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Antichrist And Pope Joan

Source: Curious Myths Of The Middle Ages

From the earliest ages of the Church, the advent of the Man of Sin has
been looked forward to with terror, and the passages of Scripture
relating to him have been studied with solemn awe, lest that day of
wrath should come upon the Church unawares. As events in the world's
history took place which seemed to be indications of the approach of
Antichrist, a great horror fell upon men's minds, and their
imaginations conjured up myths which flew from mouth to mouth, and
which were implicitly believed.

Before speaking of these strange tales which produced such an effect
on the minds of men in the middle ages, it will be well briefly to
examine the opinions of divines of the early ages on the passages of
Scripture connected with the coming of the last great persecutor of
the Church. Antichrist was believed by most ancient writers to be
destined to arise out of the tribe of Dan, a belief founded on the
prediction of Jacob, "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in
the path" (conf. Jeremiah viii. 16), and on the exclamation of the
dying patriarch, when looking on his son Dan, "I have waited for Thy
Salvation, O Lord," as though the long-suffering of God had borne long
with that tribe, but in vain, and it was to be extinguished without
hope. This, indeed, is implied in the sealing of the servants of God
in their foreheads (Revelation vii.), when twelve thousand out of
every tribe, except Dan, were seen by St. John to receive the seal of
adoption, whilst of the tribe of Dan not one was sealed, as though
it, to a man, had apostatized.

Opinions as to the nature of Antichrist were divided. Some held that
he was to be a devil in phantom body, and of this number was
Hippolytus. Others, again, believed that he would be an incarnate
demon, true man and true devil; in fearful and diabolical parody of
the Incarnation of our Lord. A third view was, that he would be merely
a desperately wicked man, acting upon diabolical inspirations, just as
the saints act upon divine inspirations. St. John Damascene expressly
asserts that he will not be an incarnate demon, but a devilish man;
for he says, "Not as Christ assumed humanity, so will the devil become
human, but the Man will receive all the inspiration of Satan, and will
suffer the devil to take up his abode within him." In this manner
Antichrist could have many forerunners; and so St. Jerome and St.
Augustine saw an Antichrist in Nero, not the Antichrist, but one of
those of whom the Apostle speaks--"Even now are there many
Antichrists." Thus also every enemy of the faith, such as Diocletian,
Julian, and Mahomet, has been regarded as a precursor of the
Arch-persecutor, who was expected to sum up in himself the cruelty of
a Nero or Diocletian, the show of virtue of a Julian, and the
spiritual pride of a Mahomet.

From infancy the evil one is to take possession of Antichrist, and to
train him for his office, instilling into him cunning, cruelty, and
pride. His doctrine will be--not downright infidelity, but a "show of
godliness," whilst "denying the power thereof;" i. e., the miraculous
origin and divine authority of Christianity. He will sow doubts of our
Lord's manifestation "in the flesh," he will allow Christ to be an
excellent Man, capable of teaching the most exalted truths, and
inculcating the purest morality, yet Himself fallible and carried away
by fanaticism.

In the end, however, Antichrist will "exalt himself to sit as God in
the temple of God," and become "the abomination of desolation standing
in the holy place." At the same time there is to be an awful alliance
struck between himself, the impersonification of the world-power and
the Church of God; some high pontiff of which, or the episcopacy in
general, will enter into league with the unbelieving state to oppress
the very elect. It is a strange instance of religionary virulence
which makes some detect the Pope of Rome in the Man of Sin, the
Harlot, the Beast, and the Priest going before it. The Man of Sin and
the Beast are unmistakably identical, and refer to an Antichristian
world-power; whilst the Harlot and the Priest are symbols of an
apostasy in the Church. There is nothing Roman in this, but something
very much the opposite.

