How many popes did you say?

One reason that I love reading about Dante, beyond reading his Divine Comedy, is that the early 1300s were a tumultuous time. It helps to keep our modern troubles in perspective.

The Church went through 14 popes in Dante’s fifty-six year lifespan. Three of those popes served for less than a year. For comparison, there were eight popes from 1903 to 2003, and that’s a pretty average number for the last three or four hundred years.

However, between the years 999 and 1099 there were twenty-two popes and a whole set of anti-popes. I find this fascinating because the anti-popes that I was aware of were all part of the Great Western Schism which began about sixty years after Dante’s death, but the time period just after the millennium seems almost as bad as 1379 to 1450.

The list of popes is given on the New Advent website and the anti-popes are announced in red so it’s easy to run your eye down the list and see where there was trouble!


I also read an interesting article discussing Chesterton, H. G. Wells, Dante, the Medieval warm period, and a great famine that swept Europe in 1315. I’ve only recently heard of this famine, involving among other things, rain for two years in Germany. It was a prelude to the Plague in 1349 in terms of its dreadful effects on the people.

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