Ultramontanists (Lat. Ultra Montes Beyond The Mountains), the name formerly applied to all theologians in the Roman Catholic church who advocated the highest spiritual and temporal power of the papacy, and bestowed since 1870 on all who accept the decrees of the Vatican council. The name originated with the French Gallicans, who denied to the popes all right to depose sovereigns or to interfere in the temporal affairs of states and of national churches, and maintained that the doctrinal judgments of the popes only become infallible and binding on the conscience when confirmed by the consent of the church, and that the authority of a general council is superior to that of the pope. The contrary view being held "beyond the Alps" and throughout Italy, its supporters were called Transalpine and ultramontani. At the council of Constance, where these adverse opinions came conspicuously into conflict, the designation of ultramontane was extended to persons of every nationality who denied the superiority of the council over the pope. After that council the question of the direct or indirect power of the papacy over states and sovereigns became the chief point of dispute, and the question everywhere assumed a national character.
In Germany Febronius (Bishop Hontheim) wrote a powerful work against ultramontanism; and in 1786, at the convention of Ems, the archbishops of Mentz, Treves, Cologne, and Salzburg denounced it. In Italy its chief opponent in the last century was Scipione Ricci, bishop of Pistoja,. who convened a synod in that city in September, 1786, and promulgated disciplinary decrees and a doctrinal exposition favoring extreme Gallicanism and Jansenism. These were partly confirmed, April 23, 1787, by an assembly of the bishops of Tuscany; but the grand duke, who had been the chief promoter of these measures, having become emperor as Leopold II. in 1790, allowed his successor to restrain and punish Ricci and his followers. The acts of the synod of Pistoja were condemned by Pius VI. in the dogmatic bull Auctoremfidei of Aug. 28,1794. The political aspects of ultramontanism were once more brought into prominent notice in 1869-'70 in connection with the council of the Vatican and the doctrine of papal infallibility. Since then the tendencies of ultramontanism in its bearings on civil allegiance have been vehemently discussed, especially in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and England.