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Antipope Felix V, the last historical Antipope.
Antipope Felix V, the last historical Antipope.

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 and has been canonized by the Church.

The period when antipopes were most numerous was during the struggles between the Popes and the Holy Roman Emperors of the 11th and 12th centuries. The emperors would frequently sponsor antipopes in order to further their cause. (The popes, likewise, frequently sponsored rival imperial claimants in Germany in attempts to disrupt imperial policy.)

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 such as the Church of England, the Old Catholic Church and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association began 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 (II) (opposed to antipope Paschal), 687
  9. Paschal (I) (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 VIII, 844
  14. Anastasius III Bibliothecarius, 855
  15. Christopher, 903904
  16. Boniface VII, 974, 984985
  17. John Filagatto (John XVI), 997998
  18. Gregory VI, 1012
  19. Sylvester III, 1045
  20. John Mincius (Benedict X), 10581059
  21. Pietro Cadalus (Honorius II), 10611064
  22. Guibert of Ravenna (Clement III), 1080 & 10841100
  23. Theodoric, 11001101
  24. Adalbert, 1101
  25. Maginulf (Sylvester IV), 11051111
  26. Maurice Burdanus (Gregory VIII), 11181121
  27. Thebaldus Buccapecuc (Celestine II) (legitimate but submitted to opposing pope, Honorius II and afterwards considered an antipope), 1124
  28. Pietro Pierleoni (Anacletus II), 11301138
  29. Gregorio Conti (Victor IV), 1138
  30. Ottavio di Montecelio (Victor IV), 11591164
  31. Guido di Crema (Paschal III), 11641168
  32. Giovanni of Struma (Callixtus III), 11681178
  33. Lanzo of Sezza (Innocent III), 11791180
  34. Pietro Rainalducci (Nicholas V), antipope in Rome, 13281330
  35. Robert of Geneva (Clement VII), antipope of the Avignon line, 20 September 137816 September 1394
  36. Pedro de Luna (Benedict XIII), antipope of the Avignon line, 13941423
  37. Pietro Philarghi Alexander V, antipope of the Pisan line, 14091410
  38. Baldassare Cosa John XXIII, antipope of the Pisan line, 14101415
  39. Gil Sánchez Muñoz (Clement VIII), antipope of the Avignon line, 14231429
  40. Bernard Garnier (the first Benedict XIV), antipope of the Avignon line, 1425–c. 1429
  41. Jean Carrier (the second Benedict XIV), antipope of the Avignon line, 14301437?
  42. 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 various reforms which sedevacantists see as innovations in the practices of Roman Catholic Church which were adopted during the reigns of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, including aspects of the Second Vatican Council. Chief among these criticized reforms is the replacing of the Tridentine Latin Mass with the Novus Ordo Missae. Many sedevacanists also object to the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular, despite the fact that various provisions existed for the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular prior to the reign of Pope John XXIII. 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. Some of these antipopes have developed their own religious infrastructure in recognition that the conventional popes are not likely to consider ceding authority to them, thus being at once antipopes of the Universal Church and popes of their particular sect.

Sedevacantist antipopes frequently refer to the conventional successors of Pope Pius XII as a series of antipapacies.

There is a significant number of antipopes self-proclaimed Peter II, due to the special meaning of this name; see Antipope Peter II.

Sedevacantist antipopes of the 20th-21st centuries

Palmarian Catholic Church

Reformed Church of Christ/Apostles of Infinite Love

Conclavist movements

Tridentine Latin Rite Church/Religious Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI)

Independents and Antipopes of other groups

See also

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