Alexander V, Antipope (Peter of Candia)
ALEXANDER V, ANTIPOPE (PETER OF CANDIA)
Pontificate (Pisan obedience): June 26, 1409–May 3, 1410. A Greek, he was born Peter Philarghus (Petros Phalargis) c. 1340 in the northern part of Crete (i.e., Candia, thus his more widely known name, Peter of Candia). Orphaned at an early age, Peter was raised by a Capuchin friar who gave him an elementary education; he died in Bologna on May 3, 1410. Peter joined the Franciscans c. 1357 and studied in Padua and Norwich. He received his bachelor of theology degree from Oxford, and taught in Franciscan houses in Russia, Bohemia, and Poland. In 1381, he received his doctorate of theology from Paris, and by the middle 1380s he was in Italy at the court of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Over the next three decades, with the patronage of Visconti, Peter held a chair of theology at Pavia, and became bishop of Piacenza (1386), Vicenza (1388), and Novara (1389); he was eventually named archbishop of Milan in 1402. In the midst of this ecclesiastical activity, in 1395 he obtained for Visconti the title duke of Milan from the German king Wenceslas (1378–1400).
From his days in Paris, Peter allied himself with the Roman obedience in the Great Schism (1378–1417), and in 1405 Pope Innocent VII (1404–06) named him cardinal priest of SS. Apostoli and papal legate to Lombardy. Innocent died the following year and was succeeded by Pope Gregory XII, who showed little interest in ending the 26-year-old schism. As a result, Peter approved of those cardinals who were slowly distancing themselves from Gregory's curia; he also encouraged England to take a neutral position regarding the schism, in effect a withdrawal of obedience to Gregory. Because of this Gregory removed Peter as archbishop of Milan and rescinded his cardinalate. In May 1408, after the antipope Benedict XIII lost his French support and Gregory had created four new cardinals (considered a sign that he did not intend to end the schism), all but seven of Gregory's cardinals left for Pisa. At this point Peter (along with Baldassare Cossa, later antipope John XXIII) became one of the leading voices for the via concilis (i.e., that a council of the entire church should decide the legitimate pope). He was among the primary organizers of the Council of Pisa (1409); delivered its opening address; secured English, Bohemian, and much German support for the council; and presided at the sessions that declared Benedict XIII and Gregory XII heretics. Peter was then unanimously elected pope (June 26, 1409) after a pledge to keep the council in session until church reform was complete. He took the name Alexander V.
Alexander's authority as pope was problematic from the start. Although he had wide support (France, England, Bohemia, the eastern Empire, and northern and central Italy), each of the supposedly deposed popes still had a limited degree of recognition. Furthermore, Alexander was not in Rome; the city was occupied by King Ladislaus of Durazzo-Naples (1386–1414), who recognized Gregory XII. Finally, in the eyes of some, Alexander did not encourage the church reform he had promised at Pisa. In the first weeks of his papacy, several of the bishoprics and benefices he named went to Franciscans who received the offices to the detriment of local parish clergy, canons, and various university faculties. On July 1, 1490 Alexander ratified and published the decrees of the council, and on August 7 he dissolved it, announcing that a new council would meet in three years. While some saw these policies as legitimate attempts to solidify his power base in order to then end the Great Schism, Alexander's moves appeared to many as directly opposed to church reform. Either way he had broken the letter of his oath to keep the council in session.
In an effort to regain Rome (and thus weaken Gregory), Alexander excommunicated Ladislaus and invested Louis II of Anjou as king of Naples. Louis captured Rome in the name of the Pisan obedience in January 1410. For some reason, probably due to pressure from Baldassare Cossa (whom many contemporaries and modern scholars consider an opportunist), Alexander stayed in Bologna, even after a delegation from Rome pleaded with him to come to the city (Feb. 2, 1410). Alexander died suddenly in Bologna three months later (May 3). Rumors that Cossa, who would become Alexander's successor, had poisoned the antipope circulated immediately and the charge (now largely considered false) was even brought before the Council of Constance. Alexander was buried in the church of St. Francis in Bologna. His tomb was restored in 1889 at the direction of Leo XIII.
Peter of Candia/Alexander V remains a controversial figure. He appears to have been a serious Franciscan and was considered a fine theologian and teacher. His works include a Principia, treatises on the immaculate conception, and a well-regarded commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences (which he taught in Paris). His theology was nominalist in approach and has received renewed interest for its place in the development of late medieval thought and the schools. Peter's successful career with Visconti indicates real diplomatic and administrative ability, but he clearly had more mixed results within the ecclesiastical world as Alexander V. Contemporaries like Jean Gerson, and near-contemporaries like Platina and Giles of Viterbo viewed him with some respect. Alexander's greatest liability may have been his early death. He was pope long enough to make many enemies (e.g., on Oct. 12, 1409 he promulgated a bull that broadly extended the right to preach and hear confession to the mendicant orders; this turned many secular clergy against him), but not so long as to end the schism or accomplish any church reform he might have envisioned.
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[p. m. savage]