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Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Pope Joan (original 1996; edition 1997)

by Donna Woolfolk Cross

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2,7871032,099 (3.88)120
Title:Pope Joan
Authors:Donna Woolfolk Cross
Info:Ballantine Books (1997), Edition: Later Printing, Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:historical fiction, women, Catholicism, 9th Century

Work details

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross (1996)

  1. 40
    Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (meggyweg)
  2. 10
    A Golden Web by Barbara Quick (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both are stories that weave around the few bare bones facts known about women who allegedly made great contributions while disguised as men. The themes of the importance of education are similar - as is the controversy surrounding whether they actually existed. A Golden Web is about a female anatomist who made a remarkable discovery, Pope Joan about the alleged female pope.… (more)
  3. 10
    The Legend of Pope Joan: In Search of the Truth by Peter Stanford (amyblue)
  4. 10
    Pope Joan by Emmanuel Royidis (myshelves)
  5. 00
    Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell (BookshelfMonstrosity)

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» See also 120 mentions

English (91)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (2)  Lithuanian (2)  German (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
A very interesting book and not my usual style, but loved it. A fascinating story- even if it is a myth! Well worth reading. ( )
  Debbie76 | Nov 8, 2015 |
Interesting to think about, pacing of the book was really good and I enjoyed the strong characters. I can see though where people aren’t too thrilled with the ending. It was a crappy ending to a really interesting life (not written badly, it was a WHY did it end this way????). I skimmed through the Epilogue as I just couldn’t get through it. But I did appreciate the amount of research the author did when writing it, legend or not, it brings up lots of questions and makes me want to read more about Joan. ( )
  TheKnittedSheep | Oct 12, 2015 |
I enjoyed re-reading this book for our book club. It provoked ionteresting discussions on whether or not Joan was really an historical figure who actually ascended the throne to become Pope. Of course this prompted discussion of the role of women in the Catholic church, both then and now. An interesting read that most would probably enjoy. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |

I think I loved this book for different reasons than most people. For a long book, the pacing was excellent. Also, I felt the author was great with the handling of emotion. Each emotion felt real, and earned. There were times it was agony, but she had me in the palm of her hand. I was invested. ( )
  KR_Patterson | Apr 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
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For my father,William Woolfolk
and there are no words to add
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It was the twenty-eighth day of Wintarmanoth in the year of our Lord 814, the harshest winter in living memory.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345416260, Paperback)

One of the most controversial women of history is brought to brilliant life in Donn Woolfolk Cross's tale of Pope Joan, a girl whose origins should have kept her in squalid domesticity. Instead, through her intelligence, indomitability and courage, she ascended to the throne of Rome as Pope John Anglicus.

The time is 814, the place is Ingelheim, a Frankland village. It is the harshest winter in living memory when Joan is born to an English father and a Saxon mother. Her father is a canon, filled with holy zeal and capable of unconscionable cruelty. His piety does not extend to his family members, especially the females. His wife, Gudrun, is a young beauty to whom he was attracted beyond his will--and he hates her for showing him his weakness. Gudrun teaches Joan about her gods, and is repeatedly punished for it by the canon. Joan grows to young womanhood with the combined knowledge of the warlike Saxon gods and the teachings of the Church as her heritage. Both realities inform her life forever.

When her brother John, not a scholarly type, is sent away to school, Joan, who was supposed to be the one sent to school, runs away and joins him in Dorstadt, at Villaris, the home of Gerold, who is central to Joan's story. She falls in love with Gerold and their lives interesect repeatedly even through her Papacy. She is looked upon by all who know that she is a woman as a "lusus naturae," a freak of nature. "She was... male in intellect, female in body, she fit in nowhere; it was as if she belonged to a third amorphous sex." Cross makes the case over and over again that the status of women in the Dark Ages was little better than cattle. They were judged inferior in every way, and necessary evils in the bargain.

After John is killed in a Viking attack, Joan sees her opportunity to escape the fate of all her gender. She cuts her hair, dons her dead brother's clothes and goes into the world as a young boy. Gerold is away from Villaris at the time of the attack and comes home to find his home in ruins, his family killed and Joan among the missing. After the attack, Joan goes to a Benedictine monastery, is accepted as a young man of great learning, and eventually makes her way to Rome.

The author is at pains to tell the reader in an Epilogue that she has written the story as fiction because it is impossible to document Joan's accesion to the Papacy. The Catholic Church has done everything possible to deny this embarrassment. Whether or not one believes in Joan as Pope, this is a compelling story, filled with all kinds of lore: the brutishness of the Dark Ages, Vatican intrigue, politics and favoritism and most of all, the place of women in the Church and in the world. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Set against the turbulent events of the Dark Ages, a fictional account of the controversial figure of historical record profiles a spirited woman who, disguised as a man, rose to rule Christianity as the only woman ever to become pope

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