I counted myself among the nay-sayers until I read Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. While it is historical fiction, in her author’s notes at the end, she claims numerous historical documents verify that Pope Joan did indeed exist. Here are various quotes from the paperback edition:
Cross then goes on to call for a scientific examination of one ancient copy of the Liber pontificalis that contains a record of Joan’s papacy which is obviously a later interpolation. She also points to the recent examples of Nicaragua and El Salvador that a determined state effort can make embarrassing evidence disappear.
Cross then mentions that there were innumerable jests and songs referring to the chair, and they were widespread among the Roman populace for centuries. In 1404, the Welshman Adam of Usk detailed Pope Innocent VII’s coronation, including the chair exam.
Cross then says that the Via Sacra (now the Via S. Giovanni) is the shortest and most direct route between the Pope’s residence and St. Peter’s Basilica, and was used for centuries. This is the street Joan reportedly gave birth to her stillborn child. “Soon afterward, papal processions deliberately began to turn aside from the Via Sacra, ‘in abhorrence of that event.’” pg 417. She claims the width of the street (an excuse commonly cited) was not a factor.
Is there any evidence to refute what Cross claims as evidence? She lists no bibliography, footnotes, etc.
And what evidence is there that Pope Joan did not exist, other than the claim that she was invented by Protestants? If she is mentioned before the Protestant movement, doesn’t that make it impossible for her to have been invented by them?
(wow, my fingers hurt now)