Monday, June 14, 2010

Antipope Christopher of Rome

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The Roman-born{1} Christopher, son of Leo,{2} was made "cardinal priest of the titular church of San Lorenzo in Damaso"{3} in 900.{4} In September 903,{5} maybe because he was more pro-Formosan than Leo V or maybe because Leo V was foreign whereas he was "deep[ly] root[ed] within the Roman clergy,"{6} Christopher overthrew and imprisoned Pope Leo V, who had been pope for a month.{7} The holy{8} Leo V soon died in jail.{9} Christopher reigned as antipope from September 903 until January 904,{10} when the true successor of Leo V, Pope Sergius III, "with the help of Duke Alberic I of Spoleto" (†925),{11} had him deposed, jailed, and clothed in a monk's habit.{12} As antipope, Christopher had issued a 12/26/903 bull called "Cum Romanae" that confirmed the privileges that Popes Benedict III (9/29/855-4/17/858) and St. Nicholas I the Great (4/24/858-11/13/867) gave to the abbey of Corbie.{13} Pope St. Leo IX (2/12/1049-4/19/1054) cited this bull when he confirmed "the same privileges."{14} Christopher probably "died repentant in a monastery"{15} in early 904.{16} He was buried at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome,{17} and before his tomb was destroyed during demolition and construction in the 16th or 17th century,{18} his epitaph read, "Here repose the pious members of Christopher."{19} Antipope Christopher's portrait can be found in St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome and "the walls of the ancient church of San Pier-in-Grado, outside Pisa."{20}
Notes & References
{1} Mann, Rev. Fr. Horace Kinder. The Lives of the Popes In The Early Middle Ages, vol. IV. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co., Ltd., 1910. <>. p. 112.
{2} Ibid.
{3} Herbers, Klaus. "[CHRISTOPHER]." The Papacy: An Encyclopedia, 1st. ed. Ed. Philippe Levillian, John W. O'Malley. Routledge, 2002. Religion Online. Taylor & Francis. 14 Jun. 2010 <>.
{4} Miranda, Salvador. "Cristoforo." The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. 14 Jun. 2010 <>.
{5} Herbers, loc. cit.
{6} Ibid.
{7} Savage, P. M. "Christopher, Antipope." New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. p. 562. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Fordham University Libraries. 14 Jun. 2010.
{8} According to Auxilius. Mann IV:112.
{9} Mann, "Pope Christopher." The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 14 Jun. 2010 <>.
{10} Savage, loc. cit.
{11} Ibid.
{12} Mann IV:115.
{13} Miranda, loc. cit.
{14} Savage, loc. cit.
{15} Mann IV:116. Cf. Gian Domenico Mansi qtd. in PL 131:45. Herimannus Augiensis says that Christopher died a monk. Savage, loc. cit.
{16} Savage, loc. cit. I accept Savage's assignation of the date of Christopher's repose, but not his attribution of it to execution by Pope Sergius III. As part of this project on chronicling the lives of the popes and antipopes, I synthesize the conflicting data according to the instruction of St. Paul the Apostle [1 Thess 5:21]: "Test everything; retain what is good." May the Lord make good use of me, a poor sinner, to spread the truth about the history of the Church and her princes, and those who usurped the throne of her princes. Amen.
{17} Herbers, loc. cit.
{18} Miranda, loc. cit.
{19} According to 12th-century historian Peter Mallius. Mann IV:115.
{20} Mann, "Pope Christopher."

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