(17 Oct. 1404–6 Nov. 1406)
Third of the Roman popes during the Great Schism (1378–1417), Cosimo Gentile de' Migliorati was born of bourgeois parentage c.1336 at Sulmona, in the Abruzzi, studied law at Bologna under the celebrated jurist Lignano, himself became professor at Perugia and at Padua, and was taken into the curia by Urban VI, whom he served as papal collector (of taxes or tithes) in England for ten years. Archbishop of Ravenna in 1387, he was transferred to Bologna in 1389. In the same year Boniface IX named him cardinal priest of Sta Croce in Gerusalemme and sent him as legate to Tuscany and Lombardy to restore peace between the Visconti of Milan and the cities of Florence and Bologna. Influential and respected, he was elected to succeed Boniface IX by the eight cardinals available, in spite of pleas from Antipope Benedict XIII's envoys, then present in Rome, that the conclave should postpone an election.
At the conclave Innocent, like the other cardinals, had vowed, if elected, to do everything in his power to end the schism, if necessary abdicating. In spite of this he rejected Benedict XIII's proposals for a personal meeting of the two pontiffs, but towards the end of 1404, yielding to strong pressure from Rupert, elected German king in Aug. 1400, he summoned a council of his own obedience, to meet on 1 Nov. 1405. When Benedict XIII landed at Genoa in May 1405 and requested a safe-conduct for envoys he proposed to send to Rome, he received a refusal which questioned his bona fides. That the projected council had to be twice postponed and then abandoned was scarcely Innocent's fault. His election had aroused considerable opposition in Rome, and he called upon Ladislas, king of Naples (1386–1414), to suppress the revolt and negotiate a treaty ensuring civic liberties for the population (24 Oct. 1404). In return he was obliged to swear not to enter into any arrangement with the Avignon pope which did not recognize Ladislas's title to the kingdom of Naples (a promise likely to restrict his freedom of action in any negotiations to end the schism). Some months later the Romans, dissatisfied with the concessions granted them, attempted to extract more from him, first by discussions, and then by armed force. In the course of these exchanges a worthless nephew of his, Ludovico Migliorati, seeking to help his harassed uncle, had eleven leading citizens murdered, with the result that the infuriated mob stormed the Vatican; on 6 Aug. 1405 Innocent and his cardinals were lucky to escape alive to Viterbo. Exploiting the situation, Ladislas consolidated his hold on Rome and its environs and seized Castel Sant'Angelo. Since the people preferred Innocent's rule to Ladislas's and realized that he had no share in Ludovico's nefarious deeds, he was able to return to Rome at their behest on 13 Mar. 1406. He had to excommunicate Ladislas before he would withdraw his troops from the castle, but once he had made his submission Innocent named him defender and standard-bearer of the church (1 Sept. 1406).