The Council of Pisa


I am really confused by the Western Schism, and have two questions which the NewAdvent encyclopedia seems rather vague on, and I am rather agitated to find an answer to (need a decent defense against more intellectual attacks against the Church) :

1.) Was pope Alexander V legitimate? If so how is Martin V legitimate and John XXIII not?

2.) Was the Council of Pisa legitimate? If not, how? If so, then was pope Gregory XII illegitimate (I’m pretty sure he was legitimate)?

Thanks in advance!


Here goes :smiley:

The Council of Pisa of 1410 which elected Petros Philargos as Pope, so that he became Alexander V, was not in itself a true ecumenical council.

The solution to all this confusion is that the rival Popes resigned in 1415 (apart from Pedro de Luna, AKA Benedict XIII, who insisted that he was sole legitimate successor of Peter - so he was excommunicated, & died as such; he had two successors, but then his followers were reconciled to the Roman Pope, who by that time was Martin V’s successor, Eugenius IV)

So -
*]the Roman Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415
*]the Pisan Pope Alexander V died in 1415, and was succeeded by Baldassare Cossa, who became John XXIII; who eventually resigned, in 1417
*]& there was Pedro de Luna (see above), who died in 1423[/LIST]The successor to Gregory XII was Martin IV, who was elected at the Council of Constance, which began uncanonically in 1414, ended canonically in 1418, & is thus partly ecumenical - & partly not.

In order to clear matters up, each rival Pope was regarded as having been “Pope in his obedience” until 1415 - that is, as Benedict XIII had been acknowledged in Scotland, his acts in Scotland were regarded as being valid - & so with the other Popes & their acts: what Gregory XII did in his Roman obedience, had the same force for his subjects; & so on.

As they were regarded as being Popes, even if only in this limited way, the Pope Alexander after the Pisan Alexander V is Alexander VI (AKA Rodrigo Borgia). In 1947, the list of the Popes was revised, one of the revisions taking the form of leaving out Baldassare Cossa, except as an anti-Pope - so there was no more John XXIII, until Angelo Roncalli was elected in 1958, taking that name.

Things are slightly confused by the fact that this tidy solution was ignored by the cardinal who in the 18th century became Benedict XIII :slight_smile: - how that happened, I don’t know :slight_smile:

I hope that helps - things became tangled very quickly :slight_smile:

Thanks in advance!


Thanks, that clears up alot. For clarity’s sake though I am still slightly confused:

1.) Why was the Council of Pisa illegitimate?

2.) Was Alexander V and Benedict XIII actual official legitimate popes (more than one at the Seat of Peter at one time) or was only Gregory XII the true pope until Martin V? I ask that one because of the more than one true pope thing, and also because I think the official list of popes excludes Alexander V, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong place.


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