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Antipope of Rome
Former Monarchy
C o a Felice V (antipapa).svg
First monarch Natalius
Last monarch Felix V
Official residence Various
Monarchy started c. 200 (Natalius)
215 (Hippolytus)
Monarchy ended 1449

An antipope (Latin: antipapa) is a person who, in opposition to a sitting Bishop of Rome, makes a widely accepted claim to be the Pope.[1] In the past, antipopes were typically those supported by a fairly significant faction of cardinals and kingdoms. Persons who claim to be the pope but have few followers, such as the modern sedevacantist antipopes, are not generally classified as antipopes, and therefore are ignored for regnal numbering.

In its list of the popes, the Holy See's annual directory, Annuario Pontificio, attaches to the name of Pope Leo VIII (963–965) the following note:

At this point, as again in the mid-eleventh 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]


Saint Hippolytus (d. 235) is commonly considered to be the earliest antipope, as he protested against Pope Callixtus I and headed a separate group within the Church in Rome. Hippolytus was later reconciled to Callixtus's second successor, Pope Pontian, when both were condemned to the mines on the island of Sardinia. He has been canonized by the Church. 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, especially since no such claim has been cited in the writings attributed to him.

Eusebius of Caesarea quotes[4] from an unnamed earlier writer the story of a Natalius who accepted the bishopric of a heretical group at Rome, but who soon repented and tearfully begged Pope Zephyrinus (Pope from 199 to 217) to receive him into communion.[5][6] If Natalius claimed to be Bishop of Rome rather than only of a small group in the city, he could be considered an antipope earlier than Hippolytus and indeed the first antipope.

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 (antikings) in Germany to overcome a particular emperor.

The Great 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 papacy: the Roman line, the Avignon line (Clement VII took up residence in Avignon, France), and the Pisan line. The last-mentioned line was named after the town of Pisa, Italy, where the council that elected Alexander V as a third claimant was held. To end the schism, in May 1415, the Council of Constance deposed John XXIII of the Pisan line, whose claim to legitimacy was based on a council's choice. Pope Gregory XII of the Roman line resigned in July 1415. In 1417, the Council also formally deposed Benedict XIII of the Avignon line, 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 Great Schism created anti-papal sentiment, and fed into the Protestant Reformation at the turn of the 16th century.

List of historical antipopes

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
418–419 Eulalius Papa Eulalius Boniface I
Laurentius Papa Laurentius supported by Byzantine emperor Anastasius I Symmachus
530 Dioscorus Papa Dioscurus Boniface II
687 Theodore (II) Papa Theodorus secundus Sergius I
687 Paschal (I) Papa Paschalis
767–768 Constantine II Papa Constantinus secundus Stephen III
768 Philip Papa Philippus installed by envoy of Lombard King Desiderius
844 John VIII Papa Joannes octavus elected by acclamation Sergius II
855 Anastasius III Bibliothecarius Papa Anastasius tertius Benedict III
903–904 Christopher Papa Christophorus between Leo V and Sergius III
974 Boniface VII Papa Bonifacius septimus between Benedict VI and Benedict VII
984–985 between John XIV and John XV
997–998 John XVI Papa Joannes sextus decimus John Filagatto supported by Byzantine emperor Basil II Gregory V
1012 Gregory VI Papa Gregorius sextus Benedict VIII
1058–1059 Benedict X Papa Benedictus decimus John Mincius supported by the Counts of Tusculum Nicholas II
1061–1064 Honorius II Papa Honorius secundus Pietro Cadalus supported by Agnes, regent of the Holy Roman Empire Alexander II
1080, 1084–1100 Clement III Papa Clemens tertius Guibert of Ravenna supported by Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor Gregory VII
Victor III
Urban II
Paschal II
1100–1101 Theodoric Papa Theodoricus successor to Clement III Paschal II
1101 Adalbert or Albert Papa Adalbertus successor to Theodoric
1105–1111 Sylvester IV Papa Sylvester quartus Maginulf supported by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
1118–1121 Gregory VIII Papa Gregorius octavus Maurice Burdanus Gelasius II
Callixtus II
1124 Celestine II Papa Cœlestinus secundus Thebaldus Buccapecus Honorius II
1130–1138 Anacletus II Papa Anacletus secundus Pietro Pierleoni Innocent II
1138 Victor IV Papa Victor quartus Gregorio Conti successor to Anacletus II
1159–1164 Victor IV Papa Victor quartus Ottavio di Montecelio supported by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor Alexander III
1164–1168 Paschal III Papa Paschalis tertius Guido di Crema
1168–1178 Callixtus III Papa Callixtus tertius Giovanni of Struma
1179–1180 Innocent III Papa Innocentius tertius Lanzo of Sezza
1328–1330 Nicholas V Papa Nicolaus quintus Pietro Rainalducci supported by Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor John XXII
1378–1394 Clement VII Papa Clemens septimus Robert of Geneva Avignon Urban VI
Boniface IX
1394–1423 Benedict XIII Papa Benedictus tertius decimus Pedro de Luna Avignon
Innocent VII
Gregory XII
Martin V
1409–1410 Alexander V Papa Alexander quintus Pietro Philarghi Pisa Gregory XII
1410–1415 John XXIII Papa Joannes vicesimus tertius Baldassare Cossa Pisa
1423–1429 Clement VIII Papa Clemens octavus Gil Sánchez Muñoz   Martin V
1424–1429 Benedict XIV Papa Benedictus quartus decimus Bernard Garnier  
1430–1437 Benedict XIV Papa Benedictus quartus decimus Jean Carrier  
Eugene IV
5 November 1439 –
7 April 1449
Felix V Papa Fœlix quintus Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy elected by the Council of Basel
Nicholas V

