The Legend of Pope Joan: A Historical Mystery Unraveled

TLDR The story of Pope Joan, a female pope who gave birth while in office, was believed for centuries but is now considered untrue. The legend is linked to the use of twin chairs during papal coronations and reflects the complex intellectual background and paradoxical views of women in religious contexts during the medieval period.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 There is a historical account of a female pope named Joan who disguised herself as a man, became a cardinal, and eventually gave birth while in office before being stoned to death.
05:03 For several centuries, the story of Pope Joan, a female pope who gave birth while in office, was believed to be true and accepted by the Roman church, but in the 16th century, the church declared the legend to be untrue.
09:23 The sources from the 11th century and even the 9th century do not mention Pope Joan, making it highly unlikely that she ever existed.
13:28 Merozia, the most powerful woman in Rome during her lifetime, arranged for her son to become Pope, leading to outrage among clerics and historians.
17:48 In the 11th century, as part of the papal reform program, cardinals took on the role they still have today, and the use of twin chairs during the coronation of Pope Pascal II symbolized the papacy's connection to the Roman consuls and the cardinals' role as the heirs of the Senate.
22:07 The legend of Pope Joan is linked to the use of twin chairs during the coronation of popes, and the holes in the chairs were said to be used to verify the sex of the elected pope, according to a chronicler named Geoffrey de Coulomb, which serves as an explanation for the chairs and the story of Pope Joan, but not for all the incidental details of the story.
26:33 The medieval period had a deep vein of misogyny, influenced by Aristotle's categorization of women as inferior to men, but the Bible contradicted this view and acknowledged women as images of the divine, leading to a complex intellectual background for the legend of Pope Joan and a simultaneous elevation and denigration of women in religious contexts.
31:21 The paradoxical view of women in religious contexts simultaneously equates them to the purity of the church while also casting them as temptresses, and a remarkable episode in the late 13th and early 14th century involving a woman named Guglielma, who was viewed as a saint by pilgrims, ends tragically with her tomb being desecrated and her body burned by inquisitors.
35:53 Mayor Freyder, a cousin of the most powerful man in Milan, is burned at the stake for preaching the heresy that she is destined to become pope in a time when the church is seen as corrupt and the papacy is viewed as unworthy.
40:45 The idea that the priest's role is Christ-like and therefore has a female aspect generates anxieties, but also opens up avenues for women to have a sacral role in the church, as seen in the stories of Guglielmer, Mayor Freyder, and Catherine of Siena, although it is unlikely that there will be a female pope or female Catholic priests in the future due to the fundamental teachings and doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Categories: History

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