List of Anti-Popes

This note had its origins in Fido R CATHOLIC, which is where I first composed the original "List of Anti-Popes." I hope the latest incarnation posted to the Internet version of R CATHOLIC may interest some.

An anti-pope is one who falsely claims the title and authority of the Holy Father while a duly elected Pope is in office. I have included in this list only anti-popes who have had at least some pretence of being canonically elected. Impostors whose only claim to the Papal office was having received an alleged divine revelation appointing them pope are not considered "genuine" anti-popes and are thus omitted.

I recall how, in Fidonet, I was once sent a question asking why no further anti-popes were listed after the submission of the anti-pope Felix V to the lawful Pope Nicholas V (r. 1447-1455). The late Robert Adams replied that was because the kind of religious and political malcontents who would otherwise try taking over the Church generally left after the outbreak of the Protestant Revolt in 1517.

An invaluable reference book about the Papacy is JND Kelly's THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF POPES (Oxford University Press: 1986, 1988). It contains not capsule biographies of the Popes, but similar entries for the anti-popes. Incidentally, for those who care, the author is NOT Catholic, but a Protestant (Anglican).

Thus, the standard I'll use re the notes I'll attach to some of the anti-popes below will be the above book.

List of Anti-Popes

217-235 St. Hippolytus. One of the Fathers of the Church and the only anti-pope to be venerated as a saint. Elected "Pope" in opposition to St. Callistus I (r. 217-222) whom he accused of being a Monarchian heretic. Continued the schism in opposition to Urban I (r. 222-230) and St. Pontian (r. 230-235). The Imperial gov't, during the persecution of Emp. Maximin Thrax, exiled both Hippolytus and Pontian to Sardinia, where they were reconciled. Apparently, to end the schism they both abdicated.

251-258 Novatian. Consecrated bishop in opposition to St. Cornelius (r. 251-253). The major point in dispute (besides disappointed ambition on Novatian's part) was his opposition to the policy St. Cornelius pursued as regarded those Christians who lapsed during the persecution of Emperor Decius. The Pope insisted on restoring the "lapsi" to communion after doing suitable penance. Novatian demanded permanent excommunication from the Church.

309 Heraclius
355-365 Felix II
366-367 Ursinus
418-419 Eulalius
498-505 Laurentius
687 Theodore
687 Paschal
767-769 Constantine
768 Philip
844 John

855 Anastasius the Librarian. One of the more interesting anti-popes. A scholar learned in both Greek and Latin. After the death of St. Leo IV in 855, Anastasius, with Frankish support, tried to make himself Pope in rivalry to the lawful Pope Benedict III (r. 855-858). The violent hostility of the Romans thwarted him. Anastasius was treated leniently by Benedict and rehabilitated by Nicholas I (r. 858-867), whom he served faithfully.

903-904 Christopher

984-985 Boniface VII. One of the more disgusting anti-popes. Actually, twice anti-pope. In 974, supported by the Roman clan of the Crescentii, Boniface was "elected" Pope. He soon had the lawful Pope Benedict VI (r. 973-974) murdered. The outraged Romans expelled Boniface, who fled to the Eastern Roman Empire. In 980, while Benedict VII (r. 974-983) was absent, the usurper briefly seized Rome. Again expelled. In 984, with Byzantine support, Boniface again seized Rome, had John XIV (r. 983-984) murdered, and installed himself as "pope" until he died in 985.

997-998 John XVI
1012 Gregory
1045 Sylvester III. Scholars debate over whether or not he was truly an anti-pope.
1058-1059 Benedict X
1061-1072 Honorius II
1084-1100 Clement III
1100 Theodoric
1102 Albert
1105-1111 Sylvester IV
1118-1121 Gregory VIII
1124 Celestine II
1130-1138 Anacletus II
1138 Victor IV

1159-1164 Victor IV. The anti-popes of the years 1159-1180 were the creatures of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I during his long quarrel with Pope Alexander III (r. 1159-1181).

1164-1168 Paschal III
1168-1178 Callistus III
1179-1180 Innocent III

1328-1330 Nicholas V. Set up as anti-pope by the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV during the latter's quarrel with Pope John XXII (r. 1316-1334).

1378-1394 Clement VII. The "election" of this anti-pope in opposition to the lawful Pope Urban VI (r. 1378-1389) precipitated the Western Schism of 1378-1415.

1394-1423 Benedict XIII
1049-1410 Alexander V
1410-1415 John XXIII
1423-1429 Clement VIII
1425-1430 Benedict XIV

1439-1449 Felix V. After "deposing" Eugene IV (r. 1431-1447) in 1439, the schismatic Council of Basle "elected" as "Pope" Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy (r. 1391-1440. Largely because the "council" desired as Pope a man of piety, wealth, and international standing. Amadeus accepted "election" only with hesitation and was soon disillusioned. In 1449, with Charles VII of France acting as mediator, Felix V submitted to the lawful Pope Nicholas V. Appointed cardinal bishop of St. Sabina, he died in 1451.

Sean M. Brooks