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Antipope John XXIII
Papacy began 1410
Papacy ended 1415
Predecessor Alexander V (Pisa claimant)
Successor Martin V
Opposed to Gregory XII (Rome claimant)
Benedict XIII (Avignon claimant)
Personal details
Born 1370
Procida (or Ischia), Kingdom of Naples
Died 22 December 1419
Florence, Republic of Florence

Baldassarre Cossa (c. 1370 – 22 December 1419), was Antipope John XXIII during the Western Schism (1410–1415).


Baldassarre Cardinal Cossa was born in Procida (according to other sources, Ischia).

He was one of the seven cardinals who, in May 1408, deserted Pope Gregory XII, and, with those belonging to the obedience of Antipope Benedict XIII, convened the Council of Pisa, of which Cossa became the leader. They elected Antipope Alexander V in 1409. Cossa succeeded him a year later.

Edward Gibbon asserts in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that John XXIII was charged with piracy, murder, rape, sodomy and incest, with the more serious charges being suppressed.[1] The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, however, remarks that although John's "moral life was not above reproach, and his unscrupulous methods in no wise accorded with the requirements of his high office . . . the heinous crimes of which his opponents in the council accused him were certainly gravely exaggerated."[2]

Tomb of Antipope John XXIII.

He should not be confused with Pope John XXIII of the twentieth century. The fact that there were more popes named John than of any other name during the first 1400 years of the Church and then no more for over 500 years is probably due to the controversial figure this antipope represented. When Angelo Cardinal Roncalli was elected and became Pope John, there was some confusion as to whether he would be John XXIII or John XXIV; he then declared that he was John XXIII to put this question to rest. The decision of the twentieth-century Pope John XXIII not to be named John XXIV, as might have be expected, serves as a confirmation of the antipope status of this first John XXIII. It should be noted, however, that the numbering of the popes called John is debatable (as there was no John XX); for example, Gibbon refers to the antipope John as John XXII.

With the aid of the Emperor Sigismund, Pope John convened the Council of Constance in 1412. During the third session, rival Pope Gregory XII authorized the council as well, and soon both popes abdicated in favor of Pope Martin V, while the last remaining claimant in Avignon was excommunicated when he refused to resign as well. Cossa, as he was again, was briefly imprisoned in Germany before being freed by Martin V in 1418.

He died in Florence, as cardinal bishop of Tusculum, in 1419. He is buried in a tomb in the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence.

In fiction

His life was the subject of the historical novel A Trembling Upon Rome by the satirist Richard Condon (best known for his book The Manchurian Candidate), in which he is portrayed as an atheistic mercenary, pirate, and extortionist, selected for his skill as a tactician, rather than for any theological reasons. Throughout the novel, Condon draws many parallels between the Church of the era and the modern-day Mafia.

See also

Papal styles of
Antipope John XXIII
C o a Giovanni XXIII (Pisa).svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Unknown

Notes and references

  1. Gibbon, Edward (1866), The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, VII, London: Henry George Bohn, pp. 428,, retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  2. Kirsch, J.P. (1910), "John XXIII", The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company) VIII,, retrieved 2008-01-03. 

External links

Popes of the Western Schism
Antipope John XXIIIAntipope John XXIIIPope Alexander VPope Gregory XIIPope Innocent VIIPope Innocent VIIBoniface IXUrban VIAvignon Pope Benedict XIIIAvignon Pope Clement VIIPope Martin VPope Gregory XI

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