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THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF THE ENGLISH WOMAN WHO FOOLED THE VATICAN. The legend of Pope Joan - the woman who, dressed as a man, headed the Catholic church in the early ninth century - has always been a subject of fascinated speculation but rarely, until now, the subject of serious research. As the future over women in the catholic priesthood continues, and the Church, which once took her story as gospel, now tries to play down the rumours, it is time for a reappraisal. Here Peter Stanford, author of The Devil: A Biography, reveals what can, and cannot, be known of this incredible story, and of the extraordinary woman behind it. In this fascinating account, ranging from secret histories to conspiracy theories, medieval carvings to tarot cards, women priests to cross-dressing clerics, and from romantic fiction to hard facts, he delivers a major study of historical detective work.