Rather straight forward question. There have been multiple men declared antipopes. Is it different each time, or generally the same set of circumstances that causes this?

3 Answers 3


Frank K. Flinn's Encyclopedia of Catholicism defines an antipope as "a person who lays claim to the office of bishop of Rome and tries to act as head of the Roman Catholic Church, in opposition to the person duly holding that ecclesiastical office in the eyes of the church as a whole." Flinn points out that there have been 39 antipopes in the history of the Catholic Church and that the criteria for papal validity as well as the correct electoral body for the popes has evolved over time.

The first person declared an antipope was St. Hippolytus of Rome (r. 217-35) for his challenging of Pope Callistus (r. 217-222). The best known antipopes are those from the Babylonian Captivity when the seat of the papacy was moved in 1309 from Rome to Avignon, France where it remained until 1377--these popes were known as antipopes by the Holy See in Rome and a valid pope was elected by that body.

For further reading, you can refer to: Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes (San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 2000) Daniel MacCarron, The Great Schism: Antipopes Who Split The Church (Dublin: D.M.C. Universal, 1982).

I hope that helps answer your question some!

All information in this reply came from: Encyclopedia of Catholicism. Frank K. Flinn. New York: Facts on File, 2007. 33-34.

Full Disclosure: I am an MSIS student at the University of Texas' School of Information and am answering this for a class on reference. I found this source through the Gale Virtual Reference Library.

  • Babylonian Captivity?
    – Peter Turner
    Jul 10, 2013 at 0:58
  • Hmm. This answer says there were antipopes at Avignon until 1377, and @DJClayworth says from 1378. Jul 10, 2013 at 6:24

Wikipedia has a good, though slightly sparse, article on the subject of Antipopes.

An Antipope was someone who claimed the title of Pope in opposition to a current pope, typically setting up an alternative papacy. The two main groups of Antipopes were those set up by the Holy Roman Emperors during the 11th and 12th centuries, and those established by the French cardinals who claimed in 1378 that the election of Urban VI was invalid, and set up an alternative papacy. The latter was reunited with the Roman church in 1415 by the treaty of Constantinople.


Anti in Greek can be found in Strong's Concordance as G473.

anti an-tee' a primary particle; opposite, i.e. instead or because of (rarely in addition to):--for, in the room of. Often used in composition to denote contrast, requital, substitution, correspondence, etc.

So antipope can mean someone opposite the real pope, someone instead of the real pope, someone in the room of (in the place of) the real pope, or someone in substitution of the real pope, etc.

In saying real pope meaning the bishop of Rome.

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