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E05490: Leo the Great composes a Latin sermon (Sermon 84) in Rome in 442/3 in which he invokes the Apostles *Peter and *Paul (S00036 and S00009) as he rebukes his congregation for their absence from the commemoration of the anniversary of Alaric’s sack of Rome in 410.

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posted on 2018-05-21, 00:00 authored by frances
Leo the Great, Sermon 84

Religiosam deuotionem, dilectissimi, qua ob diem castigationis et liberationis nostrae, cunctus fidelium populus ad agenda deo gratias confluebat, pene ab omnibus proxime fuisse neglectam, ipsa paucorum qui adfuerunt raritas demonstrauit ... Plus inpenditur daemoniis quam apostolis, et maiorem obtinent frequentiam insana spectacula quam beata martyria.

‘That religious devotion, dearly beloved, with which the whole body of the faithful used to come together to give thanks to God for the day of our chastisement and of our liberation, has recently been neglected by almost everyone, as the very scarcity of the few who were present has shown. ... More effort is spent on demons than on the Apostles, and the wild entertainments draw greater crowds than the shrines of the martyrs.’

Leo continues to rebuke them, telling them it was the Apostles, and not the circuses, which saved the city.

Text: Chavasse 1973. Translation: Freeland and Conway 1996.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Paulus

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

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of people and their property Miraculous protection - of church and church property Miraculous interventions in war

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds


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 460. It is possible that these sermons were intended to provide a model for other bishops or to educate priests and the lower clergy.


Alaric's sack of Rome was in August 410. In the years that followed, the deliverance of the city from further suffering had been celebrated. Freeland and Conway suggest this sermon can be dated to around 443 – the year after the emperor Valentinian III’s peace treaty with the Vandal leader Geiseric. Attendance at the celebrations might have been high when the Vandals threatened Rome, but tailed off once peace was made. Michele Salzman has argued that this sermon was preached at St Peter’s at the Vatican, making the references to Peter’s aid and his tomb even more charged. Additionally, Salzman has highlighted how Leo sought to make St Peter’s at the Vatican the centre of liturgical activity within the city.


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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