Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

It was a city of ancient and seemingly irreconcilable contradictions: the wonder of the world, and a filthy, decaying backwash; a place of Christian pilgrimage, whose greatest art celebrated pagan gods; a center of books and learning, whose people wallowed in ignorance and superstition.

Despite these contradictions, perhaps because of them, Joan loved Rome. The seething tumults of its streets stirred her. In these teeming corridors the far corners of the world converged: Roman, Lombard, German, Byzantine, and Muslim jostling one another in an exciting mix of customs and tongues. Past and present, pagan and Christian were intertwined in a rich and diverting tapestry. The best and worst of all the world were gathered within these ancient walls. In Rome, Joan found the world of opportunity and adventure which she had sought all her life. ~ From Pope Joan, page 245 ~

For a thousand years men have denied her existence - Pope Joan, the woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule Christianity for two years. When her older brother dies in a Viking attack, the brilliant young Joan assumes his identity and enters a Benedictine monastery where, as Brother John Anglicus, she distinguishes herself as a scholar and healer. Eventually drawn to Rome, she soon becomes enmeshed in a dangerous mix of powerful passion and explosive politics that threatens her life even as it elevates her to the highest throne in the Western world.

I found this book both fascinating and intriguing. To think that a woman in the middle to late 800s could rise through the ranks of the Catholic church to become the leader of one the largest religious orders is mind boggling and at the same time believable. While the author readily admits that this is largely a fictional story based on fact there appears to be enough evidence to credit that Joan did in fact exist. This evidence exists in over 500 hundred writings of Church history. This book is very readable with an easy writing style. If you enjoy historical fiction this book should be on your reading list.


marci said...

I enjoyed this book as well, although it's been a few years since I read it (2005 perhaps). I'm always delighted to see someone else enjoy a book I did.

Lynne said...

I read this book twice and loved it.

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