How the Abomination of Desolation can be considered as set up in a
Church where every sanctuary is adorned with all that can draw the
heart to the Crucified, and raise the thoughts to the imposing ritual
of Heaven, is a puzzle to me. To the man uninitiated in the law that
Revelation is to be interpreted by contraries, it would seem more like
the Abomination of Desolation in the Holy Place if he entered a Scotch
Presbyterian, or a Dutch Calvinist, place of worship. Rome does not
fight against the Daily Sacrifice, and endeavor to abolish it; that
has been rather the labor of so-called Church Reformers, who with the
suppression of the doctrine of Eucharistic Sacrifice and Sacramental
Adoration have well nigh obliterated all notion of worship to be
addressed to the God-Man. Rome does not deny the power of the
godliness of which she makes show, but insists on that power with no
broken accents. It is rather in other communities, where authority is
flung aside, and any man is permitted to believe or reject what he
likes, that we must look for the leaven of the Antichristian spirit at

It is evident that this spirit will infect the Church, and especially
those in place of authority therein; so that the elect will have to
wrestle against both "principalities and powers" in the state, and
also "spiritual wickedness in the high places" of the Church. Perhaps
it will be this feeling of antagonism between the inferior orders and
the highest which will throw the Bishops into the arms of the state,
and establish that unholy alliance which will be cemented for the
purpose of oppressing all who hold the truth in sincerity, who are
definite in their dogmatic statements of Christ's having been
manifested in the flesh, who labor to establish the Daily Sacrifice,
and offer in every place the pure offering spoken of by Malachi.
Perhaps it was in anticipation of this, that ancient mystical
interpreters explained the scene at the well in Midian as having
reference to the last times.

The Church, like the daughters of Reuel, comes to the Well of living
waters to water her parched flock; whereupon the shepherds--her chief
pastors--arise and strive with her. "Fear not, O flock, fear not, O
daughter!" exclaims the commentator; "thy true Moses is seated on the
well, and He will arise out of His resting-place, and will with His
own hand smite the shepherds, and water the flock." Let the sheep be
in barren and dry pastures,--so long the shepherds strive not; let the
sheep pant and die,--so long the shepherds show no signs of
irritation; but let the Church approach the limpid well of life, and
at once her prelates will, in the latter days, combine "to strive"
with her, and keep back the flock from the reviving streams.

In the time of Antichrist the Church will be divided: one portion will
hold to the world-power, the other will seek out the old paths, and
cling to the only true Guide. The high places will be filled with
unbelievers in the Incarnation, and the Church will be in a condition
of the utmost spiritual degradation, but enjoying the highest State
patronage. The religion in favor will be one of morality, but not of
dogma; and the Man of Sin will be able to promulgate his doctrine,
according to St. Anselm, through his great eloquence and wisdom, his
vast learning and mightiness in the Holy Scriptures, which he will
wrest to the overthrowing of dogma. He will be liberal in bribes, for
he will be of unbounded wealth; he will be capable of performing great
"signs and wonders," so as "to deceive--the very elect;" and at the
last, he will tear the moral veil from his countenance, and a monster
of impiety and cruelty, he will inaugurate that awful persecution,
which is to last for three years and a half, and to excel in horror
all the persecutions that have gone before.

In that terrible season of confusion faith will be all but
extinguished. "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the
earth?" asks our Blessed Lord, as though expecting the answer, No; and
then, says Marchantius, the vessel of the Church will disappear in the
foam of that boiling deep of infidelity, and be hidden in the
blackness of that storm of destruction which sweeps over the earth.
The sun shall "be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and
the stars shall fall from heaven;" the sun of faith shall have gone
out; the moon, the Church, shall not give her light, being turned into
blood, through stress of persecution; and the stars, the great
ecclesiastical dignitaries, shall fall into apostasy. But still the
Church will remain unwrecked, she will weather the storm; still will
she come forth "beautiful as the moon, terrible as an army with
banners;" for after the lapse of those three and a half years, Christ
will descend to avenge the blood of the saints, by destroying
Antichrist and the world-power.

