Skip to comments.Pope Joan: A Medieval Tale for Modern Women
Posted on 10/23/2013 2:06:19 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
I left the National Youth Theatres production of Pope Joan feeling both angry and extremely moved. The disputed myth of the first and only female Pope touched something very deep in my psychology. Pope Joan is a medieval tale about the alleged first (and only) female Pope who rose to the top of the Vatican styling herself as John- she is devout, brave and willing to risk anything to be close to God. Prior to the start of the action, Joan has revealed her true identity to a Cardinal in the Vatican who she has slept with and is now carrying his child, obviously problematic in her desire to maintain her male disguise.
Joans problems, therefore, are tenfold. She is not blameless in the childs conception and does not wish to keepit, as her cover will be blown. However, by aborting the child she feels as if she would be angering God because this would be a disavowal of Gods gift to females: the ability to procreate. Sophie Crawfords (Joan) expressive eyes internalise this pain and conflict, in a tour de force of a performance. Crawford makes it clear that is her body that is her betrayer, and that she is torn in a fundamental dichotomy between her faith and her biology. Although her faith is stronger than any mans, her body renders this faith heretical. She dies a martyr as she is discovered when she goes into labour whilst giving a delivering a sermon in the pulpit.
The setting of the play in St Jamess Church, in Piccadilly is perfect for the production. It allows designer Fi Russell to excel in creating an extremely atmospheric setting, because she has already been given the gift of the ornate church wall and stained glass to work from as a backdrop. She has pushed the altar back and has filled the floor space with an enormous horizontal white cross. This acts as a raised stage for the action, and is a constant reminder throughout the play of Christs bodily sacrifice to God, reflecting upon Joans own struggle with her body.
Considering this is her first published play, Louise Brealeys script is excellent, particularly the dialogue between Joan and her antagonist, the snarling Cardinal Anastasius who wants the papacy for himself, played with a sting by Robert Willoughby. The most powerful moment in the show is a silent physical scene where director Paul Hart uses the National Youth Theatres ensemble training to create a staircase up the isles and to the to Church altar which Crawford climbs up, breasts bared reaching out in desperation to the edifice of Christ above her head. She is prepared to give her body over entirely to Christ, but it is that same body and the child growing inside her that nullifies her connection with God.
Richard Geller and John Lipman have excelled in their creating the costumes for this piece. In tandem with Russells design and the church setting, Joans papal robes are heavily brocaded, creating an authoritarian sweep around he as she commands the Vatican, cutting through the dust of the Church. Anastasius is dressed, fittingly, in long and rich Satan-red robes, elongating Willoughbys already tall natural height to make him tower above Joan and the rest of the Vatican, a genuine threat. The strengths in this production are typical of the National Youth Theatre, as they lie in the incorporation of the space into the ensemble work. As you sit in the pews, the Vatican meets, squabbles and shouts all around you, creating a multi-sensory experience where the entire cast is valuable in creating the scene around you.
Although this is a fictional story and has become long-embroiled in Christian and urban mythology, the tale of Pope Joan is particularly pertinent to todays modern professional women facing the problems of maintaining a work-life balance between their career ambitions and their desire (or not) to have a family. Pope Joan is an aptly timed show, performed just as the bill to allow women bishops in Wales was passed, proof that the Church is finally accepting that the strength of your faith is irrelevant to your gender.
Note that she didn't mind "angering God" by sleeping with the cardinal. There isn't a "fundamental dichotomy between her faith and her biology", there's one between her faith and her actions!
Pope Joan is probably my favorite Pope.
That being said I’ll wait for the movie.
The Lady Pope ... who the Vatican insists never existed ... but since then always makes sure the Pope Guy is really a guy by a very touchy-feely exam and by riding the Pope guy around on a sedan chair which has a hole cut in the bottom for re-assuring visual checks.
There is also a street in Rome uipon which no Pope will ever set foot. Legend has it this the very street where Pope Joan went into labor while in a Holy Procession and her deception was discovered!
The Romans were not pleased, to say the very least.
Nor by the lies of pretending to be male and assuming a false name.
Your faith may be irrelevant to your sex but your role in the church certainly isn't. The bible is pretty clear that only men can be pastors and bishops.
Same Canadan gov. which forbids Catholic hospitals to offer ANY gynecology or obstetric services, because they won't do sterilizations or abortions, or offer artificial insemination to lesbians (or anyone else.)
Same Canadian gov. which brought human rights charges against pastors who preach against homosexuality, or write a letter to the editor opposing gay marriage.
Constantly using the power of the State to influence the culture, entertaiment, and art industries to attack Christianity --- analogous to what happens in the U.S., for instance when the Museum of Modern Art (NY-tax-subsidized) hosted "P*SS CHRIST".
With additional publicity given free by anti-Christians everywhere.
But we're not supposed to take offense.
There is a small shrine there in Rome to Pope Joan.
The fake, fictitious Pope.... shrine? What kind of religion builds shrines to dead mortal humans?
‘cock, anything to flout the Roman Catholic segment of Christendom? Funny thing I’ve noticed that the more vituperative the attacks on that segment get, the more the attacks SOUND like something you’d hear from them. Like the point for a Really Good Evangelical is to be more Roman Catholic than Roman Catholics.
She’d be impossible under even their rules, let alone biblical ones. “Be close” to a “God” who approves of just what? Sounds like a womyn “God” to me. No ma’am. Go back to the hell from which you came, ma’am.
Be careful, the enemy of your “enemy” isn’t always your friend.
Well, ultimately if that someone else is God, then it will turn out a blessing. Even if sometimes it is a painful blessing. A lot of modern angst is caused by systematic unfaith in God.
Google Pope Joan, then go to images and you will see the small shrine.
Lying and having a kid out of wedlock makes you closer to God?
and does anyone really think all this is even possible?
“What kind of religion builds shrines to dead mortal humans?”
Statolatry that’s what.
How about those SOCIALISTS that worship the state. And I’m not talking about anything in the former USSR. I am talking about the good ole USA. Huge monuments built to former politicians, as in Lincoln and Washington, Jefferson and the others and now Martin Luther King of all people. If that ain’t idol worship, I don’t know what in the hell it is.
Going to Washington DC you think you’re back in the Roman
Empire with all those huge busts and statutes of Ceasar and any other king or emperor they had.
Or you could just go to this 2011 FR thread:
When in Rome: The Legend of Papessa Giovanna
And do not call anyone on earth father, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
The pictures of DC bring exactly that image to mind!
Two young priests were caught in England when it was against the law for there to be priests in England. They were on trial. The Anglican bishop conducting the trial began to regale the young priests about the supposed female pope that the Catholic Church had. He felt as though he had scored huge points when he asked the pair what they had to say about "Pope Joan."
One of the young priests as he sat in his chair said, "This female pope you speak of, even if it were true, which it is not - why should it bother you when you have, in reality, a female heading your church."
To which the entire jury bust out laughing. No one would vote to find the two priests guilty, so they were carted off to London where a conviction would be assured.
your wait was over 4 years ago: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458455/
What to do with the guy who's name is after that term on my Birth Certificate?
Should he not get a card on the date-that-shall-not-be-named every June?
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