How a Pirate Became the Pope

By | October 19, 2019


The Western Schism, a
split in the leadership in the Catholic
church opened the door just wide enough
to allow a pirate to rise up the ranks to pope. Baldassare Cossa, a
pretty unholy figure known for seducing nuns and
betraying his enemies or you know, pirate stuff, reigned for
five years as Pope John XXIII, while the Catholic church was
in chaos with three popes taking the reign all at the same
time and none of them willing to secede power. Today we’re going to
take a look at how a pirate became the
pope, but before we do, let’s have a talk. I need you to subscribe. Oh, you did? Well, good for you. Now pack your rosary beads. We’re going to the 1400s. In 1409, the Catholic
church dun goofed up and found itself with three
popes at the same time– Benedict XIII, Gregory XII,
and Alexander V. All three claimed to be
legitimately elected popes, which is not
how elections work, and they each called
the other heretics. The unorganized mess at
the top of the church left them vulnerable for
a less than reputable guy to come in and
snatch the papacy. Cossa was a supporter
of Gregory XII, but in 1408, that messy
man who lived for drama turned on Gregory and pushed
for the Council of Pisa, which in turn elected Alexander
V after he died and 1410. Cossa said, I got this. And being a crooked
and powerful cardinal, he grabbed the stole
of Peter claiming he would place it on the
most deserving successor and naturally donned
the stole himself and took the name
Pope John XXIII. In order to understand where
Cossa’s as brash tendencies came from, we should
start from the beginning. Cossa was born about
1365 in the Bay of Naples to a family that
seemingly loved to pirate, and Cossa was
reportedly no exception. Two of his brothers
were executed for piracy by King Ladislaus of Naples,
putting a real sour note on the Cossa family
pirate business. After leaving Ischia,
Cossa spent some years working as a condottieri,
or mercenary captain, before deciding to
pursue a law degree at the University of Bologna. He didn’t become a
priest until his 30s. Now, it might be shocking
to hear he wasn’t a very noble one at that. At 32 years old, Cossa
became a cardinal, and from 1403 to 1408, Cossa
was the papal representative in Bologna where he
earned his law degree. And like any good Game
of Thrones villain, saw chaos surrounding the
church as an opportunity. In 1408, two rival
popes dominated Europe, and like a bitter
divorce, they were real catty about
demanding allegiance from European rulers. Though Cossa had once
supported Pope Gregory XII, he quickly abandoned
any loyalty to Gregory and urged the council to
solve their problem of we just have too many
popes themselves. Cossa became an important figure
at the 1409 Council of Pisa, which put him on the map and
set the course for his rise to King Pope. Cossa coerced both rival popes
into using scare tactics, and when Gregory XII
excommunicated him, Cossa publicly burned the order
by literally setting it on fire and not metaphorically
shouting insults at it. And when Pope Benedict
XIII’s representative is asked for his
protection and safe passage through Italy after Benedict
himself was disowned by France, Cossa very chill like
responded, “If you come to Italy, with or without
safe passage, I’ll burn you. Cross me, and I’ll set
you straight on fire.” After getting by in the 14th
century without a pope in Rome, the Catholic church now
had an abundance of popes with the church divided
between two of them. In 1378, Urban VI,
the pope in Rome, claimed to be
legitimately elected, but then again, Clement
VII, the pope in Avignon, also said that he was
legitimately elected. Of course, both popes claim the
other as being illegitimate. Europe split along
territorial lines with the people rooting
for their hometown popes. French and their allies were
all in on the Avignon pope, while the English
and their allies fancied their boy from
Rome, perfectly mirroring the political allegiances
of the Hundred Years’ War, which lasted from 1337
to 1453, or not 100 years. By 1409, the church had been
dealing with this messy pope drama for almost 30 years
with the two rival popes. Finally, a group of
Cardinals called the council to resolve this
once and for all. The Council of Pisa
stated all of these popes were canceled and
said both Avignon pope and the Roman pope
were illegitimate. In June of 1409,
the two popes were declared by the council as
schismatics and heretics and were both formally deposed. The council then
elected a new pope, Alexander V. This didn’t
go down well with the two recently fired popes. Both refused to step
down and suddenly the church who thought to pope
was a burden found themselves with three popes. Three rival popes were, frankly,
too many popes in the kitchen, and the strain was a lot
on the Catholic church. Despite his reputation
for being a real jerk, noted non-seducer Cossa had
the strongest following. Weird that out of two
large a field of choices, the worst one just
sort of sticks out and wins through
the whole thing. Cossa was the choice
of the Council of Pisa, which represented a ton
of powerful Cardinals. And Cossa, ever the survivor,
was a strategic pope aligning himself with a powerful
German ruler, Sigismund, and even helped him becoming
something called the Holy Roman Emperor. Cossa also pushed for
conflict with one arrival of Pope Gregory XIII’s
allies, Ladislaus of Naples. You would think these
popes would pray for peace. The former pirate remained
haunted by his poor reputation. As 18th century historian,
Edward Gibbon related, Cossa seduced over 200
women and to say nothing of an alarming number of nuns. As mentioned and trying
to secure his position as only pope, Cossa
pushed for conflict with King Ladislaus
of Naples because he was tight with Cossa’s
papal rival, Gregory XIII. Cossa teamed up with
