Papal name

A papal name or pontificial name is the regnal name taken by a pope. Both the head of the Catholic Church, usually known as the Pope, and the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (Coptic Pope) choose papal names. As of 2013, Pope Francis is the Catholic Pope, and Tawadros II or Theodoros II is the Coptic Pope. This article discusses and lists the names of Catholic Popes; another article has a list of Coptic Orthodox Popes of Alexandria.

While popes in the early centuries retained their birth names after their accession to the papacy, later on popes began to adopt a new name upon their accession. This first started in the sixth century and became customary in the 10th century. Since 1555, every pope has taken a papal name.

The pontificial name is given in Latin by virtue of the Pope's status as Bishop of the Holy See of Rome. The Pope is also given an Italian name by virtue of his Vatican citizenship. However, it is customary when referring to popes to translate the regnal name into all local languages. Thus, for example, Papa Franciscus (Latin, the official language of the Holy See), is Papa Francesco in Italian (the language of the Vatican), Papa Francisco in his native Spanish, and Pope Francis in English.

Tafel paepste
Popes buried in St. Peter's

Title and honorifics


The official style of the Catholic Pope in English is His Holiness Pope [papal name]. Holy Father is another honorific often used for popes.

The full title, rarely used, of the Catholic Pope in English is: His Holiness [papal name], Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the servants of God.


The official title of the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of all Africa on the Holy See of St. Mark the Apostle. The Successor of St. Mark the Evangelist, Holy Apostle and Martyr, on the Holy Apostolic Throne of the Great City of Alexandria.

He is considered to be

  • Father of Fathers.
  • Shepherd of Shepherds.
  • Hierarch of all Hierarchs

Honorary titles attributed to the Hierarch of the Alexandrine Throne are

  • The Pillar and Defender of the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church and of the Orthodox Faith.
  • The Dean of the Great Catechetical School of Theology of Alexandria.
  • The Ecumenical (Universal) Judge (Arbitrator) of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic (Universal) Church.
  • The Thirteenth among the Holy Apostles.


During the first centuries of the church, the bishops of Rome continued to use their baptismal names after their elections. The custom of choosing a new name began in AD 533: Mercurius deemed it inappropriate for a pope to be named after the pagan Roman god Mercury, and adopted the name John II in honor of his predecessor John I, who was venerated as a martyr. In the 10th century clerics from beyond the Alps, especially Germany and France, acceded to the papacy and replaced their foreign-sounding names with more traditional ones.

The last pope to use his baptismal name was Marcellus II in 1555, a choice that was even then quite exceptional. Names are freely chosen by popes, and not based on any system. Names of immediate or distant predecessors, mentors, saints, or even family members—as was the case with John XXIII—have been adopted.

In 1978 Cardinal Albino Luciani became the first pope to take a double name, John Paul I, to honour his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI; he had been elevated to bishop by John XXIII, then to Patriarch of Venice and the College of Cardinals by Paul VI. John Paul I was also the first pope in almost 1,100 years since Lando in 913 to adopt a papal name that had not previously been used. After John Paul I's sudden death a month later, Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła was elected and, wishing to continue his predecessor's work, became the second Pope to take a double name as John Paul II. In 2013, a new name was introduced into the lineage: on being elected Pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio selected the name Francis to emphasize the spirit of poverty and peace embodied by Saint Francis of Assisi.[1]


Often the new pontiff's choice of name upon being elected to the papacy is seen as a signal to the world of whom the new pope will emulate, what policies he will seek to enact, or even the length of his reign. Such was the case with Benedict XVI – it was speculated that he chose the name because he wished to emulate Benedict XV, and to also call attention to the fact that at 7.5 years, Benedict XV's reign was relatively short. Benedict XVI's own reign, which ended with his resignation on 28 February 2013, also lasted less than 8 years (he was already 78 when elected).

Saint Peter was the first Pope; no Pope of Rome has chosen the name Peter II, although there is no prohibition against doing so. Since the 1970s some antipopes, with only a minuscule following, took the name Pope Peter II.

