Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When a book is recommended to you over and over again, it’s definitely a good idea to take the recommendation. Such was the case with the amazing Pope Joan. It’s been sitting on my nightstand for . . . years! What finally motivated me to pick it up and dive in? Very simply, it was next on my long “to-read” list.
Pope Joan relates the fascinating story of the little known female Pope, who reigned as Pope John VIII in the ninth century between Popes Leo IV and Benedict III. It was sometime around 853. The author calls this period the “darkest of the dark ages,” a time of widespread illiteracy. Record-keeping was not only incomplete, but also, her rise to the papacy was ultimately so scandalous, that the Catholic Church took great strides to expunge any account of her existence.
And her existence continues to be controversial. Some consider it myth or legend . . . but the author makes a strong argument, citing an impressive slate of historical evidence—and especially because she writes such a riveting story of Joan’s life.
Pope Joan is extremely well written. It’s full of history and color. It’s brutal, it’s romantic, it’s shocking, it’s triumphant. How Joan manages to survive each stage of her life—until her ultimate demise—will keep you turning pages.
I give this book my highest recommendation.
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