The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Adrian I (772-795)
Creation celebated at an unknown date (V)


(5) 1. LEONE (?-816)

Birth. (No date found), Rome. Of a modest family. Son of Azupio (or Atzuppio). The name of the father made some sources think that the family had an eastern origin.

Education. In his childhood, he was reared in the vestiario of the Roman Church, the office that administered the papal treasury.

Early life. In his youth, he entered the service of the papal curia. He was ordained deacon and then priest.

Cardinalate. Presbyter cardinalis of the title of S. Susanna at an unknown date. He retained an important role in the papal administration and was named vestiario in 789, thus becoming one of the main collaborators of Pope Adrian I. In that capacity, he restored and embelished some Roman churches. He demonstrated great zeal providing wealth for the office of vestiario, soliciting alms and legacies from the faithful, ostensibly destining them to assist the poor.

Papacy. Elected pope by the clergy, lay nobility and people of Rome on December 26, 795, the same date of his predecessor's death. Took the name Leo III. Consecrated, Sunday December 27, 795. The election was bitterly contested by a group of troublemakers, especially the relatives of the deceased pontiff, who occupied important offices in the city, and the Roman duchy, who incited hatred against the new pope because he would not favor them as Adrian I had done. Shortly after his election, the new pope sent Charlemagne a letter of communication not to get the approval of the appointment but to bear witness of loyalty and obedience, as indicated by the gifts sent to the monarch: the keys of the tomb of St. Peter and the banner of the city of Rome. Those gifts meant that the pope recognized in him the proper authority of the defensor of the Christian religion with the use of arms, symbolized in the flag, but also the custodian of the tomb of the altar of the Confession to which Charles in 774 had made an oath with a "promise of donations." It seems clear that Charlemagne was convinced that the real influence of the pope should be confined to being the most important metropolitan of the Church, but that it was Charlemagne who, given the religious concept of his high office, was to undertake the task of propagating and defending the Christian faith. It was Charlemagne who assigned to Pope Leo III to provide for the organization of the Church among the Avars, which he had subdued; but the center of that mission was Salzburg, because that was what Charlemagne wanted. The monarch's interference in church affairs had started at the time of the second Council of Nicea (787), which was held without having been requested by the Church, and it was Charlemagne who told the pope to convene a council at Rome in 798, to condemn again the doctrine of Adoptionism (1), which Bishop Félix of Urgel continued to defend, despite that the heresy had been banned by the council of Frankfurt in 794. In September 797, the pope sent the pallium to Archbishop Eanbald II of York. In Rome, the nobles related to the previous Pope Adrian I resented that the new pontiff showed such a deferential attitude toward Charlemagne, which they saw as an indication of a weak temperament. Primicerius Pasquale and Scellario Campulo sought to profit from the ambitions of the iudices, and began to circulate charges of perjury and lasciviousness against Pope Leo III. Some rumors reached the court of Charlemagne, but Archbishop Arno of Salzburg assured Alcuin, the trusted ecclesiastical adviser of the king, that they were slander.