Louis II of Anjou, who wanted to seize
the throne of Naples, and these holy rollers
banded together and succeeded in pushing
Ladislaus out of Naples. But salty Ladislaus bounced
back, baby, and quickly rebuilt his army. Cossa betrayed Louis
because, of course, he did by offering
a deal to Ladislaus. If the former king
of Naples rejected Pope Gregory XII
in favor of Cossa, he’d received money and land. In modern times,
we commonly refer to this as bribery, which is
in the most generous terms, not very cool and
not at all legal. Ladislaus took that
pile of money and land and accepted the offer. However, he too turned into
a real piece of human garbage and turned treacherous. In 1413, he turned his army
against Rome, sacked the city, and forced his boy, Cossa,
to flee to Florence. In 1414, another board,
the Council of Constance, formed to restore the
schism, but Cossa RSVP-ed as may be to this
invitation, debating whether or not to grace the
council with his presence. He only called the
council after pressure from his buddy, German
emperor, Sigismund, but he also thought he could
benefit from the council and solidify his position. In his mind, he had
the strongest claim to the pontificate. He was the consensused candidate
from the Council of Pisa, for crying out
loud, but his family cautioned him to dial back
on the confidence allegedly warning him, you may
go a pope and come back a private citizen. He could lose everything
if he went to the council. But do you think our boy Cossa
was a man of accountability and consequences? He ignored the family
warnings and appeared before the council. During the Council of
Constance, the church finally addressed the
elephant in the room. Three rival popes was not a
desirable number of popes. Early in the process,
things looked to be turning in favor of Cossa
becoming the consensus choice. Most council members
agreed that as the choice of the Council of Pisa,
Cossa had the strongest claim to the title, which
is exactly what Cossa freaking said would happen. The Italians also backed
Cossa because they’d rather this
non-seducing pirate be the pope over some French guy. So the Avignon pope was a
hard pass for the Italians. Unfortunately, for Cossa,
the French, the English, and the Germans split
from his corner, arguing instead that all three
popes should just call it and abdicate. Don’t worry. Cossa took the El on this
and quietly stepped down. Then the man put on
a costume and tried to escape like Bugs Bunny. The Council of Constance
had enough of this riff raff and wasn’t going to allow
Cossa to continue being pope because they were not insane. Cossa tried to
negotiate, promising to resign if his arrival
popes also resigned. The council somehow declined
this super good offer and turned down his proposal. So Cossa ran for it. He disguised himself
as a private citizen and fled from Constance. His flawless plan was
to disband the council by denouncing its authority or
the equivalent of sending out an angry tweet. Instead, the council
declared itself the supreme authority
in the church and ordered Cossa’s capture. Cossa was deposed
on May 29, 1415, assuming that his really
cool disguise didn’t work, as human beings
are not cartoons. After he was charged at
the Council of Constance, Cossa was put under arrest. According to 18th century
historian Edward Gibbon, “The most scandalous
charges were suppressed. The Vicar of Christ was
only accused of piracy,” so the nun stuff we’re
just going to ignore. Cossa was held prisoner
by ex-best friend Emperor Sigismund until 1418 when
he was released for ransom. Cossa’s successor
Pope Martin V, agreed to name Cossa Cardinal
Bishop of Tusculum, but only after a few months
on the job, Cossa passed away. While Cossa was a prisoner
of Emperor Sigismund, the council was still dealing
with all of the fallout caused by the Western Schism. The council eliminated the
other two popes and Gregory XII resigned the papacy
on July 4, 1415. Pope Benedict XIII
was a little salty and boldly demanded
to be named successor. The council said, no, and
they tried him in absentia and deposed him
on July 26, 1417, putting the final nail in the
coffin of the Western Schism. The council did consider
not naming a new pope at all and remaining the supreme
authority over the church, but that instinct
didn’t last long. The council elected a new,
singular pope, Pope Martin V, in late 1417. The Western Schism
left many Catholics wondering if popes were more
trouble than they were worth. According to historian
Marzieh Gail, European Christians
began to say, “One pope is too much
for the Catholic world. No pope would be even better.” So what caused all of his
papacy drama in the first place? The Western Schism happened
because of a power struggle between a pope and a
king in the 14th century. In 1303, the conflict between
Pope Boniface VIII and King Philip IV of France
came to a head. Boniface claimed complete
control over Europe declaring he was more
powerful than kings. Philip responded to
this outrageous claim by sending men to
kidnap Pope Thanos. The conflict between
church and state set off the Avignon
Papacy, wherein the Catholic church relocated
from Rome to Avignon, France. From 1309 to 1378,
popes lived in Avignon, and the French King extorted
control over the church. When the last Avignon
Pope, Gregory XI, died shortly after moving
the papacy back to Rome, things popped off and
a crisis was created. The newly elected
Pope, Urban VI, alienated his Cardinals who
then fled back to France. Those Cardinals elected
their own damn pope, and thus, a schism was created. And only 13 years
earlier, an agent of chaos was born that would
upend the whole thing. Pour one out for Cossa, the
messy pope who lived for drama. So what do you think? One pope, two popes? Three popes? Let us know in the comments
below, and while you’re at it, check out some of these other
videos from our Weird History.

