Pope Joan


Vancouver Art Gallery Vancouver BC
Group Show – The Media Closet pt.2

We find multiple ways to represent things. “The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind”
— Marvin Minsky

Elected pontiff around 855, Pope Joan supposedly reigned as Pope John VIII. Sources vary on the length of her time at the helm of the church from a few weeks to more than two years. Some theorized that her term came between Pope Leo IV and Benedict III. Unfortunately, according to the stories, her secret was uncovered during a papal procession. Pregnant at the time, Pope Joan was on her way to the Church of the Lateran in Rome when she began having contractions. Learning that the pope was having a baby, the people reacted in horror. Most reports indicate that she was killed that day, either by stoning or by being dragged behind a horse. Later popes avoided the crossroads where Pope Joan was supposedly killed, which was called the Vicus Papissa, or street of the female pope.

Some modern historians have theorized that, this once frightening tale created to discourage women from seeking personal gain, has opened the door for conversations within the church about female ministers today. It is a strange case where the emphasis of the original myth has changed so much over the decades it now supports the growing view that women have a place in leadership as part of the Roman Catholic church.