Such is a brief sketch of the scriptural doctrine of Antichrist as
held by the early and mediAval Church. Let us now see to what myths it
gave rise among the vulgar and the imaginative. Rabanus Maurus, in his
work on the life of Antichrist, gives a full account of the miracles
he will perform; he tells us that the Man-fiend will heal the sick,
raise the dead, restore sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf,
speech to the dumb; he will raise storms and calm them, will remove
mountains, make trees flourish or wither at a word. He will rebuild
the temple at Jerusalem, and making the Holy City the great capital of
the world. Popular opinion added that his vast wealth would be
obtained from hidden treasures, which are now being concealed by the
demons for his use. Various possessed persons, when interrogated,
announced that such was the case, and that the amount of buried gold
was vast.

"In the year 1599," says Canon Moreau, a contemporary historian, "a
rumor circulated with prodigious rapidity through Europe, that
Antichrist had been born at Babylon, and that already the Jews of that
part were hurrying to receive and recognize him as their Messiah. The
news came from Italy and Germany, and extended to Spain, England, and
other Western kingdoms, troubling many people, even the most discreet;
however, the learned gave it no credence, saying that the signs
predicted in Scripture to precede that event were not yet
accomplished, and among other that the Roman empire was not yet
abolished.... Others said that, as for the signs, the majority had
already appeared to the best of their knowledge, and with regard to
the rest, they might have taken place in distant regions without their
having been made known to them; that the Roman empire existed but in
name, and that the interpretation of the passage on which its
destruction was predicted, might be incorrect; that for many
centuries, the most learned and pious had believed in the near
approach of Antichrist, some believing that he had already come, on
account of the persecutions which had fallen on the Christians;
others, on account of fires, or eclipses, or earthquakes.... Every
one was in excitement; some declared that the news must be correct,
others believed nothing about it, and the agitation became so
excessive, that Henry IV., who was then on the throne, was compelled
by edict to forbid any mention of the subject."

The report spoken of by Moreau gained additional confirmation from the
announcement made by an exorcised demoniac, that in 1600, the Man of
Sin had been born in the neighborhood of Paris, of a Jewess, named
Blanchefleure, who had conceived by Satan. The child had been baptized
at the Sabbath of Sorcerers; and a witch, under torture, acknowledged
that she had rocked the infant Antichrist on her knees, and she
averred that he had claws on his feet, wore no shoes, and spoke all

In 1623 appeared the following startling announcement, which obtained
an immense circulation among the lower orders: "We, brothers of the
Order of St. John of Jerusalem, in the Isle of Malta, have received
letters from our spies, who are engaged in our service in the country
of Babylon, now possessed by the Grand Turk; by the which letters we
are advertised, that, on the 1st of May, in the year of our Lord
1623, a child was born in the town of Bourydot, otherwise called
Calka, near Babylon, of the which child the mother is a very aged
woman, of race unknown, called Fort-Juda: of the father nothing is
known. The child is dusky, has pleasant mouth and eyes, teeth pointed
like those of a cat, ears large, stature by no means exceeding that of
other children; the said child, incontinent on his birth, walked and
talked perfectly well. His speech is comprehended by every one,
admonishing the people that he is the true Messiah, and the son of
God, and that in him all must believe. Our spies also swear and
protest that they have seen the said child with their own eyes; and
they add, that, on the occasion of his nativity, there appeared
marvellous signs in heaven, for at full noon the sun lost its
brightness, and was for some time obscured." This is followed by a
list of other signs appearing, the most remarkable being a swarm of
flying serpents, and a shower of precious stones.

According to Sebastian Michaeliz, in his history of the possessed of
Flanders, on the authority of the exorcised demons, we learn that
Antichrist is to be a son of Beelzebub, who will accompany his
offspring under the form of a bird, with four feet and a bull's head;
that he will torture Christians with the same tortures with which the
lost souls are racked; that he will be able to fly, speak all
languages, and will have any number of names.

We find that Antichrist is known to the Mussulmans as well as to
Christians. Lane, in his edition of the "Arabian Nights," gives some
curious details on Moslem ideas regarding him. According to these,
Antichrist will overrun the earth, mounted on an ass, and followed by
40,000 Jews; his empire will last forty days, whereof the first day
will be a year long, the duration of the second will be a month, that
of the third a week, the others being of their usual length. He will
devastate the whole world, leaving Mecca and Medina alone in security,
as these holy cities will be guarded by angelic legions. Christ at
last will descend to earth, and in a great battle will destroy the

Several writers, of different denominations, no less superstitious
than the common people, connected the apparition of Antichrist with
the fable of Pope Joan, which obtained such general credence at one
time, but which modern criticism has at length succeeded in excluding
from history.

