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Pope Joan (also called La Papessa) is the name of a legendary female pope who supposedly reigned for less than three years in the 850s, between the papacies of Leo IV and Benedict III (though there were only two months between the two reigns). She is known primarily from a legend that circulated in the Middle Ages. Pope Joan is regarded by most modern historians and religious scholars as fictitious, possibly originating as an anti-papal satire. The story of Pope Joan is known mainly from the 13th century chronicler Martin of Opava – writing 500 years after the alleged Popess. Most scholars dismiss Pope Joan as a medieval legend. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes acknowledges that this legend was widely believed for centuries, even among Catholic circles, but declares that there is “no contemporary evidence for a female pope at any of the dates suggested for her reign,” and goes on to say that “the known facts of the respective periods make it impossible to fit [a female pope] in”. For those who are wondering what would happen if this were true (or were to ever be true): nothing; a female is not able to be a priest and a Pope cannot be crowned unless he is a priest first. [Source]

Pope Joan (also called La Papessa) is the name of a legendary female pope who supposedly reigned for less than three years in the 850s, between the papacies of Leo IV and Benedict III (though there were only two months between the two reigns). She is known primarily from a legend that circulated in the Middle Ages. Pope Joan is regarded by most modern historians and religious scholars as fictitious, possibly originating as an anti-papal satire. The story of Pope Joan is known mainly from the 13th century chronicler Martin of Opava – writing 500 years after the alleged Popess. Most scholars dismiss Pope Joan as a medieval legend. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes acknowledges that this legend was widely believed for centuries, even among Catholic circles, but declares that there is “no contemporary evidence for a female pope at any of the dates suggested for her reign,” and goes on to say that “the known facts of the respective periods make it impossible to fit [a female pope] in”. For those who are wondering what would happen if this were true (or were to ever be true): nothing; a female is not able to be a priest and a Pope cannot be crowned unless he is a priest first. [Source]

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