John XXIII, Antipope

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Pontificate (Pisan obedience) : May 17, 1410 to May 29, 1415. Born Baldassare Cossa into an impoverished family of Neapolitan aristocrats (ca. 1370), he died in Florence on either June 23, 1419 or (see Esch) on December 27. There are few reliable facts concerning Cossa's early life, though there is a tradition that he left a military career in favor of church service. He studied canon law at Bologna and entered the papal curia of Boniface IX (13891404). Cossa became archdeacon of Bologna in 1396, and in 1402 Boniface named him cardinal deacon of St. Eustachio and appointed him legate to Bologna and Romagna. From 1403 to 1408 he lived in Bologna, where his administrative and financial abilities brought that region of Italy back under the control of the Papal States. During the Great schism, Cossa was one of the cardinals who broke with gregory xii (140615) in May 1408, when the latter showed that he had no intention of ending the Schism (Gregory named four new cardinals, thus signaling his desire to continue his line of the papacy). Cossa went to Pisa where he and most of Gregory's and antipope Benedict XIII's cardinals called for a council to end the Schism. Together with Peter of Candia, he took the leading role in organizing the Council of Pisa and was largely responsible for engineering Peter's election as Antipope Alexander V (140910). After Alexander' death in the following year, and in spite of rumors (now largely considered false) that Cossa had poisoned him, the Pisan cardinals met at Bologna and unanimously elected Cossa to be Alexander's successor. He took the name John XXIII.

John's election did little to change the nature of the Schism; there were still three active claimants to the papacy: John, Benedict XIII (13941417), and Gregory XII. While John had by far the widest political support (England, France, and many Italian and German states), he was still politically vulnerable, especially in Italy. He had also acquired the reputation of being a worldly, unscrupulous, and ambitious man of questionable moral character (he was considered tyrannical as papal legate in Bologna, and was rumored to have had numerous romantic liaisons). In Italy, King Ladislaus of Durazzo-Naples (13861414) continued to press his claim to much of the Papal States, and John depended on Louis II of Anjou for protection. After Louis defeated Ladislaus at Roccasecca (May 19, 1411), John entered Rome on April 12, 1411. Here John called a council (April 29, 1412March 1413), ostensibly to continue church reform, but it only managed to condemn (Feb. 10, 1413) the writings of the English reformer John Wycliff (ca. 132584). John also created several new cardinals, among whom were Francisco Zarabella, Pierre d'Ailly, Guillaume Fillastre, and Robert Hallam. In August 1412, John excommunicated the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus (ca. 13691415) because he was preaching against the antipope's pseudo-crusade against Ladislaus (John granted indulgences to all who contributed money to the cause).

Soon John was forced to come to terms with Ladislaus because his protector, Louis of Anjou, had returned to France. For a brief time the two were allies, but in May 1413 Ladislaus again attacked Rome, and John had to flee with his cardinals. They went to Florence, where John asked for the support of the German king Sigismund (141037; emp. 1433). Sigismund saw this appeal as an opportunity to hold a general council and to end the schism. In exchange for his support, Sigismund forced John to call a council in the king's territory. On Dec. 9, 1413 John issued a bull convoking a council to be held at Constance in November the following year. In spite of Ladislaus' death on Aug. 6, 1414, John was compelled by his cardinals to travel to Constance, where he opened the council on Nov. 5, 1414.

John hoped that as pope he could dominate the proceedings and convince the council to ratify the decisions made at the Council of Pisa, thus eliminating benedict xiii and gregory vii, and leaving John as legitimate pope. But his hopes came to naught in February and early March 1415, when the Germans, English, and French insisted that all three rival popes should abdicate. During the night of March 20 John fled Constance for Schaffhausen, in Duke Frederick of Austria's territory. Soon Sigismund declared war against the duke, and John was compelled to flee again, this time to Burgundy. But the Duke of Burgundy refused him safe conduct, and John had to retire to Freiburg instead (April 29, 1415). These actions further inflamed opposition to him at the council, and he was formally deposed in the 12th session (May 29, 1415).

