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Pope Joan: A Novel

A book by Donna Woolfolk Cross

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When history is confused with fiction, people are misled.

  • May 18, 2000
  • by
The first and most important thing to remember when reading this book is this: It is a work of fiction, which incorporates historical elements. It is not historical.

It is fictional.

Any good historian, whether Protestant or Catholic, knows this, and can easily demonstrate it.

Keep this in mind.

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More Pope Joan: A Novel reviews
review by . July 22, 2006
The author relates a series of tribulations in the life of the  character Joan. Her father was abusive and controlling. She was raised in a period of history, the Dark Ages, where women weren't   held in high esteem. The author sets forth 6 evidences which are  conditions precedent to governance. These are:    - the who  - the what  - the how  - the where  - the when and why    At the appropriate …
review by . May 14, 2006
I thoroughly enjoyed Cross's depiction of such a controversial figure. I am not enough of a historian to know if Pope Joan did or did not exist, but the possibility is a fascinating place to explore. I thought it was perpelxing that Cross's version of Joan rose to the high ranks of the Catholic church without being portrayed as particularly interested in spirituality. Her obvious preocupation was intellectual. It struck me that she seemed more likely to make her way into a medical education than …
review by . August 16, 2001
I first found this novel after seeing a documentary on the myth or truth of Pope Joan, and found that I wanted to know more of this amazing story. What I found was a well crafted and entertaining historical novel, and if I am none the wiser as to whether the story is truth or fiction, I am still well satisfied with the adventure and the characters.It is a richly detailed story of medieval life, and a story of a strong young woman with formidable intellectual abilities, stifled by her womanhood in …
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David Zampino ()
Ranked #482
I am a 44-year-old historian and theologian.
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About this book


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...

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ISBN-10: 0345416260
ISBN-13: 978-0345416261
Author: Donna Woolfolk Cross
Publisher: Ballantine Books

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