Perhaps the earliest writer to mention Pope Joan is Marianus Scotus,
who in his chronicle inserts the following passage: "A. D. 854,
Lotharii 14, Joanna, a woman, succeeded Leo, and reigned two years,
five months, and four days." Marianus Scotus died A. D. 1086. Sigebert
de Gemblours (d. 5th Oct., 1112) inserts the same story in his
valuable chronicle, copying from an interpolated passage in the work
of Anastasius the librarian. His words are, "It is reported that this
John was a female, and that she conceived by one of her servants. The
Pope, becoming pregnant, gave birth to a child; wherefore some do not
number her among the Pontiffs." Hence the story spread among the
mediAval chroniclers, who were great plagiarists. Otto of Frisingen
and Gotfrid of Viterbo mention the Lady-Pope in their histories, and
Martin Polonus gives details as follows: "After Leo IV., John Anglus,
a native of Metz, reigned two years, five months, and four days. And
the pontificate was vacant for a month. He died in Rome. He is related
to have been a female, and, when a girl, to have accompanied her
sweetheart in male costume to Athens; there she advanced in various
sciences, and none could be found to equal her. So, after having
studied for three years in Rome, she had great masters for her pupils
and hearers. And when there arose a high opinion in the city of her
virtue and knowledge, she was unanimously elected Pope. But during her
papacy she became in the family way by a familiar. Not knowing the
time of birth, as she was on her way from St. Peter's to the Lateran
she had a painful delivery, between the Coliseum and St. Clement's
Church, in the street. Having died after, it is said that she was
buried on the spot; and therefore the Lord Pope always turns aside
from that way, and it is supposed by some out of detestation for what
happened there. Nor on that account is she placed in the catalogue of
the Holy Pontiffs, not only on account of her sex, but also because of
the horribleness of the circumstance."

Certainly a story at all scandalous crescit eundo.

William Ocham alludes to the story, and John Huss, only too happy to
believe it, provides the lady with a name, and asserts that she was
baptized Agnes, or, as he will have it with a strong aspirate, Hagnes.
Others, however, insist upon her name having been Gilberta; and some
stout Germans, not relishing the notion of her being a daughter of
Fatherland, palm her off on England. As soon as we arrive at
Reformation times, the German and French Protestants fasten on the
story with the utmost avidity, and add sweet little touches of their
own, and draw conclusions galling enough to the Roman See,
illustrating their accounts with wood engravings vigorous and graphic,
but hardly decent. One of these represents the event in a peculiarly
startling manner. The procession of bishops, with the Host and tapers,
is sweeping along, when suddenly the cross-bearer before the
triple-crowned and vested Pope starts aside to witness the unexpected
arrival. This engraving, which it is quite impossible for me to
reproduce, is in a curious little book, entitled "Puerperium Johannis
PapA 8, 1530."

The following jingling record of the event is from the Rhythmical VitA
Pontificum of Gulielmus Jacobus of Egmonden, a work never printed.
This fragment is preserved in "Wolfii Lectionum Memorabilium
centenarii, XVI.:"--

"PriusquA m reconditur Sergius, vocatur
Ad summam, qui dicitur Johannes, huic addatur
Anglicus, Moguntia iste procreatur.
Qui, ut dat sententia, fA"minis aptatur
Sexu: quod sequentia monstrant, breviatur,
HAc vox: nam prolixius chronica procedunt.
Ista, de qua brevius dicta minus lAdunt.
Huic erat amasius, ut scriptores credunt.
Patria relinquitur Moguntia, GrAcorum
StudiosA" petitur schola. PA squaredst doctorum
HAc doctrix efficitur RomA legens: horum
HAc auditu fungitur loquens. Hinc prostrato
Summo hAc eligitur: sexu exaltato
Quandoque negligitur. Fatur quA squaredd hAc nato
Per servum conficitur. Tempore gignendi
Ad processum equus scanditur, vice flendi,
Papa cadit, panditur improbis ridendi
Norma, puer nascitur in vico Clementis,
ColossA"um jungitur. Corpus parentis
In eodem traditur sepulturA gentis,
Faturque scriptoribus, quA squaredd Papa prAfato,
Vico senioribus transiens amato
Congruo ductoribus sequitur negato
Loco, quo Ecclesia partu denigratur,
Quamvis inter spacia Pontificum ponatur,
Propter sexum."

