Pope John the VIII or was it Pope Joan?
Nobody knows if it’s a true story, but during the later part of the 13th century it was believed to be fact. It all happened hundreds of years before that, so its hard to tell truth from fiction.
There was a person who became Pope John VIII and supposedly ruled the Church for over two years from 855 to 858. It was a relatively short papacy and was first mention by Mariano Scoto, a Benedictine monk in a document called the Chronicon. In his writing he mentions the rumor of a woman pope, by the name of Joan who reigned for two years, five months and four days.
The next time, in historical writings, that Joan is mentioned is nearly a hundred years later by another Benedictine monk, Sigiberto of Gembloux. He writes in a work called Chronographia: “It is quite well known that this John was a woman and…having become heavy with child gave birth while she was pope”.
The legend of a woman pope states that her name was Joan and an Englishwoman, born in Mainz, now in West Germany. She apparently fell in love with an English Benedictine monk and dressing as a man went with him to Athens where she studied and became highly educated. The story says from there, she moved to Rome, impressed the Roman Curia with her wit and wisdom and was named a cardinal and then elected Pope.
Supposedly during a papal procession she gave birth and died and was buried on the spot.
For centuries the church has denied there ever was a woman pope and has supplied numerous documents to refute the rumor, but still it persists.