Mysteries of the Bible

"Unanswered Questions of the Bible"

A Woman as Supreme Pontiff

Posted by foryourfaith on June 14, 2010

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According to legend, in AD 855 a woman succeeded Pope Leo IV to the papacy. Joan, said to be the daughter of an English missionary, was born in Germany in about 818. She was noted for her beauty from an early age and her love of learning was evident. Later when she fell in love with a young monk of Fulda, she dressed up as a monk so that she could be with him, and together they traveled from one seat of learning to another.

When Joan’s lover died, she was reluctant to give up her freedom and live the traditionally narrow life that was a woman’s lot in medieval times. So, masquerading as a man, she went to Rome an opened a school. Her apparent virtues, undoubted scholarship and theological knowledge attracted widespread respect, and when the papacy became vacant Joan was an obvious candidate.

Elected under the name of John VIII, Joan performed her duties capably for more than two years, until one day she yielded again to temptation of a more human kind. She was far from being the only pope to become a parent, but motherhood is less easily concealed than fatherhood. Joan was especially unlucky in that, not knowing when the child was due, she made a spectacle for herself by giving birth to a son in the street, while in solemn procession between the Coliseum and the church of St. Clement.

 

 

So public a revelation of Joan’s sex was an embarrassment not only to herself but also to the Church, so it was rather convenient when she died shortly afterwards. The event was hushed up and her name removed from the Church chronicles. To this day popes avoid Joan’s route to St. Clement’s.

Although the story of Pope Joan was first circulated in the ninth century by a Roman historian, there seems little doubt that it is an invention, presumably designed to discredit the papacy in medieval times.

 

 

 

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