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Pope Joan was one of the canards of the church, according to A Short Guide to Catholic Church History, but her myth is believed to have originated with the story of Pope Ganymede V (Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies, 62).

Inspiration

Pope Joan was, according to popular legend, a woman who reigned as pope for a few years during the Middle Ages. Her story first appeared in chronicles in the 13th century and subsequently spread throughout Europe. The story was widely believed for centuries, but most modern scholars regard it as fictional.  Most versions of her story describe her as a talented and learned woman who disguised herself as a man, often at the behest of a lover. In the most common accounts, due to her abilities, she rose through the church hierarchy and was eventually elected pope. Her sex was revealed when she gave birth during a procession, and she died shortly after, either through murder or natural causes.[1]

References

  1. Wikipedia: Pope Joan
5. A Short Guide to Catholic Church History

Popes: Spatulus IIISporus VI
Schisms: Grand Central Schism
Heresies: Econophanic HeresyMonophonic HeresyScrupularian Heresy
Old Canards: Pope JoanGalileoAlfred Smith