Pope Joan??

I saw a documentary on Netflix about “Pope Joan.” Um…what? I didn’t watch it, but could someone explain this to me. Thanks a bunch. :slight_smile:

It’s a conspiracy theory that one of the Pope’s from long ago (I forget which one) was secretly a woman. It’s just a made up conspiracy theory like the DaVinci Code, etc. Don’t worry about it :slight_smile:

Not exactly a documentary, since it is not factual. Urban legend of Pope Joan.

You can read about it here:ewtn.com/library/answers/popeapol.htm

Fiction 4

In the middle ages, there was a “Pope Joan,” a woman who hid her gender and rose through the ranks of the Church, became a cardinal and was elected pope. No one knew she was a woman until, during a papal procession through the streets of Rome, she went into labor and gave birth to a child. She and the baby were killed on the spot by the mob, enraged at her imposture.

A lot of things are said about the alleged “Pope Joan.” Depending on who is telling the story, she was a courageous feminist, a clever opportunist, a brilliant scholar who couldn’t make it as a woman in a man’s world. She is said to have been a wise ruler and an astute theologian, though, oddly, no decree or theological teaching purporting to have come from her has made its way down to our day.

Here’s another source, which covers similar ground but has other things too:

The Popess Who Just Won’t Go Away

Pope “Joan”:rolleyes:

There’s plenty of ridiculous history surrounding the Papacy(the “council” of the cadaver comes to mind).

They just want to focus on this because “women priests” is a popular topic right now, nothing more.

Total myth. This comes up every now and then on this forum.

Check out this article: oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Popess_Joan

There was no Pope Joan.

Pope John VIII was accused of acting so womanly and weekly (don’t hold me accountable for this view, this is just history :)) that it’s possible he’s the figure of the legend, especially with the similarity of the names John and Joan.

Benedicat Deus,

Netflix is so anti-Catholic it’s unreal. I’ve found plenty of ridiculous anti-Catholic “documentaries” on there yet very little good Catholic material. I should really phone them and explain why I wish to no longer use their service.

Except the Council of the Cadaver was real (a bit extreme and eccentric, but it happaned) while the Pope Joan story is a myth. We know this there are other historical facts that happened during the purported papacy of Joan that have been attributed to other true Popes.

Netflix disc-ship service or online streaming? I have found the streaming service to be greatly impoverished and I cancelled it because it also did not support my Linux desktop machine. However, the disc service contains a wealth of documentaries and devotionals and classic films, and I make it a point to take advantage of these especially when I go to visit my parents. One of the things I like to do is take a catalog of videos and use it to search. Netflix often has purchased most or all of the titles in a given catalog, some of which include the German Kultur series on history and religion, as well as the Ignatius Press range of devotional and documentary titles. Kultur sometimes comes from a rather atheistic perspective when it treats history, but of course Ignatius Press is faithful to the Church and thoroughly Catholic, and my whole family has greatly appreciated the opportunities to watch these discs. My queue is over 150 titles large and I have mostly weeded out the blockbusters and Hollywood titles in favor of classic films and devotional titles about the Catholic faith.

If you have Netflix streaming then I encourage you to cancel it in favor of their disc service. If you have the disc service, then I would advise taking a second look at their offerings to see that there is plenty of faithful Catholic material to be had there, and take advantage of it.

I think secular history would have recorded this one if it had really happened.

That’s what my point was. The truth of the council of the cadaver is much more ridiculous and absurd and salacious(and for them possibly much more entertaining), along with being true, than the myth of “pope Joan”.

The only reason why they’re mentioning pope Joan is to attack the Church and the priesthood. They can say, “See they hate women! Look at what they did to a woman who was elected pope!”

It is highly unlikely there was a Pope Joan. Here is the analysis from the old Catholic Enyclopedia.

The principal proofs of the entirely mythical character of the popess are:


Not one contemporaneous historical source among the papal histories knows anything about her; also, no mention is made of her until the middle of the thirteenth century. Now it is incredible that the appearance of a “popess”, if it was an historical fact, would be noticed by none of the numerous historians from the tenth to the thirteenth century.


In the history of the popes, there is no place where this legendary figure will fit in.

Between Leo IV and Benedict III, where Martinus Polonus places her, she cannot be inserted, because Leo IV died 17 July, 855, and immediately after his death Benedict III was elected by the clergy and people of Rome; but owing to the setting up of an antipope, in the person of the deposed Cardinal Anastasius, he was not consecrated until 29 September. Coins exist which bear both the image of Benedict III and of Emperor Lothair, who died 28 September, 855; therefore Benedict must have been recognized as pope before the last-mentioned date. On 7 October, 855, Benedict III issued a charter for the Abbey of Corvey. Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims, informed Nicholas I that a messenger whom he had sent to Leo IV learned on his way of the death of this pope, and therefore handed his petition to Benedict III, who decided it (Hincmar, ep. xl in P.L., CXXXVI, 85). All these witnesses prove the correctness of the dates given in the lives of Leo IV and Benedict III, and there was no interregnum between these two popes, so that at this place there is no room for the alleged popess.

Further, is is even less probable that a popess could be inserted in the list of popes about 1100, between Victor III (1087) and Urban II (1088-99) or Paschal II (1099-1110), as is suggested by the chronicle of Jean de Mailly.


It’s an old conspiracy theory based on artistic portrayals of the Church anthropomorphized as a woman. It started among a small handful of monks who wrote down many rumors and odd tales, but was popularized during the Reformation.

Another thing I heard about the ‘Pope Joan’ conspiracy was that after the scandal broke, they started physically testing all Popes to make sure they were actually men. I assume that’s a myth as well?

the book “Pope Fiction” by Patrick Madrid has a chapter about this myth. Its a lie and it pops up every so often.

Yes it’s another perverted myth

It is certainly not unreasonable to suppose that at some point along the road to ordination, candidates are subjected to a physical exam, which among other things, will determine if they are truly of the male sex. I doubt that any bishop wants to be the one who accidentally, or out of deception, attempted to ordain a woman.

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