Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Die Päpstin Johanna: Biographie Einer Legende

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Die Päpstin Johanna: Biographie Einer Legende

Article excerpt

Die Päpstin Johanna: Biographie einer Legende. By Max Kerner and Klaus Herbers. (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag. 2010. Pp. 173. euro20,50. ISBN 978-3-41220469-3.)

Near the end of this brief, bracing book the authors ask if we need Pope Joan. A reviewer might well ask if we need another book about her. But to answer their question as they do: Yes, we need Joan because, since the thirteenth century, succeeding generations have needed her, or found her useful, for various ideological and polemical reasons.

The authors leave no doubt that by any standard of historical scholarship there was no Pope Joan. Joan's medieval in venters and later defenders situate her 2.5-year "pontificate" after Leo IV (847-55), but the record is clear: Benedict m succeeded Leo, and there is no gap in the succession. The idea occasionally floated that the Vatican expunged the record is nonsense.

Treatments of the Joan story usually begin in earnest with Martin of Troppau in the thirteenth century. Max Kerner and Klaus Herbers deal extensively with Martin but also add a good deal of material from the ninth century to the thirteenth that has not always found a place in the discussion. For instance, John Vm (872-82) was seen by Cesare Baronius (1538-1607) as a pope of "womanly weakness" because he recognized Photius as patriarch of Constantinople. …

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