Stephen Blanch, in his "Urbis RomA Mirabilia," says that an angel of
heaven appeared to Joan before the event, and asked her to choose
whether she would prefer burning eternally in hell, or having her
confinement in public; with sense which does her credit, she chose the
latter. The Protestant writers were not satisfied that the father of
the unhappy baby should have been a servant: some made him a
Cardinal, and others the devil himself. According to an eminent Dutch
minister, it is immaterial whether the child be fathered on Satan or a
monk; at all events, the former took a lively interest in the youthful
Antichrist, and, on the occasion of his birth, was seen and heard
fluttering overhead, crowing and chanting in an unmusical voice the
Sibylline verses announcing the birth of the Arch-persecutor:--

"Papa pater patrum, PapissA pandito partum
Et tibi tunc eadem de corpore quando recedam!"

which lines, as being perhaps the only ones known to be of diabolic
composition, are deserving of preservation.

The Reformers, in order to reconcile dates, were put to the somewhat
perplexing necessity of moving Pope Joan to their own times, or else
of giving to the youthful Antichrist an age of seven hundred years.

It must be allowed that the accouchement of a Pope in full
pontificals, during a solemn procession, was a prodigy not likely to
occur more than once in the world's history, and was certain to be of
momentous import.

It will be seen by the curious woodcut reproduced as frontispiece
from Baptista Mantuanus, that he consigned Pope Joan to the jaws of
hell, notwithstanding her choice. The verses accompanying this picture

"Hic pendebat adhuc sexum mentita virile
FA"mina, cui triplici Phrygiam diademate mitram
Extollebat apex: et pontificalis adulter."

It need hardly be stated that the whole story of Pope Joan is
fabulous, and rests on not the slightest historical foundation. It was
probably a Greek invention to throw discredit on the papal hierarchy,
first circulated more than two hundred years after the date of the
supposed Pope. Even Martin Polonus (A. D. 1282), who is the first to
give the details, does so merely on popular report.

The great champions of the myth were the Protestants of the sixteenth
century, who were thoroughly unscrupulous in distorting history and
suppressing facts, so long as they could make a point. A paper war was
waged upon the subject, and finally the whole story was proved
conclusively to be utterly destitute of historical truth. A melancholy
example of the blindness of party feeling and prejudice is seen in
Mosheim, who assumes the truth of the ridiculous story, and gravely
inserts it in his "Ecclesiastical History." "Between Leo IV., who died
855, and Benedict III., a woman, who concealed her sex and assumed the
name of John, it is said, opened her way to the Pontifical throne by
her learning and genius, and governed the Church for a time. She is
commonly called the Papess Joan. During the five subsequent centuries
the witnesses to this extraordinary event are without number; nor did
any one, prior to the Reformation by Luther, regard the thing as
either incredible or disgraceful to the Church." Such are Mosheim's
words, and I give them as a specimen of the credit which is due to his
opinion. The "Ecclesiastical History" he wrote is full of perversions
of the plainest facts, and that under our notice is but one out of
many. "During the five centuries after her reign," he says, "the
witnesses to the story are innumerable." Now, for two centuries there
is not an allusion to be found to the events. The only passage which
can be found is a universally acknowledged interpolation of the "Lives
of the Popes," by Anastasius Bibliothecarius; and this interpolation
is stated in the first printed edition by BusAus, Mogunt. 1602, to be
only found in two MS. copies.

From Marianus Scotus or Sigebert de Gemblours the story passed into
other chronicles totidem verbis, and generally with hesitation and
an expression of doubt in its accuracy. Martin Polonus is the first to
give the particulars, some four hundred and twenty years after the
reign of the fabulous Pope.

