University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E05482: Leo the Great, in several letters written in Latin in Rome between 445 and 454, justifies Rome’s primacy over other episcopal and patriarchal sees (particularly Constantinople and Alexandria) with reference to the primacy over the other Apostles of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), and to the status of *Mark (the Evangelist, S00293), as Peter's disciple.

online resource
posted on 2018-05-21, 00:00 authored by frances
Leo the Great, Letter 9 [possibly 445]

Addressed to Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria

Leo argues that the two churches (Alexandria and Rome) ought to be at one in all matters. This applies to fixed days of ordination for priests and deacons. This is because:

Cum enim beatissimus Petrus apostolicum a Domino acceperit principatum, et Romana Ecclesia in ejus permaneat institutis, nefas est credere quod sanctus discipulus ejus Marcus qui Alexandrinam primus Ecclesiam gubernavit, aliis regulis traditionum suarum decreta formaverit.

'The most blessed Peter received the headship of the Apostles from the Lord, and the church of Rome still abides by his institutions, it is wicked to believe that his holy disciple Mark, who was the first to govern the church of Alexandria, formed his decrees on a different line of tradition.'

Letter 10 [probably 444]

Addressed to the bishops of the province of Vienne (Gaul)

This letter criticises the behaviour of Hilary of Arles, who is damaging the unity of the church. This church is ‘principally gathered under the blessed Peter, chief of all the apostles’ (in beatissimo Petro apostolorum omnium summo, principaliter collocarit). In challenging Rome’s prominent position, Hilary challenges the dignity of Peter.

Letter 16 [447]

Addressed to the bishops of Sicily.

Leo admonishes the bishops of Sicily for conducting baptisms on the feast of the Epiphany, and not Easter. They should follow Rome, the ‘see of the blessed Apostle Peter, which is the mother of your priestly dignity’ (beati Petri apostoli sedes, quae vobis sacerdotalis mater est dignitatis). Later in the letter, he invites three of them to attend an annual council in Rome on the 29 September. This council ‘should always gather and debate together in the presence of the blessed Apostle Peter’ (cum coram beatissimo apostolo Petro id semper in commune tractandum sit).

Letter 93 [451]

Addressed to the Synod of Chalcedon.

Leo thanks the delegates for inviting him to write to the council and, in doing so, ‘preserving the rights and dignity of the most blessed Apostle Peter’ (beatissimi Petri apostoli jure atque honore servato).

Letter 106 [452]

Addressed to Anatolius, Bishop of Constantinople.

Leo asserts that Constantinople can never be equal to an apostolic see (a reference to canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon). This is because of the privileges apostolic sees have received based on antiquity. Alexandria received this dignity from Mark, and Rome from Peter.

Letter 129 [454]

Addressed to Proterius, Bishop of Alexandria.

Leo thanks Proterius for his letter.

Oportebat enim ut ab Alexandrinae Ecclesiae praesule talia scripta ad Sedem Apostolicam mitterentur, quae ostenderent magisterio beatissimi Petri apostoli hoc ab initio per beatum Marcum ejus discipulum didicisse Aegyptios.

‘Indeed it was appropriate that such a text should be sent by the head of the church of Alexandria to the Apostolic See, because it showed that initially the Egyptians had learnt from the teaching of Peter through his disciple, the blessed Mark.

Text: Patrologia Latina 54. Translation: Lett Feltoe 1895, lightly adapted.
Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Mark the Evangelist : S00293

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Marcus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Leo the Great (pope)

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Letters from Leo the Great, addressed to several correspondents and composed between 445 and 454. They were transmitted as part of Leo's letter collection.


To an even greater extent than earlier popes, Leo regularly invoked Peter’s authority to assert the primacy of the Roman see and the duty of its bishop to speak out against heresy. See E05494.


Text: Leo the Great, Epistolae, Patrologia Latina 54. Translation: Lett Feltoe, C., Leo the Great. Gregory the Great (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 12; New York, 1895). Further Reading: Demacopoulos, G.E., The Invention of Peter: Apostolic Discourse and Papal Authority in Late Antiquity (Philadelphia, 2013). Price, Richard, and Whitby, Mary (eds.), Chalcedon in Context: Church Councils 400-700 (Liverpool, 2009). Thacker, A., "Patrons of Rome: The cult of Sts Peter and Paul at court and in the city in the fourth and fifth centuries," Early Medieval Europe 20:4 (2012), 380-406. Wessel, S., Leo the Great and the Spiritual Rebuilding of Rome (Leiden, 2008).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager