Created By: Jaqen on November 29, 2013 Last Edited By: Jaqen on December 1, 2013

Pope Joan

Once upon a time, there was a Woman Pope.....

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
I can't believe we don't have this.

The legend of the Saints asserts that 900 AD ish, the eponymous Englishwoman dressed up as a man, studied Theology and was so good at it that she was promoted and promoted and became Pope. 907 ish, she got pregnant, later she was on a liturgical procession through the City, she gave birth in public and the mob murdered her.

Ever since, there is a ceremony when the new Pope sits on a special throne and cardinals check that he is a man. See The Borgias example in TV.

In some versions, God granted a special miracle, Joan grew a beard.

Pope Joan was common knowledge from 1000 - 1500 AD. But then Martin Luther gloated "Mwah hah hah! The Pope is not infallible, there was a Woman Pope." Vatican Spin Doctor decreed the infallible doctrine that Joan never existed.

The irony is that Lutheran Church has more Women Priests and Bishops than Roman Church.

Mythology and folklore:
  • the Pope Joan legend is said to be the inspiration for the major arcana Tarot card, the High Priestess, which depicts a woman in ornate priestly robes sitting on a throne. In some decks she wears a papal tiara and others even explicitly call her The Papess.

Film
  • Pope Joan
    • YMMV: the scene of Holy Roman Emperor confronting Holy Roman Pope was Made Of Awesome.
    • Movie dropped the Bearded Joan meme. Maybe they wanted Joan to be hot? Maybe they thought Audience can believe Woman Pope, Audience cannot believe bearded Pope?
  • Yente Barbara Streisland dressed up as a man and went to Rabbi college. History Marches On, nowadays, some Jewish sects ordain Women Rabbis.

TV
  • The Borgias: Alexander is the newly elected Pope and sits on the special throne. A Cardinal Deacon puts his hand under Alexander's cassock and testifies "Habet duos testiculos et bene pendente" = "He has two testicles and is well hung."
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Hope and Eve are priests of the One True God.
  • In the fourth season of Babylon 5, Sheridan has become somewhat revered by various people on the station much to the annoyance of Mr. Garibaldi, who at one point comments, "[Sheridan's] not the pope, he doesn't look anything like her!"

Theatre
  • The first act of Caryl Churchill's play Top Girls involves a modern businesswoman having dinner with famous female figures from history and legend, one of which is Pope Joan.

Real Life
  • Un Installment discussion thread
    • An accidental example exists in papal history: Owing to various misconceptions and transcription errors, there has never been a Pope John XX. The Pope who would have borne that number skipped straight to John XXI when choosing his papal name.
      • I doubt that explanation. I invoke Occam's Razor. 1559ish, Pope made an infallible doctrine that Pope Joan never happened, so spin doctors invented this legend about the numbers being wrong.

  • 1900 ish Britain ordains Women Deacons.
  • 1940 ish China ordains Women Priests.
  • 1980 ish USA ordains Women Priests.
  • 1990 ish Britain ordains Women Priests, USA ordains Women Bishops.
  • 2013 ish Britain ordains Women Bishops.

  • Subversion: 250 ish, St. Origen preached the heretical doctrine that Bishops must be eunuchs and was excommunicated. Maybe the ceremony of checking that the pope is a man came in in 250?
    • WMG maybe God who is mighty enough to give Joan a beard wig is mighty enough to give her a strap-on?

Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • November 29, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    Real Life/possible addition to the description:

    The "real" Pope Joan likely never existed as there is no gap in the succession of popes around the time she is said to have been in the position.
  • November 29, 2013
    KTera
    • Priests in Medieval II Total War can have the "Secretly Female" trait, and it's possible for such a priest to become the Pope.
  • November 29, 2013
    Jaqen
    ^^ I added the qualifier "The legend of the Saints asserts that"

    Maybe Joan is a trope from Real Life, maybe she is a trope from Protestant propaganda. Either way, she is still a trope.

    There is so a gap in the succession, that is why Spin Doctor had to pull this JKR "Oh Maths?"

    This trope needs a YMMV page for whether Joan was history or propaganda?
  • November 29, 2013
    Someoneman
    Is this a trope or a work page? It looks like a trope for mentions of Pope Joan in media (or is it just female popes in general? In this case, it would need a less specific name), but the film example looks like a work page (and a poorly made one at that. First person is a big no-no on Tv Tropes).
  • November 29, 2013
    AgProv
    Mythology and folklore: the Pope Joan legend is said to be the inspiration for the major arcana Tarot card, the High Priestess, which depicts a woman in ornate priestly robes sitting on a throne. In some decks she wears a papal tiara and others even explicitly call her The Papess.

    Suggestion: this YKKTW is re-named "The High Priestess" after the tarot card, to get round the personal name thing? Pope Joan could become a sub-aspect of the trope.
  • November 29, 2013
    Hodor
    I think having a page on Pope Joan (as she appears in fiction) would be a good idea. Sort of like how Flying Dutchman includes info on the Wandering Jew/"Wandering Centurion" ( Longinus)- a character that appears in a lot of fiction.

    And it could definitely include that Tarot appearance.
  • November 29, 2013
    MonaNaito
    Theatre
    • The first act of Caryl Churchill's play Top Girls involves a modern businesswoman having dinner with famous female figures from history and legend, one of which is Pope Joan.
  • November 29, 2013
    XFllo
    I think this should be Useful Notes.
  • November 29, 2013
    Jaqen
    Useful Notes: Monotheist Priestess

    Pagan Priestesse = People Sit On Chairs

    Monotheism is so anti-woman that it is a big deal when they let women be priests.

    Focus on the precise date when each church ordained women.

    Put Joan in the folklore folder.

