The Roman Catholic Church at the head of the medieval popes were very far from the ideal of a holy man. The credulous people were willing to believe any scandalous tale of them. There was a legend, which was for centuries believed.
According to legend in the 850’s years the Christians feared throughout Europe. Earthquakes were in Southern Italy, blood-rain was in France and locusts attack were in Rome. People of Rome waited encouragement from Pope John VIII, who was very loved.
In 857 the Pope was walking from St. Peter’s Basilica to his residence and lots people accompanied his. When they arrived into narrow alley in the holy father stumbled and collapsed. A few minutes later, people were shocked to realize that the Pope is a parturient woman. When the baby is born, they seized the woman and the newborn child, and stoned them to death.
Who was she?
An English missionary, who lived in Mainz live was a daughter, Johanna. When she was 12 she fell in love with a monk She left the parental house, dressed as a boy and entered the convent to be live with her lover. Later Johanna went to Rome. Continue to be a man disguised himself and worked as a notary. The students and philosophers honored her. The Cardinals and noticed that she versed in theology. When Pope Leo IV. died in 855 Johanna was elected his successor. When it turned out that the pope was a woman the Catholic Church did everything to hide the traces. Immediately after her death, inaugurated the new Pope, Benedict III. And 15 years later when the next pope chosen the John name, they didn’t get the John IX, but he initiated under name John VIII.
Evidences for the skeptics
Johanna’s story is probably in the 10th century came into being when no fewer than 23 Pope ruled. Historians was found the first reference of the female pope in Etienne de Bourbon, Dominican monk‘s book (Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit). In the Sinai Cathedral, next to the papal busts have seen more than two hundred years a statue: “ Pope John VIII, a woman from England.” Later, VIII. Pope Clement was renamed this statue to Zechariah.
The most bizarre evidence of the legend is a strange marble armchair with hole (Sella stercoraria) in the Lateran St. John Basilica. From 10th century to the end of the 16th centurythrone was used for all the inauguration ceremony. The new Pope had to sit in this chair, to determine his gender.
The first serious refutation was published in 1647. A Calvinistic writers, David Blondel wrote a lengthy treatise: “Familiar Enlightenment of the Question: Whether a Woman Had Been Seated on the Papal Throne in Rome.” The modern scholars reject the female pope story. In their view, the story of the medieval papacy legacy. As regards the Sella stercoraria, probably the ancient Roman monuments, which was in a public bathroom of the city.
Fact, in the Middle Ages, especially in the 10th century, the Roman patrician families’s women has incredible power of the papal court was over. Popes have lovers openly. Unlawful descendants named hypocritically their “niece” or “nephew”. Mothers are often could help these “nephews” to throne of St. Peter sucessfully. For example VI. Alexander admitted his four unlawful children and he initiated one of them (Cesare Borgiba) like a cardinal.
No wonder that this speech was popular: “The papacy is governed by a female regiment.”
written by Ilona Kaszanyi
Reference: Great Mysteries of the Past (p. 293-295)