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E05488: Leo the Great composes a Latin sermon (Sermon 82) in Rome in 441 in honour of the feast day of the Apostles *Peter and *Paul (S00036 and S00009).

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posted on 2018-05-21, 00:00 authored by frances
Leo the Great, Sermon 82


The sermon is given on the feast day (natalis) of Peter and Paul. As they are local martyrs, they should be specially revered in Rome. Indeed, Leo identifies them as the founders of Christian Rome, superseding Romulus and Remus, the founders of pagan Rome. Peter was sent to convert Rome first and overcame his fears to travel there. Paul travelled to Rome later. Leo describes how both men were persecuted and martyred under Emperor Nero, focusing especially on Peter. Many other martyrs have followed Peter and Paul’s example. Both apostles are equal in their merits. The congregation should follow the examples of these saints. Through their intercession, the faithful will receive divine mercy.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source

Paulus Petrus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • 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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Leo the Great’s sermons were composed and delivered to the congregation in Rome throughout his papacy, between 440 and 461. The vast majority of these sermons were delivered at St Peter’s at the Vatican. The most recent editor of these sermons, A. Chavasse, argues that Leo edited and circulated a collection of 59 sermons, composed between 441 and 445, and that a second group of sermons from the latter part of his papacy were edited and circulated shortly after his death in 461. It is possible that these sermons were intended to provide a model for other bishops or to educate priests and the lower clergy.


To an even greater extent than earlier popes, Leo the Great invoked Peter’s authority to assert the primacy of the Roman see and the duty of its bishop to speak out against heresy (see E05482 and E05494). Additionally, Michele Salzman has highlighted how Leo sought to make St Peter’s at the Vatican the centre of liturgical activity within Rome. It is therefore notable, though not surprising, that Leo focuses more heavily on Peter than Paul in this passage. A different, complementary explanation is also offered by Salzman: that this sermon was specifically for Peter, whose feast was naturally celebrated in his basilica (as specified in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, E04866); while Paul would be celebrated in his basilica on the via Ostiensis (as also set out in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, E04866).


Text: Chavasse, A., Sancti Leonis Magni Romani Pontificis tractaus (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 138, 138A; Turnhout, 1973). Translation: Freeland, J. and Conway, A., St Leo the Great Sermons (Fathers of the Church 93; Washington D.C., 1996). 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). Salzman, M.R., "Leo’s Liturgical Topography: Contestations for Space in Fifth-Century Rome," Journal of Roman Studies 103 (2013), 208-232. 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).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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