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From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 105-107.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 440-461.

LEO, a Tuscan, son of Quintianus, lived at the time when Attila, having returned into Hungary from the fight of Catalonia, and there recruited his army, invaded Italy, and first set down before Aquileia, a frontier city of that province, which held out a siege of three years. Despairing hereupon of success, he was just about to raise the leaguer, when observing the storks to carry their young ones out of the city into the fields, being encouraged by this omen, he renews his batteries, and making a fierce assault, at length takes the miserable city, sacks and burns it, sparing neither age nor sex, but acting agreeably to the title he assumed to himself of being God’s scourge. The Huns having hereby gained an inlet into Italy, overrun all the country about Venice, possessing themselves of the cities, and demolishing Milan and Pavia. From hence Attila marching towards Rome, and being come to the place where the Menzo runs into the Po, ready to pass the river, the holy Bishop Leo, out of a tender sense of the calamitous state of Italy and of the city of Rome, and with the advice of Valentinian, goes forth and meets him, persuading him not to proceed any further, but to take warning by Alaricus, who, soon after his taking that city, was, by the judgment of God, removed out of the world. Attila takes the good bishop’s counsel, being moved thereunto by a vision which he saw, while they were discoursing together, of two men (supposed to be St Peter and St Paul) brandishing their naked swords over his head, and threatening him with death, if he were refractory. Desisting therefore from his design, he returns into Hungary, 106 where not long after he was choked with his own blood violently breaking out at his nostrils, through excess of drinking.

Leo returning to the city, applies himself wholly to the defence of the Catholic faith, which was now violently opposed by several kinds of heretics, but especially by the Nestorians and Eutychians. Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, affirmed the blessed Virgin to be mother, not of God, but of man only, that so he might make the humanity and divinity of Christ to be two distinct persons, one the son of God, the other the son of man. But Eutyches, Abbot of Constantinople, that he might broach an heresy in contradiction to the former, utterly confounded the divine and human nature of Christ, asserting them to be one, and not at all to be distinguished. This heresy being condemned by Flavianus, bishop of Constantinople, with the consent of Theodosius, a synod is called at Ephesus,1 in which Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, being president, Eutyches was restored, and Flavianus censured. But Theodosius dying, and his successor Marcianus, proving a friend to the orthodox doctrine, Leo calls a council at Chalcedon, wherein by the authority of six hundred and thirty bishops, it was decreed as an Article of Faith, that there are two natures in Christ, and that one and the same Christ is God and man; by which consequently, both Nestorius and Eutyches, the pestilent patron of the Manichees, were condemned. Moreover, the books of the Manichees were publicly burnt; and the pride and heretical opinions of Dioscorus discountenanced and suppressed. In the meantime, Valentinian being treacherously murdered Maximus usurps the empire, and against her will marries Eudoxia, the widow of Valentinian. Upon this occasion, the Vandals being called out of Africa, Genseric being their leader, force their entrance into the city of Rome, throw the body of Maximus, who had been killed in the tumult by one Ursus, a Roman soldier, into the river Tiber, plunder and burn the city, pillage the churches, and refuse to hearken to Bishop Leo begging them whatever spoils they carried away only to spare the city itself and the temples. However, on the fourteenth day from their entrance into Rome they left it, and taking away with them Eudoxia and her daughter, with a great number of other captives, they returned into Africa. Leo being now very intent upon making 107 good the damages sustained from this people, prevailed upon Demetria, a pious virgin, to build upon her own ground in the Via Latina, three miles from the city, a church to St Stephen; and did the same himself in the Via Appia in honour of St Cornelius. The churches which had been in any part ruined, he repaired, and those of the sacred vessels belonging to them which had been bruised and broken, he caused to be mended, and those which had been taken away to be made anew; moreover, he built three apartments in the churches of St John, St Peter, and St Paul; appointed certain of the Roman clergy, whom he called Cubicularii, to keep and take charge of the sepulchres of the Apostles; built a monastery near St Peter’s; introduced into the canon of the Mass the clause, Hoc sanctum sacrificium, this holy sacrifice, &c., and ordained that no recluse should be capable of receiving the consecrated veils, unless it did appear that she had preserved her chastity spotless for the space of forty years. But while the good man was employed in these things, there started up of a sudden the heresy of the Acephali, so-called because they were a company of foolish, undisciplined schismatics, or, if it be not a quibble, because they wanted both brains and head. These men decried the council of Chalcedon, denied the propriety of two substances in Christ, and asserted that there could be but one nature in one person. But our Leo abundantly confuted their absurd doctrines in his elegant and learned epistles written to the faithful upon that argument. Men of note in his time were Prosper of Aquitain, a learned man, and Mamertus, bishop of Vienne, who, as it is said, was the first that appointed processionary supplications, or litanies, upon the occasion of the frequent earthquakes with which Gaul was at that time very much afflicted. To conclude, Leo, having ordained eighty-one presbyters, thirty-one deacons, and eighty-one bishops, died, and was buried in the Vatican, near St Peter, April the 10th. He sat in the chair twenty-one years, one month, thirteen days, and by his death the see was vacant eight days.


 1  This is that known by the name of the Robber Council, from the violence used there. — ED.

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Previous Pope:  29. Sixtus III. 47. Leo I. The Great. Next Pope: 48. Hilarius I.

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