St. Leo the Great

Altar of St. Leo the Great, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy
Altar of St. Leo the Great, St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy

Saint Leo the Great was a saint and pope of the Catholic Church. As Pope Leo I, he is known for protecting Italy from the invasion of Attila the Hun. That event is commemorated in a sculpture relief that stands behind an altar at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Sculpture shows then Pope Leo turning away Attila the Hun with the aid of heavenly helpers.

He issued the Tome of Leo, which was one of the foundational documents for the debates of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. He addressed important questions concerning the nature of Christ and his role in the Church. In his writings, Saint Leo the Great advocated for Christ’s true humanity and divinity. He explained the unity of Christ’s dual nature in this role; Referred to by the term “hypostatic union”. Leo repeatedly fought heresy throughout his lifetime. He often defended the unity of Christ in his writings.

St. Leo the Great will always be remembered for reaffirming the papal’s authority in the Church and his writings on Christ’s humanity and divinity. Symbols that are often associated with him include the Image of the Virgin, a pick-axe and horse, perhaps due to his extensive travels and work at digging out heresy. The date of his canonization is unknown, but his feast day is Nov 10 in the Roman calendar and Feb. 18 in the Byzantine tradition.

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