Probably because of the controversial fifteenth-century antipope known as Pope John XXIII, this name was avoided for over 500 years until the election in 1958 of Pope (of Rome) John XXIII. Immediately after John XXIII's election as pope in 1958, it was not known if he would be John XXIII or XXIV; he decided that he would be known as John XXIII. The number used by an antipope is ignored if possible, but this is not possible if, by the time someone is reckoned as antipope, the name has since been used by one or more legitimate popes (e.g. Benedict X was later reckoned as antipope).

Current practice

Immediately after a new pope is elected, and accepts the election, he is asked in Latin "By what name shall you be called?"† The new pope chooses the name by which he will be known from that point on. The senior Cardinal Deacon, or Cardinal Protodeacon, then appears on the balcony of Saint Peter's to proclaim the new pope by his birth name, and announce his papal name:

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:
Habemus Papam!
Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum dominum,
dominum [baptismal name],
Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem [surname],
qui sibi nomen imposuit [papal name].

I announce to you a great joy:
We have a Pope!
The Most Eminent and Most Reverend Father,
Lord [baptismal name],
Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church [surname],
who takes to himself the name [papal name].

†Unless impeded, the Dean of the College of Cardinals asks the newly elected pope if he accepts his election and what name he will use. In 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Dean, was himself elected pope, so these questions were asked by the subdean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.


# Name # Popes Notes
1. John 21 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIV · XV · XVI  · XVII · XVIII · XIX · XX · XXI · XXII · XXIII  · XXIII No pope or antipope ever used the name John XX.
2. Gregory 16 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIV · XV · XVI
3. Benedict 15 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIII · XIV (2) · XIV · XV · XVI Benedict X was an antipope; two antipopes took the name Benedict XIV.
4. Clement 14 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIV
5. Innocent 13 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII
5. Leo 13 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII
7. Pius 12 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII
8. Stephen 9 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX Stephen II succeeded pope-elect Stephen (in some lists marked as Stephen II), who died before he could be consecrated as a bishop.
9. Boniface 8 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX Boniface VII was an antipope
9. Urban 8 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII
11. Alexander 7 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII Alexander V was an antipope
12. Adrian 6 I · II · III · IV · V · VI
12. Paul 6 I · II · III · IV · V · VI
14. Celestine 5 I · II · III · IV · V
14. Nicholas 5 I · II · III · IV · V
14. Sixtus 5 I · II · III · IV · V
17. Anastasius 4 I · II · III · IV
17. Eugene 4 I · II · III · IV
17. Honorius 4 I · II · III · IV
17. Sergius 4 I · II · III · IV
21. Callixtus 3 I · II · III
21. Felix 3 I · II · III · IV · V Felix II and V were antipopes
21. Julius 3 I · II · III
21. Lucius 3 I · II · III
21. Martin 3 I · II · III · IV · V No popes or antipopes ever used the names Martin II or Martin III. Marinus I and Marinus II were mistakenly thought to be named "Martin(us)", causing the confusion.
21. Sylvester 3 I · II · III
21. Victor 3 I · II · III
28. Adeodatus 2 I · II
28. Agapetus 2 I · II
28. Damasus 2 I · II
28. Gelasius 2 I · II
28. John Paul 2 I · II
28. Marcellus 2 I · II
28. Marinus 2 I · II
28. Paschal 2 I · II
28. Pelagius 2 I · II
28. Theodore 2 I · II
38. Agatho 1
38. Anacletus 1
38. Anicetus 1
38. Anterus 1
38. Caius 1
38. Conon 1
38. Constantine 1
38. Cornelius 1
38. Dionysius 1
38. Donus 1
38. Eleutherius 1
38. Eusebius 1
38. Eutychian 1
38. Evaristus 1
38. Fabian 1
38. Formosus 1
38. Francis 1
38. Hilarius 1
38. Hormisdas 1
38. Hyginus 1
38. Lando 1
38. Liberius 1
38. Linus 1
38. Marcellinus 1
38. Mark 1
38. Miltiades 1
38. Peter 1
38. Pontian 1
38. Romanus 1
38. Sabinian 1
38. Severinus 1
38. Silverius 1
38. Simplicius 1
38. Siricius 1
38. Sisinnius 1
38. Soter 1
38. Symmachus 1
38. Telesphorus 1
38. Valentine 1
38. Vigilius 1
38. Vitalian 1
38. Zachary 1
38. Zephyrinus 1
38. Zosimus 1