The list of popes and antipopes in the Annuario Pontificio does not include Natalius (perhaps because of the uncertainty of the evidence), nor Antipope Clement VIII. It may be that the following of the latter was considered insufficiently significant, like that of "Benedict XIV", who is mentioned along with him in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope Martin V.[7]

As for Sylvester III, sometimes listed as an antipope, the Holy See's Annuario Pontificio classifies him as a pope, not an antipope. In line with its above-quoted remark on the obscurities about the canon law of the time and the historical facts, especially in the mid-eleventh century (see the second paragraph of this article), it makes no judgement regarding the legitimacy of his takeover of the position of pope in 1045. The Catholic Encyclopedia places him in its List of Popes,[8] though with the annotation: "Considered by some to be an antipope".


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.[9]
Amedeo Saluzzo Antipope Clement VII 23 December 1383 Abandoned Avignon Pope 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.[9]
Tommaso Brancaccio Antipope John XXIII 6 June 1411 Attended the Council of Constance, and the conclave of Pope Martin V.[10]
Gil Sánchez Muñoz Antipope Clement VIII 26 July 1429 Submitted to Pope Martin V after his uncle abdicated.[11]

Modern claimants to papacy

For further information, see the article Conclavism

As well as antipopes, in the historical sense of the term, there have been and are people who, with a very limited following, ranging from very few to some hundred, claim to be Pope.

They thus do not fit the Encyclopaedia Britannica's definition of "antipope": "one who opposes the legitimately elected Bishop of Rome, endeavours to secure the papal throne, and to some degree succeeds materially in the attempt."[12] Except by their followers, whose number is minuscule, they are not regarded as serious claimants.

They are usually religious leaders of breakaway Roman Catholic groups that reject the commonly recognized popes (sedevacantist groups). For this reason they are often called "sedevacantist antipopes". Claiming to have elected a pope in a "conclave" of perhaps half a dozen laypeople (conclavism), they hold that, because of their action, the See of Rome is no longer vacant, and that they are no longer sedevacantists.

A significant number of them have taken the name Peter II, owing to its special significance.

The Roman Catholic Church regards them as excommunicated schismatics, and in some cases as heretics.