Believing that the king was not going to take any action against the pope, Pasquale and Campulo thought of devising a real conspiracy, which involved the removal of Pope Leo III and the conquest of power. The opportunity presented itself during the traditional procession made by the pontiff on April 25, 799, for the feast of S. Marco, from the Lateran to S. Lorenzo in Lucina. The pope proceeded on horseback and the conspirators attacked him at the convent of S. Silvestro, they pushed him off the horse and tried to blind him and tore his tongue, but the uproar was enormous, and only two managed to drag him into the cloister, where he was entrusted to Greek priests (sign that part of the clergy -the philobyzantine- agreed with the conspirators). That night, the pope was transferred to S. Erasmo al Celio, but from there, he was able to escape with the help of some of his loyalists, including Camerario Albino,who let the pope descend with a rope along the wall and took him battered but save to St. Peter. Much of the clergy and the people at this point were pressed around the basilica and the conspirators were unable to enter; the latter vented their anger plundering the houses of Albino and the relatives of the pope. Then there was the intervention Duke Vinigi of Spoleto, who happened to be in Rome; the day after, he led the pope to security in his city. The news of aggression, meanwhile, had reached Charlemagne, who was engaged in Paderborn with the Saxons; Pope Leo III wanted to go to him. The king, when he learned that the pope was seeking shelter under his protection, sent an embassy with the archbishop of Cologne Ildibad, and his son Pepin. The monarch received the pope with the highest honors; at the same time, came from Rome a memorial of the conspirators outlining the substance of their allegations, and asking to judge the behavior of the pope. Charlemagne turned to his faithful Alcuin, who probably had received news more reliable from Archbishop Amo, and this time partly confirmed the allegations. Alcuin in a series of letters, however, did present to the king that in his view no one could submit the see of Rome to judgement and added that he considered harmful for the good of the Church, the deposition of a pope meant to discredit the office, while Charlemagne himself needed a credited pope. The monarch acted with great prudence in the secret negotitiations with the pontiff in Paderborn in the fall of 799. Pope Leo III returned to Rome accompanied by a large following of Frankish bishops and peers of France; the reception in Rome was triumphant. The Frankish diplomacy had worked well among the clergy, nobles and people of the city, putting the accusers in the minority. At the time, there was no judicial process; bishops gathered the acts of the investigation and sent it to Charlemagne along with the ringleaders of the rebellion, translated into the Frankish territory to avoid trouble. No sentence was emitted; Charlemagne would decide when to go to Rome. Once Charlemagne solved the problems with the Saxons, he went to Rome in November 800, with his son Charles and a large following of bishops and soldiers, carrying even the accusers of Pope Leo III; the other son, Pepin, continued to the south to wrest the duchy of Benevento from Grimolado. On 23 November, 800, the pope went to meet the monarch in Nomento, twelve miles from Rome, with the clergy, the people and the militia, and then they went back to the city; the next day Charlemagne entered solemnly in St. Peter's basilica, among a cheering crowd of prelates. On December 1, the clergy, nobles and Frankish and Roman citizens were summoned by the king to parliament and the assembly met in St. Peter. Charlemagne explained that he had gone to Rome to restore order in the Church; and that he would listen to citizens' protests against the pope and then would decide whether or not Pope Leo III was innocent. His assessment was unquestionable and the pope would appear in theking's court as any subject would do. In the discussions that followed for three weeks, while on the one hand the accusers failed to bring evidence to the king and on the other hand, the very case of the pope did not appear very clear; the position advocated by the Frankish bishops, on which evidently, even from afar, influenced AIcuino, who had preferred to remain in his convent of Tours, was consistent: they believed that the Apostolic See could not be judged because being it being in charge of all the Churches of God, we ourselves are judged by the pope, its representative on earth, they sais to clarify. The pope realized that the only way out was to submit himself to a oath of purgation, as it had done Pope Pelagius I before Narses; this move had been planned in Paderborn. Therefore, on December 23, 800, the pope, attended by Charlemagne and his peers, before a large crowd of clergy and people, with the Gospel in his hand, called to witness God "before whose court all must appear" that he had not performed nor had made anyone to do any the crimes of which he was accused. The oath of purification was considered sufficient to prove the innocence of Pope Leo III; his opponents were accordingly found guilty of the crime of treason and sentenced to death. The sentence was not performed through the intercession of the pope, who evidently feared that the death penalty would have made even more hostile certain segments of the population; the conspirators ended up in exile in Frankish territory. Two days later, on Christmas Day, Charlemagne, who was present at the celebration in St. Peter's basilica, had just finished praying and was about to stand up when Pope Leo III placed on his head a splendid golden crown and the people present gave the triple acclamation that usually accompanied the imperial coronation: "To Charles, most pious Augustus, crowned by God, the great emperor bringer of peace, life and victory." Certainly the crowd was not "inspired by God and the blessed Peter, the guardian of the gate of heaven," as the Liber Pontificalis indicates; the pope by prostrating himself before Charles to give him by that act the homage given to the ancient emperors, had taken a sudden historic decision; and even less can be suppose that Charlemagne was not prepared to receive the crown. The imperial coronation gave the pope unparalleled prestige and a special place, full of significance, even if it meant increasing even further the interference of Charlemagne in ecclesiastical affairs.

