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Antipope Christopher (903-904 AD)

Antipopes

An antipope is a person who claimed the title of the pope but was not elected as one by the relevant council. He may also be a person elected as one but in opposition to the legitimate pope. Many of these antipopes received the support of cardinals and sometimes, by kings who used them for political purposes. Chrisophorus usurped the chair in 903 AD, where he is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History.

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The 3rd-century theologian Hippolytus of Rome was considered as the first antipope after he headed a group of dissenters against Pope Calixtus I. According to the church historian Eusebius, a priest named Natalius became a bishop of a group considered as heretical during the reign of Pope Zephyrinus around 200 AD. Natalius received a salary of 150 denarii from the group, but he did not last long in his papacy after he was “scourged by holy angels, and punished severely through the entire night.” Natalius returned to Zephyrinus and begged his forgiveness after this episode. Novatian, another 3rd-century priest, and theologian was considered as one of the first well-known antipopes after he had a falling out with Pope Cornelius between 250 to 251 AD.

christopher_antipope
“Antipope Christopher”

The Usurpation of Antipope Christopher

Christopher was the son of a Roman citizen named Leo, but there was no other available information about his background beyond his father’s name. Before he became a pope (or considered an antipope), he served as a cardinal of St. Damasus under the Pope Leo V, who was removed from his office and imprisoned in October of 903 AD. The pope died in the same year, and Christopher was proclaimed as the new pope from October, 903 AD until January, 904 when he was deposed by Pope Sergius III.

Roman Catholic historians were divided whether Christopher, indeed, was the legitimate pope or not. His name, however, appeared in all major lists of official popes and his portrait sat alongside other popes in the Basilica of St. Paul. Images of Christopher were also painted on frescoes in the church of San Pietro a Grado in the city of Pisa. While his successors also acknowledged him as a pope. It was only in the 20th century that Christopher was officially removed from the Annuario Pontificio or list of popes.

According to 11th century Roman Catholic scholar Hermann of Reichenau, Christopher was compelled to resign from the position in 904 AD, while the Italian priest and scholar Eugenius Vulgaris wrote that Sergius III ordered Christopher’s imprisonment and murder.

References:
Picture By Unknown – Basilica de San Paulo fuori le Mura, Roma, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13303903
Carroll, Warren H. “Antipopes.” EWTN | Global Catholic Network. Accessed September 13, 2016. https://www.ewtn.com/library/HOMELIBR/ANTIPOPE.TXT.
Rogers, Mark. The Esoteric Codex: Antipopes. Lulu.com, 2014. April 30, 2014.
Eusebius of Caesarea. “Church History.” Documenta Catholica Omnia. Accessed September 14, 2016. http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0265-0339,_Eusebius_Caesariensis,_Church_History,_EN.pdf.
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