  • On average the papal name repeats 3.29 times.
  • The number of all popes to the present is 264. Pope Benedict IX was elected pope three times, therefore the number of pontificates is actually 266.
  • Data are taken from book: A. J. O'Brien, The Popes: Twenty Centuries of History, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002.
  • It is stated that the fifteenth-century John XXIII did exist but was considered an antipope.


  • McClintock, John. 1891. Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. (Available online)
1073 papal election

The papal election of 1073 (held 22 April) saw the election of Hildebrand of Sovana (who took the papal name Gregory VII) as successor to Pope Alexander II.

Antipope Sylvester IV

Sylvester IV was a claimant to the papacy from 1105 to 1111.

Members of the Roman aristocracy, with the support of the German king Henry V (1105–1125), set up another antipope to replace Pope Paschal II (1099–1118), electing Maginulfo, the Archpriest of St. Angelo in Peschiera, while Paschal II was away from Rome.

After his election Maginulfo took the papal name of Sylvester IV and was consecrated in the Church of St. Maria Rotonda (the Pantheon) and was enthroned in the Lateran on November 18, 1105. When Paschal II returned to Rome the next day, Sylvester IV left for Tivoli and finally settled in Osimo, Province of Ancona, under the protection of Count Guarniero di Ancona. On April 11, 1111, Paschal II and King Henry V reached an agreement about the investiture of Catholic bishops. Then the king, who had used Sylvester IV to exercise pressure on Paschal II, made the antipope abandon his claim to the office of pope and submit to Paschal II. He was allowed to live out the rest of his life in Ancona with Count Guarniero, his patron.

Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi (Italian: San Francesco d'Assisi, Latin: Sanctus Franciscus Assisiensis), born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco (1181/1182 – 3 October 1226), was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon and preacher. He founded the men's Order of Friars Minor, the women's Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.Pope Gregory IX canonized Francis on 16 July 1228. Along with Saint Catherine of Siena, he was designated Patron saint of Italy. He later became associated with patronage of animals and the natural environment, and it became customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October. He is often remembered as the patron saint of animals. In 1219, he went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the Sultan to put an end to the conflict of the Crusades. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient. He returned to Italy to organize the Order. Once his community was authorized by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. Francis is also known for his love of the Eucharist. In 1223, Francis arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene. According to Christian tradition, in 1224 he received the stigmata during the apparition of Seraphic angels in a religious ecstasy, which would make him the second person in Christian tradition after St. Paul (Galatians 6:17) to bear the wounds of Christ's Passion. He died during the evening hours of 3 October 1226, while listening to a reading he had requested of Psalm 142 (141).

Ginés Jesús Hernández

Sergio María Ginés Jesús Hernández y Martínez (born 1 July 1959), known by his religious name as Sergio María and by his papal name as Gregory XVIII, is the former pope of the Palmarian Catholic Church. Hernández was in office from 2011 until his 2016 resignation.Hernández fell in love, lost his faith, resigned, and left the church. He has subsequently returned to the Roman Catholic Church. Hernández is a former member of the Spanish Military. Hernández is a Carlist.

Between 2005 and 2011, Hernández served as church secretary of state under pope Manuel Corral (Peter II).

After Corral's death, Hernández succeeded Corral, on 16 July 2011, as pope at El Palmar de Troya and adopted the papal name Gregory XVIII. Hernández nominated his successor Joseph Odermatt from Switzerland.

According to Professor Magnus Lundberg, of the University of Uppsala, Hernández resigned from his papacy on 22 April 2016 for marrying Nieves Trivedi, and was succeeded on 23 April 2016 by Odermatt who took Peter III as his papal name.