100 thoughts on “How a Pirate Became the Pope

  1. Ryan Kisnics Post author

    How pirate becomes a pope is pretty simple you just got to molest children that's how it all works in that line of work very sad if you ask me

    Reply
  2. sloppyjoe400 Post author

    Can we please leave modern politics out of the videos? rolls eyes

    Reply
  3. SupaHot Fire Post author

    Did he have little boys on the ship so he could qualify?

    Reply
  4. Adele Irvine Post author

    Sorry, I'm now imagining a pope dressed as Bugs Bunny

    Reply
  5. D H Post author

    How did he know what bugs bunny looked like 100s of years ago?

    Reply
  6. Chelsey Thomas Post author

    You can keep your rosary beads! Now, Where my ship?

    Reply
  7. Jameson 86 Post author

    I really like your show, but since you seem to be incapable of making a show about history without adding your current political opinion, I have no choice but to unsubscribe. This is not the first time you've done this and I can't ignore it anymore. Please remember that 50% of your potential viewership disagrees with your politics, that's a lot of people that could be bringing you revenue. It's always bad for business when people insert politics where politics doesn't belong.

    Reply
  8. Barry Werdell Post author

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. I had hoped my suggestion was noticed and it was! You made my day. I've read about this but you have added facts I did not know that delighted me. You left out how the people of Rome and the Papal states were basically ignored by the French Popes and the living conditions got really bad because the Pope was also in charge of the day to day things that weren't being done when he was away. Thank You Once again!