Mosheim is false again in asserting that no one prior to the
Reformation regarded the thing as either incredible or disgraceful.
This is but of a piece with his malignity and disregard for truth,
whenever he can hit the Catholic Church hard. Bart. Platina, in his
"Lives of the Popes," written before Luther was born, after relating
the story, says, "These things which I relate are popular reports, but
derived from uncertain and obscure authors, which I have therefore
inserted briefly and baldly, lest I should seem to omit obstinately
and pertinaciously what most people assert." Thus the facts were
justly doubted by Platina on the legitimate grounds that they rested
on popular gossip, and not on reliable history. Marianus Scotus, the
first to relate the story, died in 1086. He was a monk of St. Martin
of Cologne, then of Fulda, and lastly of St. Alban's, at Metz. How
could he have obtained reliable information, or seen documents upon
which to ground the assertion? Again, his chronicle has suffered
severely from interpolations in numerous places, and there is reason
to believe that the Pope-Joan passage is itself a late interpolation.

If so, we are reduced to Sigebert de Gemblours (d. 1112), placing two
centuries and a half between him and the event he records, and his
chronicle may have been tampered with.

The historical discrepancies are sufficiently glaring to make the
story more than questionable.

Leo IV. died on the 17th July, 855; and Benedict III. was consecrated
on the 1st September in the same year; so that it is impossible to
insert between their pontificates a reign of two years, five months,
and four days. It is, however, true that there was an antipope elected
upon the death of Leo, at the instance of the Emperor Louis; but his
name was Anastasius. This man possessed himself of the palace of the
Popes, and obtained the incarceration of Benedict. However, his
supporters almost immediately deserted him, and Benedict assumed the
pontificate. The reign of Benedict was only for two years and a half,
so that Anastasius cannot be the supposed Joan; nor do we hear of any
charge brought against him to the effect of his being a woman. But the
stout partisans of the Pope-Joan tale assert, on the authority of the
"Annales Augustani,"[29] and some other, but late authorities, that
the female Pope was John VIII., who consecrated Louis II. of France,
and Ethelwolf of England. Here again is confusion. Ethelwolf sent
Alfred to Rome in 853, and the youth received regal unction from the
hands of Leo IV. In 855 Ethelwolf visited Rome, it is true, but was
not consecrated by the existing Pope, whilst Charles the Bald was
anointed by John VIII. in 875. John VIII. was a Roman, son of Gundus,
and an archdeacon of the Eternal City. He assumed the triple crown in
872, and reigned till December 18, 882. John took an active part in
the troubles of the Church under the incursions of the Sarasins, and
325 letters of his are extant, addressed to the princes and prelates
of his day.

Any one desirous of pursuing this examination into the untenable
nature of the story may find an excellent summary of the arguments
used on both sides in Gieseler, "Lehrbuch," &c., Cunningham's trans.,
vol. ii. pp. 20, 21, or in Bayle, "Dictionnaire," tom. iii. art.

The arguments in favor of the myth may be seen in Spanheim, "Exercit.
de Papa FA"mina," Opp. tom. ii. p. 577, or in Lenfant, "Histoire de
la Papesse Jeanne," La Haye, 1736, 2 vols. 12mo.

The arguments on the other side may be had in "Allatii Confutatio
FabulA de Johanna Papissa," Colon. 1645; in Le Quien, "Oriens
Christianus," tom. iii. p. 777; and in the pages of the Lutheran
Huemann, "Sylloge Diss. Sacras.," tom. i. par. ii. p. 352.

The final development of this extraordinary story, under the delicate
fingers of the German and French Protestant controversialists, may not
prove uninteresting.

