All About History

WHO WERE THE ANTIPOPES?

In the Roman Catholic Church, ‘antipope’ is the term used for one who claims to be pope, but whose claim has been deemed invalid by the Church. Such antipopes met with varying levels of success, with some reigning, as alternative popes, for mere months while others reigned for a decade or more. Although it’s impossible to create a definitive list of antipopes, given that the records are often obscured or incomplete, and that there were instances where even contemporaries could not decide who was the legitimate pope, there were about 37 antipopes between 217 CE and 1449, when Felix V, considered the last antipope, stepped down. While the 8th and 9th centuries had no antipopes, in the 12th century alone there were 11.

There were many reasons that gave rise to an antipope’s election. Doctrinal disagreement saw the rise of the first anitpope, Hippolytus of Rome. In 355 CE Pope Liberius was exiled by Emperor Constantius II for his orthodoxy, after refusing to condemn the orthodox patriarch, Athanasius of Alexandria. The emperor then installed the archdeacon Felix as Pope Felix II. The Roman population, however, refused to recognize the new ‘pope’ and Liberius was recalled, while Felix retired to Porto, near Rome, where he died in 365 CE.

Several antipopes arose from instances of

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