Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Myth of Pope Joan, A Female Pope!

The Legend of Pope Joan

Pope Joan 1
A legend perhaps fabricated somewhere in the thirteenth century according to Alain Boureau had persisted in some form or the other about a brilliant young woman, named Joan, in the ninth century who disguised herself as a man in order to follow her lover into an exclusive male domain of scholarship.

She is also said to have been an astute theologian as well as a wise ruler tough no decree or theological teaching are documented to this day. Boureau investigates the historical and ecclesiastical situation under which the myth of Pope Joan sprung up and the different uses to which it was put over the years.

He portrayed how the Catholic clerics justified the exemption of women from the papacy as well as the priesthood by employing the myth in misogynist moral tales to find the Popess they had created had turned against them in an anti Catholic propaganda during the Reformation.

She was so successful with her disguise that she ascended the Catholic hierarchy in Rome and was elected Pope eventually where her pontificate lasted for two years till she became pregnant and died after giving birth during a public process from the Vatican.

Many Versions to Her Story

Pope Joan 2
Many other versions of her story describe Joan as a learned and talented, a courageous feminist, a clever opportunist, a brilliant scholar who under the guise of a man most often at the behest of a lover and due to her abilities rose through the church hierarchy where she eventually got elected as a Pope.

Another legend relates that she was granted a vision by God where she was shown two option of her fate, either of being discovered and disgraced by the world or roasted in fire (hell) for her crime where she chose the former. Another version goes on to tell that she got pregnant by one of the advisors and managed to maintain the charade till she finally gave birth to the child.

When her secret was disclosed and she was deposed as pope, she was sent to the convent to do penance for the rest of her life and the child born to her later on, went on to become the bishop of Ostia which was about 30 miles southwest of Rome. When she died, he buried her body there though there is no evidence to support this.

Fraud Dislosed

 Pope Joan 3
The most common detail that these legends have in common is that Pope Joan was discovered due to her intimacy with a cardinal or secretary resulting in pregnancy and the childbirth disclosed her fraud. The main legend is the most disgraceful at this point since Pope Joan while riding in a portable throne in which the pope is carried and as her procession is passing the Coliseum on its way from St. Peter’s Basilica towards St. John Lateran Cathedral goes into labor.

The procession is interrupted and the woman gives birth to the child amidst confused and angry onlookers who kill her as well as the baby on the spot. Some account that she was stoned to death while others say that she died in childbirth as the mob watching the spectacle shouted and insulted her.

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