Callistus III, Antipope

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Pontificate: September 1168Aug. 29, 1178. Known as John, abbot of Struma, a Vallambrosan monastery near Arezzo, he appears to have entered the monastery as a boy. He was a strong and early supporter of the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (115290), and also supported the antipope Victor IV (115964). Victor named him cardinal bishop of Albano, and John served in the curias of antipopes Victor and Paschal III (116468). He was named successor to antipope Paschal by a small number of schismatic cardinals soon after Paschal's death on Sept. 20, 1168. Callistus was thus the third and last of the imperial antipopes during the schism (115478).

Callistus was in a weak position from the beginning. Frederick did not have a direct role in his election and was at the time involved in a serious challenge to his presence in northern Italy by the newly-invigorated Lombard League, which backed Pope Alexander III (115981). Indeed, in an effort to end the schism and decrease opposition to imperial policy in Italy, Frederick had recently proposed that both Alexander and antipope Paschal step aside for a new election. Callistus was thus little more than a bargaining chip that Frederick could use to pressure Pope Alexander when necessary. Only Rome, along with parts of the Papal States, Tuscany, and much of the Rhineland recognized him.

Little is known of Callistus's activities as antipope. He resided at Viterbo and sent a legate to Frederick at the diet of Bamberg (June 1169) to seek the emperor's support and encourage a new Italian campaign. He received Frederick's recognition and limited financial support. In 1173 Callistus again sent a legate to Germany for talks between Frederick and Louis VII of France (113780). Finally, in 1174 Frederick began his fifth expedition into Italy, which was effectively to end in his defeat at Legnano (May 29, 1176). At that point the emperor rightly saw that by reconciling himself with the church he might simultaneously gain the support of many German nobles (who used Alexander's condemnation of Frederick as reason to revolt), take away much of the Lombard cause against him, and even open the way to imperial influence in Sicily. Thus he came to a preliminary agreement with Alexander, at Anagni in November 1176, and then more completely in Venice (July 23, 1177). Among the terms of the truce were provisions that the emperor would recognize Alexander as pope. Callistus was to be appointed an abbot and all schismatic clergy were to be provided for in some equitable way.

Callistus refused to capitulate and remained at Viterbo, backed by the prefect of Rome, who held out against Alexander and Frederick for reasons of his own. After Alexander returned to the city in the company of Frederick's chancellor, Archbishop Christian of Mainz, Callistus was forced to flee Viterbo for Monte Albano (near Mentana). After much negotiation, Callistus agreed to surrender to Alexander. He submitted to the pope at Tusculum on Aug. 29, 1178, and was named rector of Benevento, where he died sometime between 1180 and 1184.

Bibliography: l. duchesne, ed. Liber Pontificalis (Paris 188692; repr. 195557) 2.41920, 439, 441, 450. p. jaffÉ, Regesta pontificum Romanorum (Leipzig 188588; repr. Graz 1956) 2.42930. f. x. seppelt, Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (Munich 195459) 3.259, 26675. m. baldwin, Alexander III and the Twelfth Century (Glen Rock, NJ 1968). k. jordan, Dizionario biografico degli Italiani (Rome 1973) 16.76869. j. n. d. kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 17980.

[p. m. savage]