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, the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Catholic Church. At times between the 3rd and mid-15th century, antipopes were supported by a fairly significant faction of religious cardinals and secular monarchs 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.
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 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 quotes 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.
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 (anti-kings) 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.
The following table gives the names of the antipopes included in the list of popes and antipopes in the Annuario Pontificio, with the addition of the names of Natalius (in spite of doubts about his historicity) and Antipope Clement VIII (whose following was insignificant).
An asterisk marks those who were included in the conventional numbering of later Popes who took the same name. More commonly, the antipope is ignored in later papal regnal numbers; for example, there was an 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 attaches the following note 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.
Thus, because of the obscurities about mid-11th-century canon law and the historical facts, the Annuario Pontificio lists Sylvester III as a pope, without thereby expressing a judgement on his legitimacy. The Catholic Encyclopedia places him in its List of Popes, but with the annotation: "Considered by some to be an antipope". Other sources classify him as an antipope.
Those with asterisks (*) were counted in subsequent Papal numbering.
Many antipopes created cardinals, known as quasi-cardinals, and a few created cardinal-nephews, known as quasi-cardinal-nephews.
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 of the Roman Catholic Church, they are schismatics, and as such are automatically excommunicated.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 (1968–2011), in Canada
Clemente Domínguez y Gómez (Pope Gregory XVII), mystically self-proclaimed (1978–2005) in Spain
Manuel Corral (Pope Peter II) (2005–11)
Ginés Jesús Hernández (Pope Gregory XVIII) (2011–2016)
Joseph Odermatt (Pope Peter III) (2016–present)
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.
The following were elected by allegedly faithful Catholics, none of whom was a cardinal:Popes of the "Legio Maria", based in western Kenya (not technically Conclavist): Timothy Joseph Blasio Atila (1963–1998). Pius Lawrence Jairo Chiaji Adera (1998–2004). Raphael Titus Otieno (2004–present).
David Bawden (Pope Michael I), (1990–present) elected in Kansas, USA.
Victor von Pentz (Pope Linus II), (1994–present). Another conclave, this time held in Assisi, Italy, elected the South African Victor von Pentz, an ex-seminarian of the Society of St Pius X, as Pope Linus II in 1994. Linus took up residence in Hertfordshire, England.
Pope of the "True Catholic Church": Lucian Pulvermacher (Pope Pius XIII), (1998–2009), elected in Montana, USA.
Mirko Fabris (Pope Krav I), (1978–2012), elected in Zagreb, Croatia.
Joaquín Llorens (Pope Alexander IX), (2005–present), elected in Elx, Spain.
Popes of the "Iglesia Católica Apostólica Remanente", based in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Oscar Michaelli, elected on 24 March 2006 by a group of 34 episcopi vagantes 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.
As the Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, has historically also held the title of Pope, a person who, in opposition to someone who is generally accepted as a legitimate Pope of Alexandria, claims to hold that position may also be considered an Antipope. In 2006, the defrocked married Coptic lector Max Michel became an Antipope of Alexandria. His claim to the Alexandrine Papacy was dismissed by both the Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III and Pope Theodore II of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria Neither the Coptic Pope of Alexandria nor the Greek Pope of Alexandria currently view one another as Antipopes but rather as successors to differing lines of apostolic succession which formed as a result of christological disputes in the fifth century.
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.Jean Raspail's novel l'Anneau du pêcheur (The Fisherman's Ring), and Gérard Bavoux's "Le Porteur de lumière" (The Light-bringer).
The fictional synth-pop artist Zladko Vladcik claims to be "The Anti-Pope" in one of his songs.
Dan Simmons's novels Endymion and Rise of Endymion feature a Father Paul Duré who is the routinely murdered antipope Teilhard I. At the end of the last novel, it is mentioned that the person calling himself the pope of the Technocore loyal Catholics is recognized by very few even among those, and he is referred to as an antipope.
In the Girl Genius comics series, set in a gaslamp fantasy version of Europe thrown into chaos by mad science (among other things), there is a brief reference to the existence of seven Popes—all of whom apparently ordered a particular text burned.
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 elect an Italian cardinal who calls himself "Pius XIII".
In the video game Crusader Kings II by Swedish developer Paradox Interactive, Catholic rulers may appoint one of their bishops as an antipope. An emperor-tier ruler such as the Holy Roman Emperor may declare war on the Papal States to install their antipope as the "true" pope, thereby vassalizing the Papacy.
In episode 3 of The Black Adder, "The Archbishop", Baldrick remarks on selling counterfeit papal pardons, that one for the highest crimes requires the signatures of "both popes" (implying one pope and one antipope). At the end of the episode, the Mother Superior of the local convent informs Edmund that he has been excommunicated by "all three popes".