Nuremberg Chronicle

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Date: 15th Century, 16th Century

Region: Europe

Subject: Religious

Medium: Literature


PopeJoan3.jpg

Artist: Hartmann Schedel (1410-1485)

Confronting Bodies: Pope Clement VI

Dates of Action: 15th & 16th Century

Location: Italy, Rome

Description of Artwork: Great illustrated history of the world includes (plate CLXIX), a picture of the female Pope Joan and her baby, here said to have succeeded as "John VIII" on the death of Leo IV who died in 855. She is here said to have been of English origin, though born in Mainz; to have disguised herself as a man and gone to Athens with a learned lover; and later in Rome to have become so famous for knowledge of the Scriptures that she was finally elected Pope by general consent. She seemed to justify this choice until, during a procession to the Lateran Basilica, she suddenly broke down and gave birth to a son and died ignominiously.

The Incident: 1400 Italy-Sienne: An image of Pope Joan was included among the images of most of the Popes in Sienne Cathedral.

Results of Incident: 1600 Italy-Rome: at the request of Pope Clement VI, her name was changed to Pope Zachary. 1493 Italy-Rome: the legend was generally believed, but the earlier doubts became more general, and the picture and account of Joan were piously inked over or cut out of many copies of this and other books. There has been much controversy as to the truth of the legend, and it is now generally thought to be false.

Source: Banned Books 387 B.C. to 1978 A.D., by Anne Lyon Haight, and Chandler B. Grannis, R.R. Bowker Co, 1978.