Habemus papam

Habemus papam ('We have a pope') is the announcement traditionally given by the Protodeacon of the College of Cardinals (the senior cardinal deacon in the College) or by the senior cardinal deacon participating in the papal conclave, in Latin, upon the election of a new pope of the Catholic Church.The announcement is made from the central balcony (loggia) of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, overlooking St. Peter's Square. After the announcement, the new pope is presented to the people and he gives his first Urbi et Orbi blessing.

Joseph Odermatt

Joseph Odermatt, known by his religious name as Eliseo María and by his papal name as Peter III, is the current Palmarian Catholic Church pope. Odermatt succeeded Ginés Jesús Hernández (Pope Gregory XVIII) after Hernández fell in love, lost his faith, resigned, and left the church.

Papal conclave

A papal conclave is a meeting of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a Bishop of Rome, also known as the pope. The pope is considered by Roman Catholics to be the apostolic successor of Saint Peter and earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church.Concerns around political interference led to reforms after the interregnum of 1268–1271 and Pope Gregory X's decree during the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 that the cardinal electors should be locked in seclusion cum clave (Latin for "with a key") and not permitted to leave until a new Bishop of Rome had been elected. Conclaves are now held in the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.Since the Apostolic Age, the Bishop of Rome, like other bishops, was chosen by the consensus of the clergy and laity of the diocese. The body of electors was more precisely defined when, in 1059, the College of Cardinals was designated the sole body of electors. Since then, other details of the process have developed. In 1970, Pope Paul VI limited the electors to cardinals under 80 years of age in Ingravescentem aetatem. The current procedures were established by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitution Universi Dominici gregis as amended by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 and 2013. A two-thirds supermajority vote is required to elect the new pope.


Piccolomini (pronounced [pikkoˈlɔːmini]) is the name of an Italian noble family, which was prominent in Siena from the beginning of the 13th century till 18th century.

Pope Callixtus

Pope Callixtus has been the papal name of three popes of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Callixtus I (217–222)

Pope Callixtus II (1119–1124)

Pope Callixtus III (1455–1458)

Pope John Paul

Pope John Paul is the name of two Popes of the Roman Catholic Church and the only papal name with two names:

Pope John Paul I (1978), named after his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI; died 33 days after his election

Pope John Paul II (1978–2005), named after his predecessor John Paul I.

Pope Lando

Lando (also known as Landus) was Pope from c. September 913 to his death c. March 914. His short pontificate fell during an obscure period in papal and Roman history, the so-called Saeculum obscurum (904–64). He was the last pope to use a papal name (in his case, his birth name) that had not been used previously until the election of Pope Francis in 2013.According to the Liber pontificalis, Lando was born in the Sabina, and his father was a wealthy Lombard count named Taino from Fornovo. The Liber also claims that his pontificate lasted only four months and twenty-two days. A different list of popes, appended to a continuation of the Liber pontificalis at the Abbey of Farfa and quoted by Gregory of Catino in his Chronicon Farfense in the twelfth century, gives Lando a pontificate of six months and twenty-six days. This is closer to the duration recorded by Flodoard of Reims, writing in the tenth century, of six months and ten days. The end of his pontificate can be dated to between 5 February 914, when he is mentioned in a document of Ravenna, and late March or early April, when his successor, John X, was elected.Lando is thought to have been the candidate of Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum, and his wife, Theodora, who were the most powerful persons in Rome at the time. The Theophylacti controlled papal finances through their monopoly of the office of vestararius, and also controlled the Roman militia and Senate. During Lando's reign, Arab raiders, operating from their stronghold on the Garigliano river, destroyed the cathedral of San Salvatore in Vescovio in his native diocese. No document of Lando's chancery has survived. The only act of his reign that is recorded is a donation to the diocese of Sabina mentioned in a judicial act of 1431. Lando made the large personal gift in order to restore the cathedral of San Salvatore so that the clergy who were then living at Toffia could return.

Pope Pelagius

Pelagius has been the papal name of two popes of the Roman Catholic Church. The name is the Latin form of the Greek name Πελαγιος (Pelagios), which was derived from πελαγος (pelagos) "the sea".

