The legend of the pope Joan (855-857)

Have you ever heard about the legend of a pope woman?… It may not be new, you may have heard it many times. Myth or not, It is part of the enigmatic essence of the past mysteries that live even eternally.


Was real the pope Joan?

In the British Museum of London there is a famous engraving of the fourteenth century that decorated an edition of the work of Bocaccio “De Claris Mulieribus” and in which appears a pope, dressed in all its attributes, giving birth to a child.

This image corresponds to a story that first appeared in a chronicle of Jean de Mailly about the diocese of Metz called “Chronica universalis Mettensis”, although later it was reproduced and augmented during the later centuries, being the most famous version of the history the one reported by Martín de Opova (known as Martín “the polish man”) in his “Chronicon Pontificum et Imperatorum”

The story of Joan, The woman who deceived the vatican and  sat in the chair of Saint Peter.

The story tells in the 9th century, a woman was born in Maguncia (what today corresponds to German territory) who received the name Joan.  When she was still only a girl, Joan falls in love with a man whose future lies in studies and, therefore, in the Church.

It is said that she fell madly in love with him, and to follow him She disguises herself as a man, and in this way she begins in ecclesiastical studies. 

Joan soon surpassed her lover in intelligence, oratorical ability, and culture, and began to become an increasingly important character, coming to be regarded as the person who knew most of the liberal arts and sciences of her time and came to teach in Athens and Rome.

She was chosen cardinal and so much was the fame that had in Rome by her piety and her good customs that was chosen Pope. (according to the most extended version, after the death of Leo IV) unanimously with the name of John VIII. 

other versions tells: Joan was a very intelligent girl, and with longings to learn, nevertheless the instruction was only destined and exclusively for the men. In a misogynist society as it was and still is the Catholic church, it was absolutely forbidden that even a woman showed an interest in learning to read. Then she decides to hide  herself behind masculine clothes such as Jeanne d’arc.  In order to fulfill her goals, in a society that dreamed and played a role in politics, the weapon, the ecclesiastical world was exclusively for men.


Pregnancy … an unexpected ecclesiastical baby.

The legend says that throughout her ecclesiastical career maintained her lover (something extremely common in the history of the medieval popes, but of course they were “men”) during her second year of pontificate she became pregnant. She manages to hide her pregnancy under her clothes, until she unexpectedly gives birth.  Joan amid the procession walked from St. Peter’s Basilica to the church of St. John Lateran. All Rome’s eyes were on her, the men of faith furious. They had been deceived all this time by a woman!… And there Joan reached death … Punished for being a woman doing things  of men, the medieval popes had children, lovers, were normal things for those days. It didn’t stand out from the natural however Joan was a woman, the worst punishment for medieval minds … to have been born a woman. Some versions say that she was stoned all around Rome, another version says that she was tied to the tail of a horse and dragged to her by all the city. And finally she was buried in the same place where she had her son.


There is other version what saids the father of the baby was an ambassador …
versions there are thousands and each one more enimagic than another. But.  Could have really existed Joan? Can the church really have erased her from history?. The fact is that the popes no longer use this path during the processions.




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