According to legend, Pope Joan was a woman who concealed her gender and ruled as pope for two years, from 853-855 ad. Her identity was exposed when, riding one day from St. Peter's to the Lateran, she stopped by the side of the road and, to the astonishment of everyone, gave birth to a child.
Pope Joan was a legendary female Pope who allegedly reigned for a few years some time during the Middle Ages. The story first appeared in 13th-century chronicles, and was subsequently spread and embellished throughout Europe. It was widely believed for centuries, though modern religious scholars consider it fictitious, perhaps deriving from historicized folklore regarding Roman monuments or from anti-papal satire.
The first mention of the female pope appears in the chronicle of Jean de Mailly, but the most popular and influential version was that interpolated into Martin of Troppau's Chronicon Pontificum et Imperatorum, later in the 13th century. Most versions of her story describe her as a talented and learned woman who disguises herself as a man, often at the behest of a lover. In the most common accounts, due to her abilities, she rises through the church hierarchy, eventually being elected pope. However, while riding on horseback, she gives birth, thus exposing her gender. In most versions, she dies shortly after, either being killed by an angry mob or from natural causes. Her memory is then shunned by her successors.
Mysterious Woman Pope Who Just Won't Go Away