Leo the Great

Bishop of Rome, Teacher of the Faith.


Leo was one of the most significant popes of the early church. He did much to consolidate the papal office, but also won the admiration of those around him for his great pastoral and administrative skills in very difficult circumstances.

Leo the Great was elected bishop of Rome in 440 and brought great skills of care and administration to the papal office. At a time when the western Roman Empire was falling apart, he provided a central focus for decisions of the church in the west. It was Leo who put a stop to the senseless argument causing division in the Eastern Church, regarding the divinity of Christ. Leo wrote a letter called now the 'Tome of Leo'. When the document was read at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the majority in the east were grateful for the statement and approved of it, but on the grounds that it was theologically acceptable, not merely because of its papal origins.

Leo was also a consummate diplomat. When Attila and his Huns were about to sack Rome in 452 after rampaging through Milan, Leo persuaded them to withdraw and accept an annual tribute payment instead. Three years later, when Genseric led his Vandals on a pillaging expedition in Rome, Leo again interceded and persuaded them to desist from the slaughter of the citizens. Leo then gave his energies to restoring the city and its churches and the morale of the people. It is understandable that soon after his death Leo was being honoured by the people as a saint.

BORN: Tuscany, Italy.

DIED: 10 November 461 A.D.