The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







An antipope is one whose claim to being Pope is the result of a disputed or contested election. These antipopes were usually in opposition to a specific person chosen by the papal electors (since the Middle Ages, the college of cardinals). Some self-appointed leaders of smaller churches are also called "antipopes."

During certain periods of turbulence in the Roman Catholic Church, controversial Papal elections were conducted. Some such elections were considered invalid, either because a large majority of papal electors claimed the election was invalid (such as the election of Felix V), or because they have subsequently been declared invalid (such as Clement VII).

The earliest antipope, Hippolytus, was elected in protest against Pope Callixtus I by a schismatic group in the city of Rome in the 3rd century. Hippolytus was exiled to the mines on the island of Sardinia in the company of Callixtus' successor Pope Pontian, and was reconciled to the Catholic Church before his death.

The late 14th and early 15th century saw a series of rival popes elected, one line of which is counted by the Roman Catholic Church as popes and the other as antipopes. The scandal of multiple claimants added to the demands for reform that produced the Protestant Reformation at the turn of the 16th century. (See Western Schism, Antipope Benedict XIII.)

It would not necessarily have been evident, during periods when two (or three) rival claimants existed, which was the antipope, and which was the pope, and the clear-cut distinctions made between them in retrospect can give a false sense that certainty existed among their contemporaries. Supporters might offer assistance to a given candidate, but could not know which would be determined to have been an antipope, and which the pope, until events had run their course.

There has not been an antipope since 1449, unless sedevacantist antipopes are counted (see below). Other schisms like the Church of England are controlled by lay sovereigns who do not want to have an ecclesiastical rival or begin like the Old Catholic Church and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in a rejection of a primary dogma of the papacy.

Today the act of becoming an Antipope is considered a schismatic act by the Roman Catholic Church. This would result in automatic excommunication for the person who became Antipope.

List of antipopes

  1. St. Hippolytus (reconciled with Pope St. Pontian and died as martyr to the church), 217235
  2. Novatian, 251258
  3. Felix II (confused with a martyr with the same name and thus considered an authentic pope until recently), 355365
  4. Ursicinus (Ursinus), 366367
  5. Eulalius, 418419
  6. Laurentius, 498499, 501506
  7. Dioscorus (legitimate perhaps as opposed to Boniface II but died 22 days after election), 530
  8. Theodore (opposed to antipope Paschal), 687
  9. Paschal (opposed to antipope Theodore), 687
  10. Theofylact, 757
  11. Constantine II, 767768
  12. Philip (replaced antipope Constantine II briefly; reigned for a day and then returned to his monastery), 768
  13. John, 844
  14. Anastasius III Bibliothecarius, 855
  15. Joan, 855858 mythical female popess who supposedly reigned under the name John VIII until her sex was discovered.
  16. Christopher, 903904
  17. Boniface VII, 974, 984985
  18. John Filagatto (John XVI), 997998
  19. Gregory VI, 1012
  20. Sylvester III, 1045
  21. John Mincius (Benedict X), 10581059
  22. Pietro Cadalus (Honorius II), 10611064
  23. Guibert of Ravenna (Clement III), 1080 & 10841100
  24. Theodoric, 11001101
  25. Adalbert, 1101
  26. Maginulf (Sylvester IV), 11051111
  27. Maurice Burdanus (Gregory VIII), 11181121
  28. Thebaldus Buccapecuc (Celestine II ) (legitimate but submitted to opposing pope, Honorius II and afterwards considered an antipope), 1124
  29. Pietro Pierleoni (Anacletus II), 11301138
  30. Gregorio Conti (Victor IV), 1138
  31. Ottavio di Montecelio (Victor IV), 11591164
  32. Guido di Crema (Paschal III ), 11641168
  33. Giovanni of Struma (Callixtus III), 11681178
  34. Lanzo of Sezza (Innocent III ), 11791180
  35. Pietro Rainalducci (Nicholas V), antipope in Rome, 13281330
  36. Robert of Geneva (Clement VII), antipope of the Avignon line, 20 September 137816 September 1394
  37. Pedro de Luna (Benedict XIII), antipope of the Avignon line, 13941423
  38. Pietro Philarghi Alexander V, antipope of the Pisan line, 14091410
  39. Baldasssare Cosa John XXIII, antipope of the Pisan line, 14101415
  40. Gil Sanchez Munoz (Clement VIII), antipope of the Avignon line, 14231429
  41. Bernard Garnier (the first Benedict XIV), antipope of the Avignon line, 14251430?
  42. Jean Carrier (the second Benedict XIV), antipope of the Avignon line, 1430–?
  43. Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy (Felix V), 5 November 14397 April 1449

Sedevacantist antipopes

Some breakaway Catholics today, called sedevacantists, claim the current Popes are heretics for replacing the Tridentine Latin Mass with the Novus Ordo Missae; many of them also object to the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular. Since the opinion of many Catholic theologians is that a heretical Pope would cease to be Catholic and therefore cease to be Pope, sedevacantists believe the current Bishops of Rome are not actually popes. Some sedevacantist groups have their own popes to replace the popes they reject. They are sometimes called antipopes, although it should be noted that in contrast to historical antipopes, the number of their followers is minuscule.

Sedevacantist antipopes frequently refer to the conventional successors of Pope Pius XII - Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI - as a series of antipapacies.

Sedevacantist antipopes of 20-21st centuries

Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:27:57
Last updated: 08-15-2005 22:29:09