The Papal Schism or Western Schism was a rift in the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages during which there were two Papacies existing simultaneously, one in Rome and the other in Avignon, France. It began in 1378, the year after Pope Gregory XI brought the Papal Court back to Rome from Avignon, where it had resided for almost 70 years due to hostilities between the Roman Papacy and the Kingdom of France. When Gregory died, the Neapolitan Bartolomeo Prignano was elected Pope with the name Urban VI (1378-1389). He, however, quarrelled with the very College of Cardinals that had elected him. They therefore declared his election void and elected a new, second Pontiff, Pope Clement VII (1378-1404), who re-established the Papal Court in Avignon and was recognized by Scotland, Castile, Aragon, Navarre and Portugal.
Siding with Pope Urban VI in Rome were Italy, Germany, Bohemia, England and Ireland, Flanders, Poland and Hungary.
The Schism continued even after the death of the original rival Popes with the election of Boniface IX in Rome (1389-1404) and Benedict XIII in Avignon (1394-1423). The Popes in Avignon were called Antipopes. At this time European efforts to restore the unity of the Roman Catholic Church were growing. Unfortunately, neither the Council nor the Popes themselves were able to reconcile, as neither side was willing to budge from their demands.
In 1409 the dispute escalated to the point that the Cardinals declared both Popes invalid and elected a third, the Antipope John XXIII (1410-1415). None of the Popes submitted to being dethroned, however. The conflict embroiled the rulers of the various countries involved, among others Sigismund of Luxembourg, who took the side of John XXIII.
The Council of Constance was convened on November 5th, 1414 to resolve the issue. The Council secured the resignations of Antipope John XXIII and the Roman Pope Gregory XII, and in 1417 elected a new Pope, Martin V (1417-1431), based in Rome. This essentially brought an end to the Schism, although there were subsequently two more Antipopes who continued to be supported by a minority, Benedict XIV and Clement VIII, who resigned in 1429, leaving Martin V once again the sole Pontiff.

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