The Antipope Alexander V was elected in the city of Pisa in 1409 during the height of the Great Western Schism (1378-1417). Because of his election, Alexander V became the third pope after the ones in Avignon and in Rome. His election, however, was not recognized by the Avignon and Roman popes. After ruling for ten months, Alexander V died in the city of Bologna in 1410. He was later considered as an antipope by the Roman Catholic Church. These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time.
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The young Pietro Philarghi (or Peter of Candia) was born in 1339 in the island of Crete. He was said to be an orphan and he begged on the streets before he was taken in by Franciscan friars. He later became a monk in a Franciscan monastery. He was sent to Padua in Italy to study, and continued his education at Oxford and in Paris. He became a prominent scholar and professor during the Great Western Schism (1378-1417).
Pietro also taught the sons of the Lord of Milan, Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti. He was promoted several times as a bishop of Piacenza (1386), Vicenza (1387), and Novara (1389). He received the dioceses because of his close association with the House of Visconti. In 1402, Pope Gregory XII appointed him as the Archbishop of Milan. He became a cardinal and papal legate to Lombardy in 1405.
The Council of Pisa and the Third Pope
Cardinal Pietro Philarghi was one of the leading cardinals who pushed for a council to end the Great Western Schism. He encouraged the cardinals of Avignon and Rome to set aside their loyalties to their popes so that they could assemble a council. Pope Gregory XII became angry with Cardinal Philarghi because of this initiative and removed him as an archbishop.
The council summoned by Cardinal Philarghi pushed through in spite of the pope’s anger. The cardinals gathered in the city of Pisa on March 25, 1409, and they condemned the schism that went on from 1378. They also declared the Avignon pope Benedict XIII and the Roman pope Gregory XIII as schismatics and heretics. They announced the deposition of the two popes and elected Cardinal Philarghi as the new pope in 1409. He took the name Alexander V soon after.
The Avignon and Roman popes rejected the election of the Pisan pope. Alexander V ruled for ten months until he was imprisoned in Bologna by Cardinal Cossa (the future John XXIII). His supporters suspected that Alexander was poisoned after he died in the city in 1410. He was buried in the Basilica of San Francesco in Bologna. A new pope who took the name John XXIII was elected in Pisa in the same year.
Picture by: Unknown – http://www.araldicavaticana.com/pantalessandro5.htm, Public Domain, Link
Izbicki, Thomas M., and Joelle Rollo-Koster. Companion to the Great Western Schism (1378-1417) (Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, v. 17). Brill Academic Publishers, 2009.
Locke, Clinton. The Age of the Great Western Schism. New York: Christian Literature Co., 1896.
O’Malley, John W. A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present. Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2010.
Peterson, John Bertram. “Alexander V.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 18 Jan. 2017 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01288a.htm>.
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