Today it being the feast of St. Leo I, I thought to post links to past PODCAzTs during which I dealt with this great Father and Doctor, the eloquent Pope.

I listened to bits and pieces of a few of them.  There is some pretty good stuff here.  The early efforts are rather primitive, from the recording standpoint.  While the more recent projects are still rather primitive according to the standards of the cognoscenti, at least they have improved a little as I learn.

061 08-05-17 Pope Leo I on a post-Pentecost weekday; Fr. Z rambles not quite aimlessly for a while
059 08-05-15 Leo the Great on Pentecost fasting; Benedict XVI’s sermon for Pentecost Sunday
049 08-01-06 Leo the Great on Epiphany; Lefebvre compared to Athanasius; feedback
029 07-05-18 Leo’s mind blowing Ascension sermon; angels
027 07-05-16 Leo on the Ascension; a Collect; feedback
021 07-04-22 Leo the Great on Peter – Msgr. Schuler
020 07-04-19 Leo the Great and Benedict – Habemus Papam!
010 07-03-25 Leo the Great’s Letter 28 "ad Flavianum" – veiling statues – a "Tridentine" church in Rome
009 07-03-22 Leo on the Passion; Sobrino; confessions on Good Friday
008 07-03-20 Leo the Great on works of mercy in Lent
003 07-03-04 Pope Leo the Great on the transfiguration, the moon, etc.  

We might review, with the help of an old article I wrote for The Wanderer a long time ago, what happened with Attila the Hun:

Attila the Hun, aka the Scourge of God, was ravaging the lands.  In the 440’s the western part of the Empire was disintegrating.  Burgundians had invaded Gaul but were driven off by the powerful general Aetius.  In 439 Geiseric conquered Carthage in North Africa.  In 441 he defeated a Roman force sent against him.  The West was suffering from a critical shortage of military manpower and they were beset everywhere (sound familiar?).  In 450 the Eastern Emperor Marcian cancelled the annual bribe to the Huns, which the Huns did not find amusing.   It happened that the Emperor Valentinian III was trying marry off his sister, Justa Grata Honoria, to an elderly dignitary.  She had other ideas.  Honoria sent a ring to Attila, King of the Huns.  Attila took this as an offer of marriage and demanded half the Western Empire as a dowry.  He then invaded Gaul.  In 451 near modern Châlons, the general Aetius defeated Attila who, instead of withdrawing back into Germany, moved into defenseless Italy in 452.  Aetius was unable to stop him.  The Huns sacked Milan, destroyed Aquileia, began to march on Rome.   Nothing stood in Attila’s way.  

In living memory Rome had been sacked in 410 by Alaric the Visigoth.  You can still see coins from fused into the marble floor of the Basilica Aemilia in the Roman Forum.  The Sack of Rome had a more profound impact on the Romans throughout the West than 9/11 had on the USA and its allies.  In fact, the year 410 in part provided St. Augustine of Hippo with the inspiration to write The City of God, which changed the course of Western civilization.  However, in the 450’s, Italy was nearly prostrate and no army could rescue Italy from Attila the Hun.  The only figure of any prestige in Italy at the time was the Pope of Rome, Leo.  Leo rode north from Rome with a small group of followers and met with Attila before he could reach City and pillage it.  They had a private conversation, legend has it.  We have no idea what Leo said to the Hunnish King, but immediately thereafter Attila turned his army around, left Italy.

In the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter, in the “Cappella della Colonna” we see the tomb and altar of St. Pope Leo the Great.  Over the tomb is a marble relief by Alessandro Algardi (made in 1646-50) depicting the moment of the colloquium of the Saint and the Scourge.  Attila is reeling backward from the sight of the menacing and heavily armed Sts. Peter and Paul swooping down from heaven behind Leo’s shoulder.  A frowning Peter points authoritatively at Leo while the glowering Paul is aiming his finger in a classic “scram” signal.  In 453 (the year Leo gave the sermon that influenced our prayer this week) Attila was heading back through Eastern Europe in preparation for another assault on the Byzantines.  He set up camp so that he could get married, drank himself unconscious and promptly did everyone a favor by drowning in his own blood from a nosebleed.  Attila’s empire fell apart almost at once and the Hunnish menace dissipated as swiftly as it had arisen.  All this in 453 when Leo said: “Beloved, promptly expressing this profession of faith with your whole heart, spew out the impious comments of the heretics, so that your fasting and almsgiving may be polluted by the contagion of no errors.  For then both the offering of sacrifice and the holy bestowing of mercy is clean.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Patristiblogging, PODCAzT. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Howard says:

    Many Popes have been saints, but the bar is set very, very high to be “the Great”.

  2. therese says:

    It makes you wonder about Honoria’s fiance, if she thought Attila the Hun was preferable…….

  3. RBrown says:

    It makes you wonder about Honoria’s fiance, if she thought Attila the Hun was preferable…….
    Comment by therese

    Maybe she wanted the chance to travel.

  4. John says:

    There is a highly dramatized version of the encounter between Pope St. Leo and Attila in Malachi Martin’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church” – notable for being one of the less cynical passages in the book, which I think was written when Martin was younger and still rather liberal.

  5. Athelstane says:

    …and then the Vandals showed up. Leo certainly lived in challenging times.

  6. Juan says:

    LEO is one of my favorites!

Comments are closed.