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Joan the Female Pope

Updated on November 2, 2020
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Pamela-anne is a certified Freelance Writer who enjoys writing her own articles and ghostwriting for clients on Upwork.

Fact or Fiction?

Could it be true that there was actually a female Pope? There are many opinions on this mysterious topic. Some believe it was no more than a bit of folklore; this opinion is held by religious scholars and historians alike. Then there are others who believe that the female Pope (Joan) did indeed exist. It is a very fascinating story about a woman who hid her gender in order to enter the male-dominated world of the Roman Catholic church. Joan knew that she would never be accepted or even have a chance at becoming pope if she approached them as her true gender. Because of the way society looked upon women more like second-class citizens during this time period, Joan was forced to hide her true identity. Joan set out to prove to the male-dominated society she lived in that a woman was capable of performing the position of pope just as well as any man. In order to gain the respect of the men that she worked alongside she would have to keep her gender a secret. She wanted these men to see and treat her as an equal, not as someone that was beneath them in their male-dominated society. For Joan this would have been a daunting task, that must have caused her much anguish and stress. I am sure she must have constantly lived in fear of her true gender coming to light. Dealing with the fear of what the consequences would be if the truth was revealed! However, these great risks, in the end, did not deter Joan from attempting to reach her goals! Once there she became very successful in making her way through the hierarchy. Eventually, she would reach the highest position when she became Pope.

Portrayed Herself As a Man

The story of Pope Joan started to circulate in and around the 13th-century. In the different versions of this story, most mention that she was a learned and intelligent woman who dressed and portrayed herself as a man. She was also known to be accompanied much of the time by her said lover. She was said to go under the name of "John of Mainz" or "John Anglicus" reigning between Leo IV and Benedict III during the 850s.

Mystery Surrounding Her Death

She taught liberal arts and was well learned in many topics. Joan was said to be Pope for two years, seven months and four days until she died in Rome. In most versions, she died while riding horseback during which time she gave birth thus revealing her true gender. She then was said to have died shortly after either by natural causes or was killed by an angry mob. This is a female figure in history that I am sure many women of the world admire and look up to with respect. She was able to carve out a path for women and prove that a woman could be pope and successful at it. Joan was a figure in our history that would certainly give other women the guidance and strength to try and reach their goals! Even if they are more prone to be careers or roles that men have been dominating throughout history.

Dung Chair

Later in the 14th century, there were two ancient marble seats which the Latin meaning translated into- the dung chair. It is believed by many that these chairs were used to check the gender of new Popes. This practice came to light after the reign of Pope Joan. Apparently, the new Pope would sit naked on the seat while a group of cardinals looked through the hole making sure the new Pope was a male. The majority of modern scholars believe that Pope Joan was no more than a Medieval legend.


I guess it is left for us to decide if we believe that a female Pope named Joan existed or not. But from a woman's point of view, I don't see why a female couldn't be Pope. I'm sure if "God" had a say he would want all of his children to be treated equally no matter what their gender. Unfortunately, many different types of discrimination are still thriving in the world today. But who knows maybe someday there might be a Pope Joan II to lead the Roman Catholic church into a brighter future where the gender of the Pope does not matter only that they are worthy and capable of this title of honour. Maybe a female Pope can lead the world towards the ultimate goal of many - World Peace!

Female Pope

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