Catholic Company / Magazine

Pope Saint Leo the Great and the Persuader

Nov 09, 2011 by

St. Leo the GreatEarly Life: Pope Saint Leo the Great was born in Tuscany and by 431 was a very important deacon whom many appealed to. His early influence is especially shown in that the emperor asked Pope Saint Leo the Great to settle a dispute between Aetius and Albinus, the two highest officials in Gaul.

Papal Years: According to, “Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity.” They make this claim as Pope Saint Leo the Great devoted himself to unifying the Church and combating heresy. He is especially remembered for fighting the Manichean and Pelagian heresy with incredible strength. He presided over the Council of Chalcedon in 451 at which Christological compromises between the West and the East were met, putting it clearly that Christ had two full natures.

Pope Saint Leo the Great should be known as the Great Persuader because:

  • During St. Leo the Great's papacy he persuaded Emperor Valentinian of Byzantium to recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. This is one of his lasting influences as pope as his writings regarding Petrine supremacy have been used to assert the universal jurisdiction of the Roman bishop for centuries.

  • Pope Saint Leo the Great is also famous for having convinced Attila the Hun at Mincio not to destroy Rome with his forces.

  • He is also convinced the leader of the Vandals of 455, Genseric, to not injure the city or the inhabitants after he had taken it over.

Pope St. Leo the Great's Legacy

  • 96 of his powerful sermons have survived and are characterized with elevated language and striking diction.

  • 143 of his letters have also survived to this day which are very useful in understanding Church history and Pope Leo the Great's understanding of the Mass.

  • In 1754 Pope Benedict XIV proclaimed Pope Saint Leo the Great as a Doctor of the Church.

  • First Pope to call himself the successor to Saint Peter and one of two popes to be given the title “the Great.”

  • Lastly, Pope Saint Leo the Great began the practice of fasting during particular church seasons and his feast day is November 10th.

Fun Facts to Remember

  • Pope Saint Gregory the Great was elected Pope unanimously although he was still a deacon.

  • He strongly advocated the spiritual and corporal works of mercy throughout his life and is remembered for his charity.

  • Popular devotion to him usually includes St. Leo Medals which includes his typical representation with a book, as Doctor of the Church, and a cross in the background.