Leo the Great

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Pope Leo I, or Saint Leo the Great, was a aristocrat who was Pope of Rome from 440 to 461. He is the first widely known Pope, and even sometimes assigned the title "first Pope". He stopped the invasion of Italy by Attila the Hun in 452 by his moral persuasion, was a theologian. St Leo the Great the is commemorated on February 18, by the Orthodox Church.

Early life

Saint Leo was born in AD 400 in Tuscany, Italy. He was well educated but yearned for the spiritual life. So he became a deacon and occupied a important position with St. Cyril of Alexandria. He became an archdeacon under Pope Sixtus III, after whose death St. Leo was unanimously elected Bishop of Rome.

Defender of Orthodoxy

These were difficult times for the Church, when heretics assaulted Orthodoxy with their false teachings. St Leo combined pastoral attentiveness with uncompromising firmness in the confession of the Faith. He was in particular one of the basic defenders of Orthodoxy against the heresies of Eutyches and Dioscorus, who taught that there was only one nature in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was also a defender against the heresy of Nestorius.

He actively promoted the convening of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, at Chalcedon in 451, to condemn the heresy of the Monophysites.

At the Council at Chalcedon, at which 630 bishops were present, a letter of St Leo to the deceased St Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople (447-449) was read. St Flavian had suffered for Orthodoxy under the Robber Council of Ephesus in the year 449. In the letter of St Leo, the Orthodox teaching about the two natures of Christ, divine and human was set forth. All the bishops present at the Council were in agreement with this teaching, and so the heretics Eutyches and Dioscorus were excommunicated from the Church.

Defender of his country

In 452, by the persuasive power of his words, he stopped Attila the Hun from pillaging Italy. Again in the year 455, when the leader of the Vandals, a Germanic tribe, Henzerich, turned towards Rome, he persuaded him not to pillage the city, burn buildings, nor to spill blood.

Theological legacy

He died in the year 461. His literary and theological legacy is comprised of 96 sermons and 143 letters, of which the best known is his Epistleto St Flavian.


Succession box:
Leo the Great
Preceded by:
Pope Sixtus III
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
Pope Hilarius
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