Who was Pope Joan? -
Pope Joan was supposedly a female pontiff who reigned between 855 and 858.
According to some accounts, Johannes Angelicus was born in Mainz, German, but moved to England as a young child, so she’s often referred to as an Englishwoman.
Love story -
Joan supposedly fell in love with an English Benedictine monk and traveled to Athens with him, where she studied. To do so, she disguised herself as a man.
Road to papacy -
Joan then moved to Rome and rose through the Church ranks, going from notary to the Curia, to cardinal, before finally reigning as pope (or "papessa").
According to the legend, it was not until 858 that Pope Joan's identity as a woman was revealed.
Origins of the legend -
The first account of the story dates back to a 13th-century text by Dominican chronicler Jean de Mailly.
The legend -
The story was then adopted by French Dominican Stephen of Bourbon in the13th-century text De septem donis Spiritu Sancti ('On the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit').
First account -
The first accounts of the story did not name the female pope. The legend only made reference to a woman who dressed as a man and became a pope.
Alternative version -
According to one of the manuscripts, after the revelation Joan was confined and deposed, but did not die until many years later.
Pope Joan’s son survived? -
And according to one version of the story, Pope Joan’s son became Bishop of Ostia.
Later versions -
Other versions of the story exist, with some even claiming that the female pope’s birth name was Agnes or Gilberta.
The story was widely accepted as a fact - The story of Pope Joan was accepted as a fact during the 14th and 15th centuries, including by the Council of Constance in 1415.
Maybe it's all a legend after all -
By the 16th century, both scholars and Catholic historians started to dismiss the story as fiction.
The story was refuted by Protestants - Then, during the 16th and 17th centuries, the story was used by Protestants as a satirical attack on the Catholic Church and the papacy.
Pope Joan -
The legend of the female pope may simply have its roots in a local Roman folktale.
In popular culture -
The legend of Pope Joan has inspired many fictional works, including novels, plays, video games, and films.