Pontificate: c. September 903–January 904. He probably died in early 904. Christopher was a priest of St. Damasus, one of the 25 title churches (i.e., ancient parishes) of Rome, and nothing specific is known of his career until he evidently led an internal coup against Pope Leo V (903–04). Leo had been in office for 30 days, and was imprisoned; Christopher was made pope. Christopher was nevertheless only in office four months before his successor, Sergius III (904–911), marched on Rome with the help of Duke Alberic I of Spoleto (died c. 925). Christopher was deposed and jailed. According to Herimannus Augiensis he finished out his days as a monk, but Vulgarius reports that Sergius had both Christopher and Leo strangled in prison. Christopher's only surviving bull is a confirmation of privileges to the monastery of Corbie, which was later referred to by Pope Leo IX (1049–54) in his confirmation of the same privileges.
The years between the 870s and 1000 were the worst in history for the papacy. Charlemagne's empire had virtually disintegrated, and Rome and the Papal States were vulnerable to attack from Muslim-controlled Sicily (and southwest Italy). The Byzantines still had outposts and clients on the Adriatic, and Lombard territory to the north was in reality a collection of semi-autonomous city-states and duchies. In this confusion, the Roman military elite routinely made and unmade popes for its own purposes. Our sources are poor, but Christopher's coup appears to have been part of a split within the group in Rome that opposed Pope Leo because he was a non-Roman. Christopher's name was generally included in lists of popes into the modern period. Nonetheless, since his election was irregular, and since Leo V now seems to have survived as long as Christopher, he is today universally considered an antipope.
Bibliography: l. duchesne, ed. Liber Pontificalis (Paris 1886–92; repr. 1955–57) 2.235. p. jaffÈ, Regesta pontificum Romanorum (Leipzig 1885–88; repr. Graz 1956) 1.444–45. e. dÜmmler, Auxilius und Vulgarius (Leipzig 1866) 60, 135. flodoard of reims, De triumphis Christi sanctorumque Palaestinae 12.7, in j. p. migne, ed. Patrologia Latina (Paris 1884–64) 135.831. herimannus augiensis, Chronicon 904, in Monumenta Germaniae historica, Scriptores, 5.111. mariannus scottus, Chronicon, in Monumenta Germaniae historica, Scriptores, 5.487. b. platina, De vita Christi ac omnium pontificum 121, ed. g. gaida, in Rerum italicarum scriptores 3.1, ed. l. a. muratori (Città di Castello and Bologna 1913–32) 163. h. k. mann, The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages (London 1902–32) 4.111–18, 130, 136. g. bardy, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1953) 12.778–79. j. n. d. kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 119.
[p. m. savage]