    Have a YMMV page to debate whether Joan is History or Propaganda
  • November 29, 2013
    Tallens
    • In the fourth season of Babylon Five, Sheridan has become somewhat revered by various people on the station much to the annoyance of Mr. Garibaldi, who at one point comments, "[Sheridan's] not the pope, he doesn't look anything like her!"
  • November 30, 2013
    IndirectActiveTransport
    I do not see the point of listing the church deacon dates. Interesting history sure but we have Christianity already. Unless one of those women became a Pope or equivalent position in a Church that does not have Popes you cannot call it Pope Joan.
  • November 30, 2013
    KarjamP
    ^^ Since when it's anti-woman for woman to be priests?

    I may not understand Catholic culture, but I believe God sees everyone equil, be it Oprah Winfrey or that hobo on the street, and, in the case, whenever you're a man or a woman.

    And if this is a result of Protestant "propaganda", either said protestants aren't doing what God wants, or that itself's propaganda by people wanting to discredit protestants, as all sects of Christianity agree that Christianity is a religion based upon loving others as well as God (spreading propaganda like this is against the bible, as that implies that they're deceiving others, something that can destroy trust).

    In short, we'd better be careful what we say in order to invoke Rule Of Cautious Editing Judgement when it comes to religion tropes, since it's so easy to offend others or make others stand up for their faith like what I did.
  • November 30, 2013
    IndirectActiveTransport
    What, because monotheistic religion is? Granted, I can only frame my reference in Christianity and Mohammad's Islam, I have no idea what Zoroastrian clergy equivalents were doing in regards to women, if such a thing even exists among the magi.

    Paul specifically said he would not allow a woman to teach a man because of Eve and if anyone disagreed with him they could make their case but that they would also have to argue with all the other church fathers because they had all gathered together to vote and reached that conclusion.

    So in a way, listing the dates is when "women no teach man" is the date when that was no longer popular opinion and the church voted to overturn Paul's ruling. I just do not see how it is relevant to Pope Joan, as priest or deacon is not the same thing as Pope. I mean, I could also go on about how a singular Pope is questionable as the Bible describes each early ecclesiastic assembly being ran by its own senior members, that every "church" had its own governing "father", its own "Pope" but that also would be better off on the useful notes page.

    The closest real life equivalents I can think of are Catherine I, Catherine II, Anna and Elizaveta Petrovna of Russia, and they are only on technicality. The Tsar was the absolute ruler of the Orthodox Church which meant during their reigns as empress they could technically be called the Orthodox Pope...Popess?
  • November 30, 2013
    KarjamP
  • November 30, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    Blackadder 2 makes a glancing reference to the absurdity of the Pope Joan legend in the episode "Potato" by mentioning a time when a horse was elected pope.
  • November 30, 2013
    robinjohnson
    If this trope is for female Popes, could it be called The Mome?

    • The Pope Must Die ends with a woman, a background character only referred to by the main character as "my nun", having replaced him as Pope.
  • November 30, 2013
    KarjamP
    ^What's a Mome?
  • November 30, 2013
    IndirectActiveTransport
    Pope is derived from Papa, Mome would be derived from Mama.

    But I do not see why the rule of cautious editing judgment is being thrown up. This should be debated, or rather, picked apart.

    For a start, the very phrase Pagan Priestess is questionable. Pagan means false faith, and trying to contrast it to monotheism is wrong. The so called pagans who instigated the Christians warpath were Muslims following the most strictly monotheist religion ever. By contrast, the Jews got along just fine with the Hindus in India despite Hindu monism being a hand breath away from the Christian trinity, which they violently rejected. In fact, many of the Voodun religions and related traditions such as Yoruba are self identified as monotheist yet are still regarded as false, pagan, by more Abrahamic monotheistic groups.

    No self respecting ancient, classical or even medieval priest would have self identified as pagan, any "pagan priestesses" would therefore be predated by many monotheist varieties. Abraham's tradition has famously been gender restrictive. When given an open challenge in their holy book it took Christians 1900 years to answer it? Well whatever, late's better than never right? There would not even be anything to debate if Jaqen had just said "Christian" instead of trying to group all monotheist religion under one blanket and suggested the modern pagan movement as something other than a modern trend.
  • November 30, 2013
    KarjamP
    ^Because I'd rather avoid being heated up.

    If you'll continue this, I'll ask the mods to deal with you for not honoring my desire to debate because of the Rule Of Cautious Editing Judgement.
  • November 30, 2013
    IndirectActiveTransport
    This You Know That Thing Where's starter invited the discussion, pointing out a double standard, Karjam started to argue and then played the "Cautious editing judgment" card as if to shut down any future challenge to them, do you really think calling the mods will work to Karjam's advantage?

    Was their a proposed Pagan Priestess trope that was rejected? I do not know. I interpreted that as a critique beyond the scope of tropes and responded as such but Jaqen might yet explain why that was not needed. This could all just blow over on its own.

    But fine, fine. I will from this post onward ignore this You Know That Thing Where until I have more potential examples. You win.
  • November 30, 2013
    KarjamP
    I meant not any further.

    Just because I'm a Christian doesn't mean I don't fall.

    Besides I see it as me trying to making a point.
  • December 1, 2013
    LordGro
    Pope Joan is a legend (i.e., a work) or a (Un-)Historical Domain Character, not a trope.

    The description is confused and incoherent. Nowhere is there a definite statement about what this page is about. Crappy formatting. The story about the sex-test ritual is an urban legend.

    A page on the Pope Joan legend would be a worthwhile addition to the wiki, but this is hardly a useful start. Discard.
  • December 1, 2013
    Fighteer
    This isn't a trope or a useful note. It's garbage. Discarding.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=qsfunfgkh3a2oo9ufh1u03li&trope=DiscardedYKTTW