Antichrist And Pope Joan

: 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 conjur
d 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.