April 23rd, 2010 posted by admin


This is one of the most famous medioeval legends: Joan is a young English woman, educated at Magonza. Because of her love for theology, she decides to dress-up like a monk and thanks to her great culture, once i Rome, rising through the Church hierarchy, she is chosen as Pope. She took the name of John VIII and reigned between 855 and 857.
Joan became pregnant by one of her lovers. While in Easter procession between Saint Peterʼs and Saint Joan the Lateranʼs Basilicas, meanwhile the crowd was growing its pressure, her horse got scared, frisked and she fell off. People watched in horror and astonishment when she gave birth to a child, revealing her female nature. The angry mob tied her feet at her same horse and dragged her to Ripa Grande. There she was stoned to death together with her baby.
it is a harsh story which takes us back to the darkest centuries of Rome. According to some scholars this legend, this is what it is, could have born as a “satire” against papacy and a ferocious criticism of some female personages as the corrupt noble ladies Teodora and her daughter Marozia, who during the 10th Century were at the same time lovers, mothers and killers of several popes.
The story of “popess Joan” gave rise to the following odd legend: since then, to avoid a repeat of such a shaming event, as soon as elected, popes had to sit on one of the thrones, with a potty-style hole in the seat, while an examining cleric felt under it to check his sex. Though, one of these two thrones, the so-called “sedes curules or prophyreticae”, according to recent studies, was actually established to be a thermal de-luxe water-closet, dating back the time of Emperor Hadrian.
The result is a complicated plot we better leave to historians. Lovers of Rome can satisfie their curiosity in Via dei querceti, by looking up at the niche on the wall with a Vergin Mary with child, which was built up on the same spot where our heroine is said to have given birth to her child.