Pope Pelagius I (556–561)

Pope Pelagius II (579–590)

Pope Peter

Pope Peter may refer to:

Saint Peter, regarded by all Roman Catholics and some Orthodox Christians as the first Roman pope, although other Orthodox consider Linus to have been the city's first bishop

Pope Peter I of Alexandria, Pope of Alexandria 300–311

Pope Peter II of Alexandria, 373–380

Pope Peter III of Alexandria, 477–490

Pope Peter IV of Alexandria, 565–569

Pope Peter V of Alexandria, 1340–1348

Pope Peter VI of Alexandria, 1718–1726

Pope Peter VII of Alexandria, 1809–1852

Pope Peter II, a hypothetical papal name used by some self-styled "popes"

Pope Peter II

Pope Peter II is a hypothetical papal name and, in recent times, a common name for sedevacantist group leaders styling themselves as popes.

Pope Victor

Pope Victor has been the papal name of three popes of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Victor I (189–199)

Pope Victor II (1055–1057)

Pope Victor III (1086–1087)There were also two antipopes called Victor IV.

Antipope Victor IV (1138)

Antipope Victor IV (1159–1164)

Regnal name

A regnal name, or reign name, is the name used by monarchs and popes during their reigns and, subsequently, historically. Since ancient times, some monarchs have chosen to use a different name from their original name when they accede to the monarchy.

The regnal name is usually followed by a regnal number, written as a Roman numeral, to differentiate that monarch from others who have used the same name while ruling the same realm. In some cases, the monarch has more than one regnal name, but the regnal number is based on only one of those names, for example Charles X Gustav of Sweden, George Tupou V of Tonga. If a monarch reigns in more than one realm, he or she may carry different ordinals in each one, as some realms may have had different numbers of rulers of the same regnal name. For example, the same person was both King James I of England and King James VI of Scotland.

The ordinal is not normally used for the first ruler of the name, but is used in historical references once the name is used again. Thus, Queen Elizabeth I of England was called simply "Elizabeth of England" until the accession of Queen Elizabeth II almost four centuries later in 1952; subsequent historical references to the earlier queen retroactively refer to her as Elizabeth I. However, Tsar Paul I of Russia, King Umberto I of Italy, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and Pope John Paul I all used the ordinal I (first) during their reigns, while Pope Francis does not. In spoken English, such names are pronounced as "Elizabeth the First", "George the Sixth", etc.

In some countries in Asia, monarchs took or take era names. While era names as such are not used in many monarchies, sometimes eras are named after a monarch (usually long-lived), or a succession of monarchs of the same name. This is customary; there is no formal or general rule. For example, the whole period during which a succession of four Georges (George I, II, III, and IV) of the Hanoverian dynasty reigned in Great Britain became known as the Georgian era. Conversely, although there were many Edwards, the Edwardian era always refers to the reign of Edward VII at the beginning of the 20th century.

Religious name

A religious name is a type of given name bestowed for a religious purpose, and which is generally used in religious contexts. Different types of religious names may be in use among clergy of a religion, as well in some cases among the laity.

Urban (bishop of Llandaff)

Urban (1076–1134) was the first bishop of South East Wales to call himself 'bishop of Llandaff'. He was of a Welsh clerical family and his baptismal name in the Welsh language is given in charter sources as Gwrgan. He Latinised it to the papal name 'Urban'.


Urbanity ur·ban·i·ty




suavity, courteousness, and refinement of manner.


urban life.

refers to the characteristics, personality traits, and viewpoints associated with cities and urban areas. People who can be described as having urbanity are also referred to as citified. The word is related to the Latin urbanitas with connotations of refinement and elegance, the opposite of rusticus, associated with the countryside. In Latin the word referred originally to the view of the world from ancient Rome. The name Urban has been taken as a papal name by nine popes and referred to the location of the Holy See at the Vatican in Rome and the pope's status as Bishop of Rome. Urbane has a similar meaning; Oxford English Dictionary notes that the relationship of urbane to urban is similar to the relationship humane bears to human.In language, urbanity still connotes a smooth and literate style, free of barbarisms and other infelicities. In antiquity, schools of rhetoric flourished only in the atmosphere of large cities, to which privileged students flocked from smaller cities in order to gain polish.

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