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An antipope (Latin pseudopapa , antipapa ) is a person who was appointed pope by certain authorities during the term of office of a canonically elected pope (who did not die and did not abdicate), and in contrast to this . In a broader sense, appointed successors of deceased popes, whose claim was not accepted and who were subject to a later appointed but recognized pope, are classified as counter-popes.

The number of historically perceived counter-popes fluctuates due to the lack of definition, partiality, unclear mode of election and appointment as well as incomplete tradition; the figures are between 25 and 40. With some popes it is difficult to determine whether they were lawfully or illegally in office. Counter-popes, like Sergius III. who later became a legitimate Pope are not always counted as an antipope. Some counter-popes such as Benedict X or John XVI. were at times recognized as legitimate and were thus included in the counting of the respective pope's names.

The time span of historically known and significant antipopes ranges from Hippolytus of Rome (officiated 217–235) to Felix V (1439–1449). In modern times, leaders of Catholic factions who proclaim themselves pope are sometimes referred to as "antipope".


Opposite popes were set up because, for example, the college of cardinals split or the emperor or Roman aristocratic families intervened in the election of the pope . The first antipope in the Catholic Church is Hippolytus , who officiated from 217 to 235 as one of two schismatic bishops of Rome, as an opponent of Bishop Calixt I , then Urban I and finally Pontianus .

After a total of seven popes recognized by the entire Church had resided in Avignon from 1309 , Gregory XI. convince himself to return to Rome in 1377 ; however, the French cardinals did not recognize this and subsequently declared the Holy See vacant. This led to the great schism in 1378 , which lasted until the Council of Constance in 1417. In its period there was a Pope in Rome and an antipope in Avignon and at times still the antipopes of the Obedience of Pisa ( Alexander V (1409-1410) and John XXIII. (1410-1415)), each of different powers of Europe as sole Pope were regarded, which led to a deep disruption of the entire occidental-Christian world.

In the era of National Socialism dealt Adolf Hitler , according to the diaries of Alfred Rosenberg with the appointment of antipopes. The unity of the Catholic Church in occupied countries should be broken by counter-popes. The first antipope should be Spaniard and reside in Toledo . Further counter-popes were planned for France and the Nazi state . The considerations did not come to fruition.

The term "antipope" is controversial in research. At the time it was used in various forms ( antipapa, pseudopapa, dictus papa , etc. in the sources ) only by partisans of a different pretender who were hostile to the opposing party's aspirant, so it understandably never served as a self-designation. In addition, from the perspective of historical research it often remains unclear which Pope is to be considered legitimate in times of rival claims to power. The scanty sources often do not allow clear answers to this question. Another circumstance for this lack of clarity in the answer to the legality of various pontificate is due to the fact that a binding legal system for papal election was only established over the course of several centuries (beginning with the papal election decree of 1059 ), while the elevation of the bishop of Rome took place in the first millennium AD did not differ significantly from any other episcopal insurrection within the western church. Political influence (for example at the Synod of Sutri by King Henry III ), internal church factors such as the question of obedience or the death of one of the opponents could contribute to ending double (or even triple) claims to power over the papal office (cf. B. Wibert of Ravenna ). The emergence of counter-popes is primarily a medieval phenomenon, to which a canonical bolt could be put through the successive introduction of binding papal election regulations.


The popes since the Second Vatican Council are also rejected by some groups (see Sedisvakantismus ). Heads of individual splinter groups themselves claimed to be the rightful Pope. This included Clemente Domínguez y Gómez as "Gregor XVII." († March 22, 2005) and his successors "Petrus II." († July 2011) and Sergio Maria as "Gregory XVIII." Of the Palmarian Catholic Church , and also Lucian Powder maker as "Pius XIII." († November 30, 2009) from the True Catholic Church , David Allen Bawden as "Michael I" or Viktor von Pentz as "Linus II." However, they differ from the historical antipopes as they do not enjoy the support of members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and have a maximum of a few thousand followers with strong regional restrictions.

See also


  • A. Amanieu: Antipape. In: Raoul Naz et al. (Ed.): Dictionnaire de droit canonique. Contenant tous les termes du droit canonique. Avec une sommaire de l'histoire et des institutions et de l'état actuel de la discipline. Volume 1: Abamita - Azzon. Letouzey & Ané, Paris 1935, pp. 598-622.
  • Hans-Jürgen Becker : Antipope. In: Albrecht Cordes et al. (Hrsg.): Concise dictionary on German legal history . Volume 1: Aachen - Spiritual Bank. 2nd, completely revised and enlarged edition. Schmidt, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-503-07912-4 , Sp. 1995-1996.
  • Odilo Engels : Antipope. In: Lexicon for Theology and Church . Volume 4: Franca to Hermenegild. 3rd, completely revised edition. Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 1995, ISBN 3-451-22004-0 , Sp. 346.
  • Amato Pietro Frutaz : Antipapa. In: Enciclopedia Cattolica. Volume 1: A - Arn. Ente per l'Enciclopedia cattolica e per il libro cattolico, Citta del Vaticano 1948, pp. 598-622.
  • Christiane Laudage: Fight for the chair of Petri. The history of the anti-popes. Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 2012, ISBN 978-3-451-30402-6 .
  • Harald Müller , Brigitte Hotz (ed.): Antipopes. An undesirable medieval phenomenon. Böhlau, Cologne 2012, ISBN 978-3-412-20953-7 .
  • Matthias Schrör : Rival papal rule at the beginning of the turning point in papal history . In: Mirko Breitenstein, Julia Burkhardt, Stefan Burkhardt, Jörg Sonntag (Eds.): Identity and Community: Four Approaches to Self-Stories and Self-Images of Institutional Orders (= Vita regularis. Abhandlungen Volume 67). Lit, Münster 2015, pp. 211-221, ISBN 978-3-643-13242-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Antipope  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Ralph Giordano : If Hitler had won the war. The plans of the Nazis after the final victory (= KiWi-Paperback 587). 5th edition. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-462-02944-4 , p. 283ff.
  2. Harald Müller: Gegenpopes - touchstones of universal authority in the Middle Ages. In: Harald Müller, Brigitte Hotz (eds.): Gegenpäpste. An undesirable medieval phenomenon. Vienna et al. 2012, pp. 13–54.
  3. Matthias Schrör: Rival Pope rule at the beginning of the pope historical turning. In: Mirko Breitenstein et al. (Ed.): Identity and community. Four approaches to self-stories and self-images of institutional orders. Berlin 2015, pp. 211–221.