Pope John VIII, or Pope Joan, was leading a procession in 858 A.D. through the streets of Rome when the female pope gave birth to a child. The embarrassment and scandal of a woman pope caused “Pope Joan” to be stoned to death. The female pope was a young woman when she traveled with her lover to Athens, Germany and began her journey of becoming a man.
The medical science and capability did not exist for a biological change for those wishing to be transgender. Joan decided, however, she could disguise herself as a man. She was so successful at this disguise that all around her she was believed to be a man. She found success in studying law, theology, philosophy, ordained as a priest and bishop, and eventually was elected pope.
She was elected as pontiff following the death of Pope Leo IV. She had only served as pope for two years prior to her deception and deceit being exposed and discovered by the Church. She had fallen in love and became intimate with a Curia official. She soon became a person of two worlds and two lives. She had a public life as the pope and bishop of the Church. Privately, she had a hidden and secret life of a woman in love. Her private life was lived behind closed doors. Her love affair with the Curia official resulted in a problem: she became pregnant. The pregnancy could not be hidden, and the birth of the child would create a scandal that the Church would not be able to control or bury. The child was whisked away to a private and secretive location where the child would grow up and live unknown to the world.
If this sounds too crazy to be true, that is because it is certainly fake. The fable is, however, a popular legend and myth within the church. The fake story about Pope Joan has been adopted and promulgated by Protestants since the 16th century to try and dismiss and discredit the papacy.
The reality is there was never a female pope. Pope John XIII, however, was the 133rd pope and was remembered for his piety. He had a dramatic and crazy pontificate filled with opponents and controversy. He had lived with the nickname “White Hen” for most of his life. He had gained the nickname because of the light color of his hair. Legend has it that he performed an exorcism using the chains of St. Peter. He restored part of the papal territory and the first recorded blessing with church bells began with his death.
He was not a woman and never gave birth to a child. The legend still gains supporters by those opposed to the Church and the papacy, but there is no historical proof of the false claims. The superstition, on the other hand, still takes hold in Rome because popes have avoided the road where legend has it that Pope Joan gave birth. It’s an interesting story. It’s a fun tale. It, however, is completely fake.