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Lawrence, Antipope


Pontificate: Nov. 22, 498 to 499, 502 to 506. At the death of anastasius ii in November 498, the Roman community split between those who wanted to continue the dead pope's conciliatory policies toward the Byzantine empire and the Patriarchate of Constantinople and those who wanted to return to the hardline approach of gelasius i (492496). Most clergy favored a hard line and chose the deacon Symmachus (Nov. 22, 498July 19,514); a minority of the clergy, but the bulk of the aristocracy favored conciliation and chose the archpriest Laurentius. Neither faction could prevail, and so both appealed to the Ostrogothic, Arian king of Italy, Theodoric (493516), which meant that a heretical barbarian would choose the bishop of Rome. Theodoric decided that Symmachus had more support at Rome and so sided with him. Laurentius accepted the decision, withdrew his candidacy in February of 499, and put his name first on the list of clergy supporting the decrees of a synod held by Symmachus. He also graciously accepted a bishopric in Campania.

However, his supporters would not accept defeat. In 502 they went to Theodoric to charge Symmachus with unchastity and misuse of funds. Symmachus retaliated by turning on Lawrence, who gave up his bishopric and fled to the Ostrogothic capital at Ravenna. The king ordered a synod to judge the case against Symmachus, who was exonerated, but by then Lawrence's supporters controlled much of Rome, and he returned to the city and occupied the Lateran basilica, forcing Symmachus to retire across the Tiber and hold court in St. Peter's basilica. For four years Lawrence's had the stronger position, but Theodoric's relations with Constantinople steadily declined, and he had less tolerance for a pro-Byzantine pope. In 506 the king forced Laurentius to leave the city, and Symmachus promptly excommunicated him. Lawrence retired to an estate owned by one of his supporters, and he died there a year later.

Bibliography: h. jedin, History of the Church (New York 1980) 2:620621. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of the Popes (New York 1986) 52. p. leewellyn, "The Roman Church during the Laurentian Schism: Priests and Senators," Church History 45 (1978) 4174278. j. moorehead, "The Laurentian Schism: East and West in the Roman Church," Church History 47 (1978) 125136. j. richards, Popes and Papacy the Early Middle Ages (London 1979) 6999.

[j. f. kelly]

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