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E05492: Leo the Great composes a Latin sermon (Sermon 85) in Rome in 446/461 in honour of the feast day of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037).

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posted on 2018-05-21, 00:00 authored by frances
Leo the Great, Sermon 85


Leo tells the congregation that there is no love brighter than that found in the martyrs, who died in imitation of Christ.

... ad erudiendum dei populum nullorum est utilior forma quam martyrum.

‘... no model is more useful in teaching God’s people than that of the martyrs’.

Leo then narrates Laurence’s martyrdom. The persecutor demanded the riches of the church. Laurence gathered together the poor, on whom the riches had been spent. The persecutor then demands that Laurence recant and tortures him: his limbs are cut. The persecutor then orders that Laurence be killed by being cooked on an iron frame over a fire. He was turned from time to time to lengthen his suffering. When he died, his soul joined God’s in heaven. Rome becomes famous through the shining glory Laurence, just as Jerusalem was ennobled through *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030).

Text: Chavasse 1973. Translation: Lett Feltoe 1895.
Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037 Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

Saint Name in Source

Laurentius Stephanus

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 - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

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


This sermon was probably preached at Laurence's burial place and main shrine, marked by the present church of San Lorenzo fuori le mura, built in the 6th c., and reconstructed in the 13th c.


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: 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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