsicinusUrsinusDamasus I
418–419EulaliusEulaliusBoniface I
LaurentiusLaurentiusSupported by Byzantine emperor Anastasius ISymmachus
530DioscorusDioscurusBoniface II
687TheodoreTheodorusSergius I
687Paschal (I)Paschalis
767–768Constantine IIConstantinus secundusbetween Paul I and Stephen III
768PhilipPhilippusInstalled by envoy of Lombard King DesideriusStephen III
844John VIIIJoannes octavusElected by acclamationSergius II
855Anastasius III BibliothecariusAnastasius tertiusBenedict III
903–904ChristopherChristophorusBetween Leo V and Sergius III
974Boniface VIIBonifaciusBetween Benedict VI and Benedict VII
984–985Between John XIV and John XV
997–998John XVI*JoannesJohn FilagattoSupported by Byzantine emperor Basil IIGregory V
1012Gregory VIGregoriusBenedict VIII
1058–1059Benedict X*BenedictusJohn MinciusSupported by the Counts of TusculumNicholas II
1061–1064Honorius IIHonoriusPietro CadalusSupported by Agnes, regent of the Holy Roman EmpireAlexander II
1080, 1084–1100Clement IIIClemensGuibert of RavennaSupported by Henry IV, Holy Roman EmperorGregory VII
Victor III
Urban II
Paschal II
1100–1101TheodoricTheodoricusSuccessor to Clement IIIPaschal II
1101Adalbert or AlbertAdalbertusSuccessor to Theodoric
1105–1111Sylvester IVSylvesterMaginulfSupported by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
1118–1121Gregory VIIIGregoriusMaurice BurdanusGelasius II
Callixtus II
1124Celestine IICœlestinusThebaldus BuccapecusHonorius II
1130–1138Anacletus IIAnacletusPietro PierleoniInnocent II
1138Victor IVVictorGregorio ContiSuccessor to Anacletus II
1159–1164Victor IVVictorOttavio di MontecelioSupported by Frederick I, Holy Roman EmperorAlexander III
1164–1168Paschal IIIPaschalisGuido di Crema
1168–1178Callixtus IIICallixtusGiovanni of Struma
1179–1180Innocent IIIInnocentiusLanzo of Sezza
1328–1330Nicholas VNicolausPietro RainalducciSupported by Louis IV, Holy Roman EmperorJohn XXII
1378–1394Clement VIIClemensRobert of GenevaGeneva36/5215 y, 11 m, 27 dAvignonUrban VI
Boniface IX
1394–1423Benedict XIIIBenedictusPedro de LunaIllueca, Aragon66/9528 y, 7 m, 25 dAvignon
Innocent VII
Gregory XII
Martin V
1409–1410Alexander V*AlexanderPietro PhilarghiPisaGregory XII
1410–1415John XXIIIJoannesBaldassare CossaPisa
1423–1429Clement VIIIClemensGil Sánchez MuñozAvignonMartin V
1424–1429Benedict XIVBenedictusBernard Garnier 
1430–1437Benedict XIVBenedictusJean Carrier 
1439–1449Felix VFœlixDuke Amadeus VIII of SavoyChambéry, Savoy56/65 (†67)9 y, 5 m, 2 dElected by the Council of BaselEugene 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 AlbertiAntipope Nicholas V15 May 1328Excommunicated by Pope John XXII.[11]
Amedeo SaluzzoAntipope Clement VII23 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.[11]
Tommaso BrancaccioAntipope John XXIII6 June 1411Attended the Council of Constance, and the conclave of Pope Martin V.[12]
Gil Sánchez MuñozAntipope Clement VIII26 July 1429Submitted to Pope Martin V after his uncle abdicated.[13]

Modern claimants to papacy[edit]

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 the Roman Catholic Church, they are schismatics, and as such are automatically excommunicated.[14]


Palmarian Catholic Church[edit]

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[edit]

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


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[edit]


  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. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0), p. 12*
  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. ^ Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature: Zephyrinus
  6. ^ "Monarchians – Dynamists, or Adoptionists". Catholic Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007. 
  7. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Martin V
  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. ^ Joseph Épiphane Darras, A General History of the Catholic Church, vol. III, p. 58
  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. ^ 10 Most Bizarre People on Earth
  16. ^ George D. Chryssides, Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements (Rowman & Littlefield 2011 978-0-81087967-6)
  17. ^ Congregación Mercedaria. Esclavas adoratrices del Señor
  18. ^ Iglesia Católica en el Exilio
  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. ^ "Zladko "Zlad!" Vladcik's music video, "I am the Antipope""

External links and bibliography[edit]