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Baldassarre Cossa (c. 1370 – 22 December 1419), was Antipope John XXIII during the Western Schism (1410–1415).


Baldassarre Cardinal Cossa was born in Procidamarker (according to other sources, Ischiamarker).

He was one of the seven cardinal who, in May 1408, deserted Pope Gregory XII, and, with those belonging to the obedience of Antipope Benedict XIII, convened the Council of Pisa, of which Cossa became the leader. They elected Antipope Alexander V in 1409. Cossa succeeded him a year later.

Edward Gibbon asserts in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that John XXIII was charged with piracy, murder, rape, simony and incest, with the more serious charges being suppressed. The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, however, remarks that although John's "moral life was not above reproach, and his unscrupulous methods in no wise accorded with the requirements of his high office . . . the heinous crimes of which his opponents in the council accused him were certainly gravely exaggerated."

Tomb of Antipope John XXIII.

He should not be confused with Pope John XXIII of the twentieth century. The fact that there were more popes named John than of any other name during the first 1400 years of the Church and then no more for over 500 years is probably due to the controversial figure this antipope represented. When Angelo Cardinal Roncalli was elected and became Pope John, there was some confusion as to whether he would be John XXIII or John XXIV; he then declared that he was John XXIII to put this question to rest. The decision of the twentieth-century Pope John XXIII not to be named John XXIV, as might have be expected, serves as a confirmation of the antipope status of this first John XXIII. It should be noted, however, that the numbering of the popes called John is debatable (as there was no John XX); for example, Gibbon refers to the antipope John as John XXII.

With the aid of the Emperor Sigismund, Pope John convened the Council of Constancemarker in 1412. During the third session, rival Pope Gregory XII authorized the council as well, and soon both popes abdicated in favor of Pope Martin V, while the last remaining claimant in Avignon was excommunicated when he refused to resign as well. Cossa, as he was again, was briefly imprisoned in Germany before being freed by Martin V in 1418.

He died in Florence, as cardinal bishop of Tusculummarker, in 1419. He is buried in a tombmarker in the Battistero di San Giovannimarker in Florence.

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