For further information, see the article Apostles of Infinite Love

  • Michel Collin or Colin (Pope Clement XV), self-proclaimed (1950–1974) in France, founder of Order of the Mother of God (a name later changed to Apostles of Infinite Love)
  • Jean-Gaston Tremblay, Gregory XVII (1968–present), in Canada

Palmarian Catholic Church

For further information, see the article 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 organised their elections by allegedly faithful Catholics, none of whom was a recognized cardinal. The smallest such "conclave" was attended by only three electors, the largest is claimed to have comprised more than sixty-one electors. Examples are:

  • Mirko Fabris (Pope Krav I), (since 1978), elected in Zagreb, Croatia
  • David Bawden (Pope Michael I), (since 1990) elected in Kansas, United States of America
  • Lucian Pulvermacher (Pope Pius XIII) (since 1998), elected in Montana, United States of America (see True Catholic Church)
  • Raphael Titus Otieno (since 2004), third of the Legio Maria popes (since 1962) of western Kenya
  • Joaquin Llorens (Pope Alexander IX), (since 2005), elected in Elx, Spain (see [1])
  • Pope Leo XIV (2006). On 24 March 2006 a group of 34 episcopi vagantes elected the Argentine Oscar Michaelli 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. (see [2])


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

  • Jean Raspail's novels of — "L'Anneau du pêcheur" (The Fisherman's Ring) — and Gérard Bavoux"Le Porteur de lumière" (The Light-bringer) feature two antipopes.[13][14] From two rather different perspectives these recount the fictional history of a parallel hierarchy, by which in secret French cardinals nominated the true Pope. As it is told, the antipope Benedict XV', Pierre Tifane, was recognized as pope in Avignon from 1437 to 1470. His successor, the antipope Benedict XVI (not to be confused with the validly-elected 21st century Pope Benedict XVI), Jean Langlade, reigned there from 1470 to 1499. These books build on claims that Jean Carrier, the second antipope Benedict XIV, nominated cardinals who were to continue this antipapal line, in the Great Schism.
  • Robert Rankin's first part of his comic fantasy "The Brentford Trilogy" is called "The Antipope," and features the resurrected Pope Alexander VI, the last Borgia pope.
  • Walter M. Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz" makes repeated reference to an "Antipope Vissarion," leader of the Vissarionist Schism of ca. 3000 AD. Several popes in the sequel, the post-apocalyptical novel Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, are called antipopes during or after their papacies.
  • The fictional synth-pop artist Zladko Vladcik claims to be "The Anti-Pope" in one of his songs.[15]
  • Dan Simmons's novels "Endymion" and "Rise of Endymion" feature a Father Paul Duré who is the routinely murdered antipope Teilhard I.
  • S.M. Stirling's "Dies the Fire" and its sequels feature an antipope named Leo, who is set up by one of the surviving communities of Western Oregon after the "the Change." After communications with Europe are reestablished, and the death of this antipope and his secular sponsor, his followers are reconciled with the Church.
  • 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, taking as pretext the exclusion from a previous conclave of a number of cardinals who had been named but not formally appointed before the Pope's death, elect an Italian cardinal who calls himself "Pius XIII".
  • Fantastic Easter Special, an episode of the television series South Park, depicts William A. Donohue of the American Catholic League as a megalomaniac extremist that takes over the Roman Catholic Church with an army of ninja. While Pope Benedict XVI initially cooperates with Donohue, the Pope changes his mind after Jesus resurrects to deal with the situation. When Donohue sees that the Pope is willing to follow Jesus over himself, he has both Jesus and Benedict arrested and declares himself "Pope Bill Donohue".[16]

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" (Encyclopaedia Britannica: Antipope
  2. Annuario Pontificio 2008 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN 978-88-209-8201-4), p. 12*
  3. "The catacombs the destination of the great jubilee". Vatican City. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  4. Historia Ecclesiastica, V, 28
  5. Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature: Zephyrinus
  6. "Monarchians – Dynamists, or Adoptionists". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Miranda, Salvador. 1998. "XIV Century (1303-1404)."
  10. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Biographical Dictionary: [Antipope] John XXIII (1410-1415): Consistory of 6 June 1411 (I)."
  11. Miranda, Salvador. 1998. "XV Century (1404-1503)."
  12. Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. antipope
  13. Jean Raspail, "L'Anneau du pêcheur," Paris: Albin Michel, 1994. 403 p. ISBN 2-226-07590-9
  14. Gérard Bavoux, "Le Porteur de lumière," Paris: Pygmalion, 1996. 329 p. ISBN 2-85704-488-7
  15. "Zladko "Zlad!" Vladcik's music video, "I am the Antipope""
  16. Trey Parker, Matt Stone. (2007-04-04). South Park. [television series]. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 

External links and bibliography

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