Joan, Pope

Joan, Pope

Legendary female pontiff who supposedly reigned, as Pope John VIII, for about 25 months from 855 to 858. The tale held that she was an Englishwoman who fell in love with a Benedictine monk, disguised herself as a man, and joined his order. After acquiring great learning she moved to Rome, where she became cardinal and then pope. In the earliest version of the story, she was pregnant at the time of her election and gave birth during the procession to the Lateran, whereupon she was dragged out of Rome and stoned to death. The legend, regarded as fact until the 17th century, has since been proved to be apocryphal.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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