Pope John XVI

John XVI was an antipope who succeeded Pope Gregory V. He’s not officially credited as holding the position, as his reign was illegitimate. He betrayed Emperor Otto II and paid for that decision dearly.


Background and History with the Church

John XVI has an interesting background. He was born sometime around 941 in Rossano, which is a Calibrian town in Southern Italy.

His career with the Church started as a chaplain. He was Chaplain for Theophanu, who was the Holy Roman Empress and wife to Emperor Otto II. John XVI’s relationship with the emperor and empress grew strong. He eventually tutored their child, Otto III, and became his godfather.

Eventually, he was appointed Bishop of Piacenza.



John XVI became antipope with the help of Crescentius II. Crescentius II violently unseated the current pope, Pope Gregory V. Gregory V happened to be the cousin on then emperor, Otto III.

Crescentius wanted to ally Rome with Byzantine while also going against emperor Otto III. He offered the papacy to John XVI. Despite his relationship with Otto, he accepted.

The following year, Otto III came to Rome with an army. He beheaded Crescentius. Antipope John XVI attempted to flee, but he was captured by the Emperor’s troops. They then cut off his nose, ears, and tongue. The troops also blinded him, broke his fingers, and forced him to ride through the streets of Rome on a donkey.

He was originally going to be killed by Otto III and Gregory IV, but Saint Nilus the Younger intervened. Instead of being killed, he was sent off to a monastery in Germany to live out the rest of his days.


Quick Facts About Antipope John XVI

  • John XVI was born around 941.
  • His birth name was John.
  • It’s not exactly sure when John XVI died. But, it’s believed that he died sometime around the year 1001.
  • John XVI died while he was imprisoned at the monastery of Fulda in Germany. He had been mutilated and humiliated years prior. It’s theorized that he died of causes related to his injuries.
  • Pope John XVI’s papacy started sometime in April of 997.
  • His papacy ended by force in February of 998.
  • Pope John XIV was succeeded by a rightful pope, Pope Sylvester II.


Interesting Facts About Antipope John XVI

  • John XVI was never officially recognized by western bishops as a pope. He is considered an Antipope.
  • He took the position of Pope behind the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III’s back.
  • Before his betrayal, John XVI was a close ally to Otto II. He was even Otto III’s godfather.
  • John XVI was meant to be executed. But, Otto III spared his life at the behest of Abbott St. Nilus.
  • He died, humiliated, a few years after his brief reign ended.