Female Sultan/Female Pope: Shajar and Pope Joan


Monday, April 9, 2018, 5:00pm to 7:00pm


CGIS South, Room S354, 1730 Cambidge Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138

Benjamin Braude, Associate Professor of History, Boston College

For centuries, Pope Joan has been a mystery for Christians.  This lecture argues that she was invented in the 1250s as a French satirical attack on King Louis IX, the Crusades, and Papacy.  Inspiring the legend was the contemporary female Sultan, Shajar al-Durr, who had humiliated the king, his army, and his pope by collecting the king's ransom and expelling the Franks from Egypt.  She then established the most powerful regime in the late medieval Mediterranean world, the Mamluk state.  Shajar's hitherto unrecognized role reveals gender, religious, military, and political insecurities within medieval Christendom as it confronted the challenge of Islam. 

This talk is excerpted from a work in progress, Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling, Oriental Fraud in the Chapel of the Palace

Co-sponsored by the Mahindra Humanities Center Medieval Studies Seminar and the Center for the Study of World Religions.