    Reply
  9. Sara Fimm Post author

    That explains a lot about Luther (Lutherans and Huguenots) and later, King Henry VIII.

    Reply
  10. beeradvocate Post author

    He was an anti-pope and not recognized as a pope of the Catholic Church.

    Reply
  11. Michael LeBlanc Post author

    Baldassarre Cossa translates into English as 'Bad-Ass-Harry' of the Cosa Nostra ?

    Having said that this presentation is very superficial and very flippant treatment of history and completely ignores the mores of the times he was part of . . . typical of our age and the low-level understanding the mob embraces. While entertaining, try reading a more authoritative history and indulge yourself in a deeper understanding.

    Reply
  12. Trevor Milosch Post author

    this was not Pope John XXIII. You are incorrect. John XXIII was Pope in the 1950s and he wasn’t a pirate.

    Reply
  13. Herbert Munson Post author

    Every pope has been a wicked, blasphemous false prophet of the mystery Babylon mother whore Roman pagan catholic church. That wicked church is a wide path to Hell

    Reply
  14. GodsOfValhalla Post author

    Please stop injecting politics. Otherwise great channel!

    Reply
  15. Edward Brown Post author

    The Vatican has had a pirate, a woman, a psychopathic inquisitional murderer, numerous child abusers, banking thieves, war mongers, party harty drunkards, and many re-writers of history, as well as fanatical book burners hiding inquisitional eugenic genocidal horrors and materialistic scripture reinterpretations, so why shouldn't Christianity be the one acceptable religion of the entire world that globalistically, as well as, 'legally', calls all others 'heretics'… ( Said with tongue deep in the cheek…)… Just say'un…

    Reply
  16. kirby march barcena Post author

    Yep, this probably one of the inspiration for GoT…minus the supernatural characters.

    Reply
  17. Joe R M Post author

    Wonder what gave him away?

    Arrrr father who aarrrt in heaven…

    Reply
  18. James Thomas Post author

    I would rather sodomize myself with red hot piece of metal than see Hillary Clinton as our president.

    Reply
  19. Timothy Adams Post author

    Pope John the XXIII was Pope from 12 January 1953 to 3 June 1963. Your history is off dude.

    Reply
  20. lerneanlion Post author

    What was it like to be a citizen living in Islamic Spain/Al-Andalus?

    Reply
  21. Jan Micah Balladares Post author

    Correction:
    He is pope John xxii (twenty second)

    Reply
  22. MIEN FURER Post author

    a pirate become a pope!
    and lots of priest becomes a PEDO!

    Reply
  23. Margaret, Theophilus Post author

    St. John Paul or as he was known on Earth, Pope John Paul ll, The Great. ( I think there are only three popes with the title of “ The Great”. Then you have Alexander the Great, Catherine the Great, Herod the great and Ramses the great. I’m sure there are more. )

    Reply
  24. DAMN YANKEE Post author

    🇺🇸TRUMP/PENCE 2020 HO'S!!!🇺🇸
    –Bell, CA.

    Reply
  25. This Person Post author

    Did they say Pope Thanos?

    Too bad he didn't have the Infinity Stones during that time, he could have stopped the plague in it's tracks.

    Reply
  26. J.K.R Rider Post author

    Tsk tsk tsk. So glad the church acknowledged him as an antipope

    Reply
  27. Jarrold Bates Post author

    Geezus! That was some crazy ass sh!t. Glad to be dune with all that religious crap in my life 45 yr. ago.

    Reply
  28. Robert Miles Post author

    When he stands behind the boys' choir he becomes a booty pirate.

    Reply
  29. Manley Gene Post author

    Wow did you f ck up. Several time you referred to John 23 in the 16th and 17th century. Tighten you girdle there 'couse here it comes.
    Pope John XXIII (Latin: Ioannes; Italian: Giovanni; born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Italian pronunciation: [ˈandʒelo dʒuˈzɛppe roŋˈkalli]; 25 November 1881 – 3 June 1963) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963; he was canonized on 27 April 2014.

