Pietro Rainalducci

Pietro Rainalducci

Rainalducci or Rainallucci, Pietro, d. 1333, Italian churchman (b. Corvaro, near Rieti), antipope (1328-30) with the name Nicholas V. Having separated from his wife, he became a Franciscan (1310) and was made a penitentiary in Rome. In 1328, Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV in his struggle with Pope John XXII (at Avignon) invaded Italy and took Rome; he declared the pope deposed for heresy and set up Pietro instead. Within a year Pietro found his position untenable, and in 1330 he made submission to the pope, who pardoned him and kept him an honorable captive in the papal palace at Avignon thereafter.

An antipope (Latin: antipapa) is a person who makes a widely accepted claim to be the lawful pope, in opposition to the pope recognised by the Roman Catholic Church. In the past antipopes were typically those supported by a fairly significant faction of cardinals and kingdoms. 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."


Saint Hippolytus (d. 235) is commonly recognised 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 canonized 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.

List of historical antipopes

Antipope Original name Dates Notes In opposition to:
Natalius around 200 later reconciled (see above) Pope Zephyrinus
Saint Hippolytus 217–235 later reconciled with Pope Pontian (see above) Pope Callixtus I
Pope Urban I
Pope Pontian
Novatian 251–258 founder of Novatianism Pope Cornelius
Pope Lucius I
Pope Stephen I
Pope Sixtus II
Felix II 355–365 installed by Roman Emperor Constantius II Pope Liberius
Ursicinus Ursinus 366–367 Pope Damasus
Eulalius 418–419 Pope Boniface I
Laurentius 498–499
supported by Byzantine emperor Anastasius I Pope Symmachus
Dioscorus 530 Pope Boniface II
Theodore (II) 687 Pope Sergius I
Paschal (I) 687 Pope Sergius I
Constantine II 767–768 Pope Stephen III
Philip 768 installed by envoy of Lombard King Desiderius
John VIII 844 elected by acclamation Pope Sergius II
Anastasius III Bibliothecarius 855 Pope Benedict III
Christopher 903–904 between Pope Leo V and Pope Sergius III
Boniface VII 974 between Pope Benedict VI and Pope Benedict VII
984–985 between Pope John XIV and Pope John XV
John XVI John Filagatto 997–998 supported by Byzantine emperor Basil II Pope Gregory V
Gregory VI 1012 Pope Benedict VIII
Benedict X John Mincius 1058–1059 supported by the Counts of Tusculum Pope Nicholas II
Honorius II Pietro Cadalus 1061–1064 supported by Agnes, regent of the Holy Roman Empire Pope Alexander II
Clement III Guibert of Ravenna 1080, 1084–1100 supported by Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor Pope Gregory VII
Pope Victor III
Pope Urban II
Pope Paschal II
Theodoric 1100–1101 successor to Clement III Pope Paschal II
Adalbert or Albert 1101 successor to Theodoric
Sylvester IV Maginulf 1105–1111 supported by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
Gregory VIII Maurice Burdanus 1118–1121 Pope Gelasius II
Pope Callixtus II
Celestine II Thebaldus Buccapecus 1124 Pope Honorius II
Anacletus II Pietro Pierleoni 1130–1138 Pope Innocent II
Victor IV Gregorio Conti 1138 successor to Anacletus II
Victor IV Ottavio di Montecelio 1159–1164 supported by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor Pope Alexander III
Paschal III Guido di Crema 1164–1168
Callixtus III Giovanni of Struma 1168–1178
Innocent III Lanzo of Sezza 1179–1180
Nicholas V Pietro Rainalducci 1328–1330 supported by Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor Pope John XXII
Clement VII Robert of Geneva 1378–1394 Avignon Pope Urban VI
Pope Boniface IX
Benedict XIII Pedro de Luna 1394–1423 Avignon
Pope Innocent VII
Pope Gregory XII
Pope Martin V
Alexander V Pietro Philarghi 1409–1410 Pisa Pope Gregory XII
John XXIII Baldassare Cossa 1410–1415 Pisa
Clement VIII Gil Sánchez Muñoz 1423–1429   Pope Martin V
Benedict XIV Bernard Garnier 1424–1429  
Benedict XIV Jean Carrier 1430–1437  
Pope Eugene IV
Felix V Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy 5 November 1439 –
7 April 1449
elected by the Council of Basel
Pope Nicholas V
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".

Modern claimants to papacy

Modern claimants to papacy in opposition to Pope Benedict XVI do not fit the Encyclopaedia Britannica's definition of "antipope": "one who opposes the legitimately elected Bishop of Rome, endeavours to secure the papal throne, and to some degree succeeds materially in the attempt. Except by their followers, whose number is minuscule, they are not regarded as serious claimants.

They are usually religious leaders of breakaway Roman Catholic groups who reject the commonly recognized popes (sedevacantist groups), For this reason they are often called "sedevacantist antipopes". Claiming to have elected a pope in a "conclave" of perhaps half a dozen laypeople (conclavism), they hold that, because of their action, the see of Rome is no longer vacant and they are no longer sedevacantists.

A significant number of them have taken the name Peter II, due to its special significance.

The Roman Catholic Church regards them as excommunicated schismatics and in some cases as heretics.

List of current claimants

For further information, see the article Conclavism

Those listed below have a very limited following, ranging from very few to some hundreds, and accordingly are not antipopes in the historical sense of the term.


In 1950, Frenchman Michel Collin 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'.

Michel Collin (1905-1974) 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 Calvat, 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.
  • Robert Rankin's first part of his comic fantasy "The Brentford Trilogy" is called "The Antipope," and features the resurrected Pope Alexander VI, the last Borgia pope.
  • Walter M. Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz" makes repeated reference to an "Antipope Vissarion," leader of the Vissarionist Schism of ca. 3000 AD. Several popes in the sequel, the post-apocalyptical novel Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman are called antipopes during or after their papacies.
  • 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.
  • 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".



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