By Peter Stanford
Last updated at 12:36 PM on 22nd June 2010
For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has tried to bury her story. But of all the legends suppressed by the Vatican over the years, this is one that refuses to go away. Now, a new film has brought to life the story of the only female pope - and it is being shown this week in cinemas cheek by jowl with the Vatican. And there are plans to bring it to Britain.
For a Church that still treats women as second-class citizens, it is a source of considerable embarrassment and will once again raise the question of whether Pope Joan, as she is called in medieval chronicles, really did exist.
The Vatican claims that she was a mythical figure used by early Protestants to discredit and embarrass Rome. MORE HERE.
Grisly end: Johanna Wokalek as Pope Joan in the new film