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E05491: Leo the Great composes a Latin sermon (Sermon 84b) in Rome in 446/461 in honour of the feast day of the *Maccabean Martyrs (pre-Christian Jewish martyrs of Antioch, S00303).

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


Leo thanks the congregation for gathering together to celebrate the church’s birthday (natalis) and to rejoice in the suffering of the Maccabean martyrs. He states that the congregation will know the reason for the feast from a reading of the sacred story and that they ought to honour the mother of the martyrs. Although the age of persecution is over, all Christians face a new form of suffering: from the temptations of their hearts. He reiterates that the congregation should honour both the martyrs and their mother.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Maccabean Martyrs, pre-Christian Jewish martyrs of Antioch : S00303

Saint Name in Source


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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

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.


In this passage, Leo states he is celebrating the birthday of the church. Using this reference, Michele Salzman has identified the church as one which was constructed in the 5th c., and dedicated to *Sixtus III (bishop of Rome, ob. 440). This church, built using money from the empress Eudoxia, was called the Titulus Eudoxiae. It was known from the 6th c. onwards as the ‘Church of St Peter in Chains’, San Pietro in Vincoli, the name it bears to this day.


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). Further Reading: Salzman, M.R., "Leo’s Liturgical Topography: Contestations for Space in Fifth-Century Rome," Journal of Roman Studies 103 (2013), 208-232. 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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