    Reply
  30. Manley Gene Post author

    Pope John XXIII (Latin: Ioannes; Italian: Giovanni; born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Italian pronunciation: [ˈandʒelo dʒuˈzɛppe roŋˈkalli]; 25 November 1881 – 3 June 1963) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963; he was canonized on 27 April 2014.

    Reply
  31. Jovan Weismiller Post author

    John XXIII was never Pope, which is why Pope John XXIII ruled the Catholic Church from 1958 to 1963.

    Reply
  32. Persian Post author

    Do what it was to be a persian solider vs a Greek solider

    Reply
  33. Wulf O'Crow Post author

    You're the reason history is so full of lies.
    He was elected because he wanted political criminals accounted for, an end to wars in the middle east, and to stop the destructive flow of foreigners into his nation, not because he was a horndog or scumbag.

    Reply
  34. Lisa Ward Post author

    I’m sorry, John 23rd did WHAT?! My elementary school was named John 23rd, haha.

    Reply
  35. Hazard The Great Post author

    I can't believe they named many Catholic schools after this guy smh🤦🏼‍♂️

    Reply
  36. Argath5724 The 1st Post author

    A corrupted Pope how the hell did that is that possible?! 😱 (all sarcasm) (btw i formally catholic so don’t know what I’m talking about)

    Reply
  37. Xx_CheetohFingers_xX Post author

    I don’t know if all the way up being a pope but yea it’s a thing we’re God will use the most least probable person

    Reply
  38. Mathieu Leader Post author

    I wonder if this character will be referenced in one peice

    Reply
  39. r385671 Post author

    Really no difference between pirates and the Catholic Church.

    Reply
  40. Derrick Adams Post author

    A fun idea—do one on the massive super wolf packs that were killing so many Russian and German soldiers in WWI that a temporary truce was called to called to hunt wolves together. Then they went back to fighting.

    Reply
  41. J M Post author

    Please keep current politics out of your videos. You really don't believe everyone hates Trump for absolutely no reason, do you? The guy may personally be a nut sack, but according to his approval rating, he's doing his job just fine.

    Reply
  42. Harry Stallone Post author

    where has this channel been all my time here on youtube? it is fucking amazing

    Reply
  43. Jason Davis Post author

    That background music is way too loud and distracting

    Reply
  44. mandgsurvival Post author

    Technically, this John XXIII wasn't a real pope. He was an antipope, so not the official head of the Catholic Church so not THE pope. The real John XXIII was pope from 1958 till 1963, and since the 15th-century antipope with the name John XXIII wasn't the real head of the Catholic Church, his name could be reused by the real John XIII centuries later.

    Reply
  45. Dr.Bright Post author

    I love Pope Fights! Also, someone please tell me this dude was canonized.

    Reply
  46. plush man Post author

    Wow, and here I was all these years believing every Pope was a pirate

    Reply
  47. panos livathinopoulos Post author

    What about Templar knights??? Realt curious

    Reply
  48. Noah Ferguson Post author

    The fact that back then popes used to take people's money to quote: "Cleanse the people of their sins" they were basically pirates.

    Reply
  49. C.O. Jones Post author

    Wow, the papacy is so boring these days! We need more pirate popes!

    Reply
  50. Matt Becker Post author

    You should do a video on the South Sea Company the fake trading company that almost bankrupt the British Empire.

    Reply
  51. Jay Percent Post author

    YOU get a pope! And YOU get a pope!! AND YOU GET A POPE!!!

    Reply
  52. Niamh C Post author

    Love that this didn’t show up in my sub box. Thanks YouTube ✌️

    Reply
  53. Ciangel Draws Post author

    I think for your next video you should talk about Elizabeth Bathory (The blood Countress) I personally find her story very interesting and weird, I mean she killed for beauty! Of course her story is weird!

    Reply
  54. TerrariaExpert Post author

    In my opinion, this is one of the best channels on youtube, I love you dude, keep on the grind

    Reply
  55. Абрахам Post author

    there's been worse popes like the one that would have men killed and then take their wives

    Reply

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