Joan was the daughter of an English missionary, who left England to
preach the Gospel to the recently converted Saxons. She was born at
Engelheim, and according to different authors she was christened
Agnes, Gerberta, Joanna, Margaret, Isabel, Dorothy, or Jutt--the last
must have been a nickname surely! She early distinguished herself for
genius and love of letters. A young monk of Fulda having conceived for
her a violent passion, which she returned with ardor, she deserted her
parents, dressed herself in male attire, and in the sacred precincts
of Fulda divided her affections between the youthful monk and the
musty books of the monastic library. Not satisfied with the restraints
of conventual life, nor finding the library sufficiently well provided
with books of abstruse science, she eloped with her young man, and
after visiting England, France, and Italy, she brought him to Athens,
where she addicted herself with unflagging devotion to her literary
pursuits. Wearied out by his journey, the monk expired in the arms of
the blue-stocking who had influenced his life for evil, and the young
lady of so many aliases was for a while inconsolable. She left Athens
and repaired to Rome. There she opened a school and acquired such a
reputation for learning and feigned sanctity, that, on the death of
Leo IV., she was unanimously elected Pope. For two years and five
months, under the name of John VIII., she filled the papal chair with
reputation, no one suspecting her sex. But having taken a fancy to one
of the cardinals, by him she became pregnant. At length arrived the
time of Rogation processions. Whilst passing the street between the
amphitheatre and St. Clement's, she was seized with violent pains,
fell to the ground amidst the crowd, and, whilst her attendants
ministered to her, was delivered of a son. Some say the child and
mother died on the spot, some that she survived but was incarcerated,
some that the child was spirited away to be the Antichrist of the last
days. A marble monument representing the papess with her baby was
erected on the spot, which was declared to be accursed to all ages.

I have little doubt myself that Pope Joan is an impersonification of
the great whore of Revelation, seated on the seven hills, and is the
popular expression of the idea prevalent from the twelfth to the
sixteenth centuries, that the mystery of iniquity was somehow working
in the papal court. The scandal of the Antipopes, the utter
worldliness and pride of others, the spiritual fornication with the
kings of the earth, along with the words of Revelation prophesying the
advent of an adulterous woman who should rule over the imperial city,
and her connection with Antichrist, crystallized into this curious
myth, much as the floating uncertainty as to the signification of our
Lord's words, "There be some standing here which shall not taste of
death till they see the kingdom of God," condensed into the myth of
the Wandering Jew.

The literature connected with Antichrist is voluminous. I need only
specify some of the most curious works which have appeared on the
subject. St. Hippolytus and Rabanus Maurus have been already alluded
to. Commodianus wrote "Carmen Apologeticum adversus Gentes," which has
been published by Dom Pitra in his "Spicilegium Solesmense," with an
introduction containing Jewish and Christian traditions relating to
Antichrist. "De Turpissima Conceptione, Nativitate, et aliis PrAsagiis
Diaboliciis illius Turpissimi Hominis Antichristi," is the title of a
strange little volume published by Lenoir in A. D. 1500, containing
rude yet characteristic woodcuts, representing the birth, life, and
death of the Man of Sin, each picture accompanied by French verses in
explanation. An equally remarkable illustrated work on Antichrist is
the famous "Liber de Antichristo," a blockbook of an early date. It is
in twenty-seven folios, and is excessively rare. Dibdin has reproduced
three of the plates in his "Bibliotheca Spenseriana," and Falckenstein
has given full details of the work in his "Geschichte der

There is an Easter miracle-play of the twelfth century, still extant,
the subject of which is the "Life and Death of Antichrist." More
curious still is the "Farce de l'AntA(C)christ et de Trois Femmes"--a
composition of the sixteenth century, when that mysterious personage
occupied all brains. The farce consists in a scene at a fish-stall,
with three good ladies quarrelling over some fish. Antichrist steps
in,--for no particular reason that one can see,--upsets fish and
fish-women, sets them fighting, and skips off the stage. The best book
on Antichrist, and that most full of learning and judgment, is
Malvenda's great work in two folio volumes, "De Antichristo, libri
xii." Lyons, 1647.

For the fable of the Pope Joan, see J. Lenfant, "Histoire de la
Papesse Jeanne." La Haye, 1736, 2 vols. 12mo. "Allatii Confutatio
FabulA de Johanna Papissa." Colon. 1645.


[29] These Annals were written in 1135.

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