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From anti-, plus pope, from and papa, diminutive form of pater.


  1. A person who claims or claimed to be the pope as the result of a disputed election, but is not considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be the real pope.

See also

Extensive Definition

An antipope (Latin: antipapa) is a person who makes a widely accepted claim to be the lawful pope, in opposition to the pope recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. In the past antipopes were typically those supported by a fairly significant faction of cardinals. Persons who claim to be the pope but have few followers, such as the modern sedevacantist antipopes, are not generally counted 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''." In all cases it is clear that, whoever was the pope, the other was an antipope, since the claim of each was widely accepted.


Hippolytus (d. 235) is commonly recognized as the earliest antipope, as he protested against Pope Callixtus I and headed a separate group within the Latin Church. 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 canonised by the Church. 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, especially since no such claim is found in the writings attributed to him.
The Catholic Encyclopedia also mentions a Natalius, before Hippolytus, as first antipope, who, according to Eusebius's EH5.28.8-12, quoting the Little Labyrinth of Hippolytus, after being "scourged all night by the holy angels", covered in ash, dressed in sackcloth, and "after some difficulty", tearfully submitted to Pope Zephyrinus. As proof of the angels' actual intervention, Natalius displayed the wounds they had left on his back.
Novatian (d. 258), another third-century figure, certainly claimed the See of Rome in opposition to Pope Cornelius, and is thus reckoned as the first unequivocal antipope. 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 frequently imposed their own nominees in order to further their cause. The popes, likewise, sometimes sponsored rival imperial claimants in Germany in order to overcome a particular emperor.
The Great Western Schism, which, on the grounds of the allegedly invalid election of Pope Urban VI, began in 1378 with the election of Clement VII, who took up residence in Avignon, France, led to two, and eventually three, rival lines of claimants to papacy: the Roman line, the Avignon line, 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 of Florence 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.


Modern antipopes are usually religious leaders of breakaway Roman Catholics who reject the commonly recognized popes and instead claim the papacy themselves. The Roman Catholic Church regards these as excommunicated schismatics and some as heretics. As most of the groups derive from sedevacantist groups, they are often called 'sedevacantist' antipopes or, more correctly but also less commonly, as 'conclavist' antipopes. However these terms are not fully accurate because a sedevacantist believes that there currently is no reigning pope. If they elect a pope from among them, then are no longer considered to be sedevacantists, because they have their own pope. And conclavist is not completely accurate either as they are not elected during any conclave whatsoever, and do not participate in any conclaves.
Other individuals who have been chosen (or have set themselves up) as replacement popes are sometimes called antipopes. In contrast to historical antipopes, the number of their followers is minuscule and therefore they are mostly not regarded as serious claimants to the papacy along the lines of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which defined antipope as: "one who opposes the legitimately elected Bishop of Rome, endeavours to secure the papal throne, and to some degree succeeds materially in the attempt."
Some modern anti-popes have developed their own religious infrastructure, thus being popes of their particular sect. A significant number of them have taken the name Peter II, due to its special significance.

List of historical antipopes

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.
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 on the legitimacy of his takeover of the position of pope in 1045. The Catholic Encyclopedia places him in its List of Popes, though with the annotation: "Considered by some to be an antipope".

List of current claimants

Whilst all modern claimants to the Papacy in opposition to Pope Benedict XVI are technically antipopes, none of them have received wide enough recognition, as defined earlier, to be considered true antipopes. Therefore the antipopes listed below have a very limited following, ranging from very few to several hundred adherents.


In 1950, Frenchman Jean Colin claimed to receive revelations and to continue and to fulfil the 1873 message of Mélanie Calvat, the seer of La Salette. Subsequently, Pope Pius XII publicly declared him by name a vitandus excommunicate, 'one who should be avoided'.
Colin claimed to have been made pope as Clement XV, even while Pius XII was alive, and in 1963 founded the ultra-liberal, ultra-modernist The Renewed Church of Christ or Church of the Magnificat, based first in Lyons, then at St. Jovite, Quebec, Canada. The Colinites have since disintegrated into several factions, with one successor pope in France.
A larger faction is led by Jean-Gaston Tremblay, one of Colin's disciples, who declared himself constituted pope by apparition, even before Colin had died, and who calls himself John-Gregory XVII. He is now based in St. Jovite, as head of the Order of the Magnificat and The Apostles of the Latter Days. The 1846 secret of Mélanie Calvet, which called for the constitution of these Apostles of the Latter Days is central to his claims and mission.

Palmarian Catholic Church

The Palmarian Catholic Church regards as true popes those until 1978, including Pope Paul VI, who is revered by them as a martyr. Palmarians do not claim the See of Rome, but hold that the Pope of Rome is excommunicated and that the position of the Holy See has been transferred to the See of El Palmar de Troya, on the grounds of claimed apparitions.

Other movements

These antipopes are for the most part not self-proclaimed in the strictest sense. They organised elections by allegedly faithful Catholics, none of whom being a recognized cardinal. The smallest verified conclave was attended by only three electors, the largest is claimed to have comprised more than sixty-one electors. Examples are:


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. 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.
  • The fictional synth-pop artist Zladko Vladcik claims to be The Anti-Pope in one of his songs.
  • 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".



  • Antipope in the Catholic Encyclopaedia
  • Antipope in The Pope Encyclopaedia
  • Kelly, J.N.D, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, Oxford University Press, USA (June 1, 1986), ISBN 0-19-213964-9
  • Raspail, Jean, L'Anneau du pêcheur, Paris : Albin Michel, 1994. 403 p. ISBN 2-226-07590-9
  • Bavoux, Gérard, Le Porteur de lumière, Paris : Pygmalion, 1996. 329 p. ISBN 2-85704-488-7
antipope in Afrikaans: Teenpous
antipope in Asturian: Antipapa
antipope in Breton: Roll an enep-pibien
antipope in Bulgarian: Антипапа
antipope in Catalan: Antipapa
antipope in Czech: Vzdoropapež
antipope in Danish: Modpave
antipope in German: Gegenpapst
antipope in Estonian: Vastupaavst
antipope in Spanish: Antipapa
antipope in Esperanto: Kontraŭpapo
antipope in French: Antipape
antipope in Galician: Antipapa
antipope in Korean: 대립 교황
antipope in Croatian: Protupapa
antipope in Indonesian: Anti-Paus
antipope in Italian: Antipapa
antipope in Hebrew: אנטי-אפיפיור
antipope in Latin: Antipapa
antipope in Luxembourgish: Géigepoopst
antipope in Lithuanian: Antipopiežius
antipope in Dutch: Tegenpaus
antipope in Japanese: 対立教皇
antipope in Norwegian: Motpave
antipope in Polish: Antypapież
antipope in Portuguese: Antipapa
antipope in Romanian: Antipapă
antipope in Russian: Антипапа
antipope in Slovak: Protipápež
antipope in Slovenian: Protipapež
antipope in Finnish: Vastapaavi
antipope in Swedish: Motpåve
antipope in Ukrainian: Антипапа
antipope in Chinese: 對立教宗
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