In the 9th century a young woman, named Joan, disguised herself as a man in order to follow her lover into an exclusively male world of scholarship. She proved so successful that she ascended the Catholic hierarchy in Rome and was eventually elected Pope. She lasted two years before she became pregnant and died after giving birth during a public procession from the Vatican. or so the legend goes. This volume looks at the history of the myth of Pope Joan. It investigates the historical and ecclesiastical circumstances under which the myth was constructed and the different uses to which it has been put over the centuries.
Alain Boureau is director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, and a director at the Centre de Recherches Historiques, Paris. He is the author of nine books, including "The Lord's First Night: The Myth of the Droit de Cuissage," also published by the University of Chicago Press.