On March 21, 803, Pope Leo III granted the pallium to Patriarch Fortunato of Grado. From November 804 to January 805, the pope visited the emperor again. Emperor Charlemagne convoked a council in Aachen in November 809 to delucidate the matter of the inclusion of the word filioque in the profession of faith (2). The council decided to incorporate the word filioque and Emperor Charlemagne communicated this to the pope through an embassy of bishops. Pope Leo III in 810 submitted the report to an assembly that fully confirmed the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed "in the Holy Spirit ... who proceeds from the Father" but opposed the insertion of "and the Son" in order to avoid a quarrel with the Church of the East. The Frankish bishops who were part of the embassy resented the decision and the pope could not certainly obliged them to remove the use already existing in their land. Long after, the term filioque was inserted also in the liturgy of the Church of Rome (3). In 812 Byzantium's new emperor Michael I Rangabe, recognized Charlemagne's imperial dignity, which in 802 Emperor Nikephoros I had refused to aknowledge. But the recognition cost him dearly. In fact the whole thing ended at the conclusion of a war that had been declared by Byzantium, as retaliation against Charlemagne's son, Pepin, king of Italy, and which had been fought mainly on the Venetian lagoon and in Istria. The Byzantines won the war and Emperor Charlemagne recognized their possession of Venice, Istria, the maritime cities of Mezzogiono, Sicily, the Balkans and Asia Minor. Emperor Michael I recognized Charlemange as emperor of the Roman-Christian Empire of the West. Emperor Charlemagne died on January 28, 814, and was buried in Aachen. Two of his sons, Pepin, king of Italy, and Charles, had died before him. Charlemagne associated to the empire his only remaining son, Louis, who would be known as the Pious; the old emperor crowned his son as co-emperor himself on September 13, 813. Pope Leo III immediately conceived the plan to free himself from the dominant oppression of the emperor and regain his autonomy. The pope's first target was to get revenge on the followers of Pasquale and Campulo, since he could not do it on two of them, because they were in exile. At the same time, their partisans of Pasquale and Campulo, having learned of the death of the emperor, conspired to murder the pope. But they were caught, prosecuted quickly as guilty of treason and sentenced to death, and immediately executed. Emperor Louis I the Pious, becoming aware of the conduct of the pope, sent his nephew Bernardo (illegitimate son of Pepin), new king of Italy, to Rome to investigate, and the pope in turn dispatched his own envoy to the Emperor to explain and justify the sentences. The situation in Rome in 815 was chaotic; there were daily clashes between various factions, and even the settlers from Campagna were in turmoil. In the meantime, toward the end of the year, the pope fell ill; Bernard managed to quell the revolt by giving full powers to the Duke of Spoleto, Guinigi, who settled in Rome with his troops and carried out other death sentences. This pope created eleven cardinals in eight promotions.

Death. June 12, 816, from illness, in Rome. Buried in St. Peter's basilica, Rome (4).

Sainthood. He was included in the catalogue of saints in 1673 by Pope Clement X because of the presumed miracle of the restoration of his eyes and tongue, even though the sources say that it was only an attempt to remove them. His feast, celebrated on February 11 and on May 14 pro clero Romano, has been suppressed.

Bibliography. Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 1, 42-46; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium ab initio nascentis Ecclesiae usque ad Clementem IX P. O. M. Alphonsi Ciaconii Ord. Praed. & aliorum opera descriptæ : cum uberrimis notis. Ab Augustino Oldoino, Soc. Jesu recognitae, et ad quatuor tomos ingenti ubique rerum accessione productae. Additis Pontificum recentiorum imaginibus, & Cardinalium insignibus, plurimisque aeneis figuris, cum indicibus locupletissimis. Romæ : P. et A. De Rubeis, 1677, I, col. 561-580; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. 135; Delogu, Paolo. "Leone III." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, 695-704; Duchesne, Louis ; Vogel, Cyrille. "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 149, no. 4; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 97-99; Le Liber pontificalis. Paris : E. de Boccard, 1981, 1955. 3 v. : facsims. (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome). Notes: Reprint of the 1955 edition./ Includes indexes./ Vol. 3: "Additions et corrections de L. Duchesne publiées par Cyrille Vogel ... avec L'Histoire du Liber pontificalis dupuis l'édition de L. Duchesne une bibliographie et des tables générales, II, LXVI, LXXV, 1-48; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, pp. 100-105 and 135, no. 97; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 61; Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab conditio Ecclesia. Ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Graz : Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956. 2 v. Reprint. Originally published : Lipsiae : Veit et comp., 1885-1888. Original t.p. included : Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia : ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Editionem secundam correctam et auctam edidit Philippus Jaffè ; auspiciis Gulielmi Wattenbach; curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald, I, 307-316; Sullivan, Robert Eugene. "Leo III, Pope, St." New Catholic Encyclopedia. Prepared by an editorial staff at the Catholic University of America. 19 vols. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1967-1996, 8, 640; Scano, Gaetana. "Leone III, papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 643-644.