In the meantime, Sigismund had captured Freiburg and brought John back to the council. Here he officially ratified the council's decisions, declared them infallible, and renounced his right to the papacy. Again known as Baldassare Cossa, he remained in captivity for three years. Sigismund handed him over to Louis III of Bavaria (a well-known enemy of Cossa), who kept him as a prisoner in Rudolfzell, Gottleiben, Heidelberg, and Mannheim until well after Dec. 28, 1417, the time that the council had decreed his release. He was set free sometime in 1418. Cossa then went to Florence and formally submitted to the council's pope, martin v (141731). On June 23, 1419 Martin appointed Cossa cardinal bishop of Tusculum-Frascati, but he died six months later. Cossa's magnificent tomb, which displays the papal crest, is in the baptistery at Florence. It was commissioned by Cosimo de Medici and includes work by Bartolomeo di Michelozzo and Donatello.

john xxiii is generally considered one of the more worldly and opportunistic popes of the Great Schism. He showed little concern for spiritual matters, and some of his actions, particularly during his battles with Ladislaus and the Council of Constance, support this judgment. But John's deep involvement in the political, administrative, and financial aspects of ecclesiastical life often led to a positive outcome for the papal court. His policies concerning the Papal States were surprisingly effective; and, given the circumstances of Italian politics, it is difficult to see how he could have more circumspectly protected his interests in Rome or solidified control of the Papal States. Furthermore, the circumstances of his deposition raise a difficult question: can a council suspend and depose the pope under whose authority it has been convened if he is unwilling? For these reasons and others, current scholarship is mitigating some of the negative interpretations of John XXIII's reign.

Bibliography: l. duchesne, ed. Liber Pontificalis (Paris 188692; repr. 195557) 2:50720, 54345, 55455. j. d. mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio (Florence and Venice 175998; repr. Graz 196061) 27:506715. Acta concilii Constanciensis, ed. h. finke and j. hollensteiner (Münster 198628). dietrich of nieheim, De schismate libri tres, ed. g. erler (Leipzig 1890) ; and De vita ac factis constanciensibus Johannis Papae XXIII, in Magnum oecumenicum Constanciense Concilium, ed. h. von der hart (Frankfurt 16971742) 2:335459. b. platina, De vita Christi ac omnium pontificum 213 (208) ed. g. gaida, in Rerum italicarum scriptores 3:1, ed. l. a. muratori (Città di Castello and Bologna 191332) 30412. c. j. von hefele and h. leclercq, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux (Paris 190738) v. 7. j. blumenthal, "Johan XXIII: seine Wahl un seine Persönlichkeit, " Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 21 (1901) 488516. e. j. kitts, In the Days of the Councils (London 1908) ; Pope John XXIII and Master John Hus (London 1910; New York 1978). h. g. peter, Die Informationen Papst Johanns XXIII und dessen Flucht von Konstanz bis Schaffhausen (Freiburg 1926). f. x. seppelt, Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (Munich 1956) 4:24153. r. bÄumer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg 195765) 5:995. l. r. loomis, The Council of Constance (New York 1961). h. jedin and j. dolan, eds. Handbook of Church History (New York 196581) 4:44868. j. smith, The Great Schism, 1378: The Disintegration of the Papacy (New York 1970). a. esch, "Das Papsttum unter der Herrschaft der Neapolitaner, " in Fest-schrift für Hermann Heimpel, v. 2 (Gottingen 1972) 713800. l. waldmÜller, "Materialien zur Geschichte John XXIII, 14101414, " Annuarium historiae conciliorum 7 (1975) 229237. c. m. d. crowder, Unity, Heresy, and Reform: 13781460 (London 1977). r. condon, A Trembling upon Rome: A Work of Fiction (New York 1983). a. lando, Il papa deposto, Pisa 1409 (Torino 1985). j. n. d. kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (Oxford and New York 1986) 23739 for additional bibliography. w. brand-mÜler, "Infeliciter electus fuit in Papam, " in Ecclesia et Regnum: Festschrift F.J. Schmale (Bochum 1989) 30922. w. brandmÜler, Das Konzil von Konstanz (Paderborn 1991). For additional bibliography see a. frenken, Lexikon des Mittelalters (Munich 1991) 5:54647; and Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1997) 26:117172.

[p. m. savage]