Magazine article History Today

Election of John XXIII to the Papacy

Magazine article History Today

Election of John XXIII to the Papacy

Article excerpt

In the years before 1410 more popes chose the name John than any other. Since then there has been only one. The appalling reputation of John XXIII saw to that. The Great Schism in the Roman Catholic Church began in 1378 with two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon, each with his own profitably employed cardinals and officials. This situation continued until 1409, when cardinals from the rival camps met at the Council of Pisa. The dominating figure was an Italian, Baldassare Cossa, an exceptionally able prelate notorious for his profligacy. Gossip credited him with women in the hundreds. The council deposed both current popes and elected the Archbishop of Milan as Alexander V, but he died the following year. The Pisan allegiance replaced him with Cossa, but there were now three popes in contention: Cossa as John XXIII, Gregory XII in Rome and Benedict XIII in Avignon.

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The patience of Europe was wearing thin and in 1414 pressure from Sigismund, King of the Romans and heir to the Holy Roman Empire, compelled John XXIII to convene the Council of Constance to resolve matters. …

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