Links. Biography, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in English (Britannica); his image and biography, in English; biography, in English; his image and biography, in English, New World Encyclopedia; biography by Paolo Delogu, Eciclopedia dei papai, in Italian; biography, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, in Italian; his image and biography, in Italian; his image and biography, in Italian, Tradizione Cristiana; images and biography by Antonio Borrelli, in Italian, Santi Beati; his image, supposed arms and biography, in Italian, Open-Site Foundation, Inc.; biography, in German, Biographisch-Bibliographischen Kirchenlexikons; his life and works, in Latin, Documenta Catholica Omnia; his image by Raffaele Sanzio, in the Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo, Vatican City; his image, cathedral of Mantua, Flickr; Triclinium Leonianum, near the Lateran basilica, Rome, Flickr; detail of the Triclinium Leonianum, Flickr; another detail, showing Pope Leo III and Emperor Charlemagne at the feet of St. Peter, Flickr; The Coronation of Charlemagne by Raffaele Sanzio, Vatican Museum, Flickr; engravings, fresco and illumination of Charlemangne coronation by Pope Leo II, Concert Tee; miniature of Charlemagne's coronation, Royal Library of Brussels; The Coronation of Charlemagne, Grandes chroniques de France, 14th century; another illustration of the coronation (enlargeable), Bildarchiv Foto Marburg; fresco of Pope Leo III by Cosmas Damian Asam, 18th century, church of Sankt Emmeram, Ratisbon, Bildarchiv Foto Marburg; images and arms, Araldica Vaticana; Charlemagne ceding the exarchate of Ravenna to Pope Leo III, Flickr; his image in Felipe Guamán Poma's Nueva corónica y buen gobierno (1615), Det Kongelige Bibliotek; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; his engraving in color by Duflos, AllPosters.com; his statue, portal of the Blessed Virign Mary, Nôtre Dame metropolitan cathedral, Paris, Flickr; his figure, 13th century, shrine of the Blessed Virign Mary, Aachen, Bildarchiv Foto Marburg; his bust, 13th century, church of St. Peter und Paul, Obermarsberg, Bildarchiv Foto Marburg; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; another engraving, from the same source; another engraving, from the same source; and another engraving, also from the same source.

(1) Adoptionism was a heresy that alleged that the historical Christ was not natural son of God, but that he was the adoptive son of God. The thesis had been condemned in the pontificate of Pope Adrian I by the synods of Regensburg (792) and Frankfurt (794).
(2) In France and Spain the word filioque had been included in the profession of faith; the article referred to the procession of the Holy Spirit, wishing to express the lineage of the third person from the Father and the Son. The Church of Rome and the East had no entered the term into the profession of faith. Frankish monks of the monastery of Monte Oliveto in Jerusalem in 808 began to introduce the term into the East, causing unrest on Christmas Eve between Frankish and Greek communities in that locality. The Greek monks turned to Pope Leo III for a resolution of the issue, but Emperor Charlemagne intervened and ordered his theologians to consider the precise observations on this matter for discussion that council.
(3) Over a century later, in 1014, at the request of the German King Henry II, who had gone to Rome to be crowned emperor, and was surprised at the different custom in force there, Pope Benedict VIII had the Creed, with the addition of Filioque, sung at mass in Rome for the first time. Since then the filioque phrase is included in the Creed throughout the Latin rite, except where Greek is used in the liturgy. Eastern Catholic Churches such as the Maronites and those of Byzantine rite, which are in full communion with the Holy See, have never used the filioque.
(4) According to Montini, Le tombe dei papi, pp. 100-103, in the 12th century, Pope Paschal II reunited the remains of Pope Leo I, which had been placed under an altar erected for him by Pope Leo IV in the 9th century, with those of the three successors of his own name (Pope Leo II, III and IV).
During the first phase of demolition of the old St. Peter's basillica the altar of Pope Leo IV was knocked down and the bodies of the four popes Leo reappeared, but were not removed. They stayed even after a subsequent recognition done on August 1, 1580 by Pope Gregory XIII, who erected an altar there and made a small crypt. A few years later, in 1607, the final demolition of the old St. Peter took place and made Pope Paul V remove the venerated remains. At the suggestion of Cardinal Cesare Baronio, the pope pope, who was concerned that the relics of his ancestors and other deceased buried in the church would not be badly dispersed as it had happened throughout the sixteenth century, ordered that the exhumations had to be done in a dignified manner, with funeral rites according to the liturgy, celebrated under the direction of a prelate designated for the occasion and with the assistance of a notary, who would draw up accurate records of each operation. This notary was Giacomo Grimaldi, whose records are preserved in the Vatican Library and have been partially published. He extensively narrated the exhumation of four bodies (that of Pope Leo I, which was mummified; and of the other three Popes Leo, of which only a few small bones remained) and their subsequent repose beneath the altar of the Madonna della Colonna, in an urn with the inscription:

CORPORA SANCTORVM LEONVM I II III
ET IIII SVMMORVM PONTIFICVM
ET CONFESSORVIM

Finally, on April 15, 1715, Pope Clement XI solemnly transferred the body of Pope Leo I, under the altar dedicated to him, and adorned with marble altarpiece by Algardi, while the remains of the other three Leos were placed in a paleochristian sarcophagus in the altar of the Madonna della Colonna. In the grotto of St. Peter's basilica are preserved two plaques which indicate the place from which Pope Paul V had removed the remains of four Leos, and the other one commemorating the transfer of the body of Pope Leo I the Great from the altar of the Madonna della Colonna to that dedicated to him.

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