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E05494: Leo the Great composes four Latin sermons in Rome in 441-444 on the anniversary of his ordination as Pope. In each case, he attributes his authority to *Peter (the Apostle, S00036).

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posted on 2018-05-21, 00:00 authored by frances
Leo the Great, Sermon 2 [441]

Leo refers to himself as one of the unworthy successors (inpares haeredes) to Peter.

Leo the Great, Sermon 3 [442]

The priesthood, which Christ instituted in Peter, is handed down to his successors. These successors continue Peter’s work. This celebration of the anniversary of Leo's ordination in fact honours Peter, who might be recognised in Leo (in persona humilitatis meae ille intellegatur).

Leo the Great, Sermon 4 [443]

Leo again states that the celebration of the anniversary of his ordination in fact celebrates Peter, who might be recognised in him. Peter was chosen specially and holds the first position out of all the priests. Leo recounts how Peter recognised Christ as the Son of God, and as a result Christ identified him as the rock on which his church would be built and presented him with the keys to heaven. Christ also cared for and prayed for Peter above other Apostles.

Leo the Great, Sermon 5 [444]

Again, Leo emphasises this celebration is not for him, but for Peter who might be recognised in him. Christ identified Peter as the rock on which his church would be built. Peter’s intercession can aid the reconciliation of sinners.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036

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 - 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. Leo was ordained in 440. These four sermons mark the first four anniversaries of his ordination, between 441 and 445.


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). Additionally, Michele Salzman has highlighted how Leo sought to make St Peter’s at the Vatican the centre of liturgical activity within Rome. The material given here is very similar to that described in other sermons in honour of Peter’s feast day (natalis), see E05489 and E05489.


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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