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LE'O, the name of thirteen among the popes of the Roman Catholic Church, of whom the following call for particular notice. - LEO I., surnamed 'the Great,' who is held a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, and is one of the most eminent of the Latin Fathers, was born of a distinguished Etrurian family at Rome about the end of the 4th century. Of his early life, little is known. On the death of Sixtus III. in 440, L. was chosen as his successor. It is in his pontificate that the regular series of papal letters and decretals may be said to commence. Leo's letters, addressed to all parts of the church, exhibit prodigious activity and zeal, and are used by Roman controversialists as an evidence of the extent of the jurisdiction of the Roman see. In a council held at Rome in 449, he set aside the proceedings of the council of Ephesus, which had pronounced in favour of Eutyches (q. v.), summoned a new council at Chalcedon, in which his legates presided, and in which Leo's celebrated 'Dogmatical Letter' was accepted 'as the voice of Peter,' and adopted as the authentic exposition of the orthodox doctrine on the person of Christ. The history of Leo's interposition with Attila in defence of the Roman city and people will be found under the head Attila; and his subsequent similar interposition with Genseric, if less dramatic in the incidents with which history or legend has invested it, was at least so far successful as to save the lives of the citizens, and the public and private buildings of the city of Rome. Leo died at Rome in 461. His works, the most important of which are his Letters and Sermons, were first printed in 1479, and afterwards by Quesnel (2 vols. Paris, 1675); but a much more complete and trustworthy edition is that of Cacciari (3 vols. fol. Rome, 17331755), and of the Brothers Ballerini (Venice, 1757).

The pontificate of LEO III. is chiefly noticeable as the epoch of the formal establishment of the Empire of the West. He was a native of Rome, and was elected pope on the death of Adrian I. in 795. During the greater part of the 8th c., the popes, through the practical withdrawal of the eastern emperors, had exercised a temporal supremacy in Rome, which was fully recognised by the gift of Pepin, and placed under the protectorate of the Frank sovereigns, who received the title of Patrician. The pontificate of Leo, however, was a troubled one, and in 799 he was treated with much violence, and obliged to flee to Spoleto, whence he afterwards repaired to Paderborn, in order to hold a conference with Charlemagne. On his return to Rome, he was received with much honour by the Romans, and the chiefs of the conspiracy against him were sentenced to banishment. In the following year (800), Charlemagne, having come to Rome, was solemnly crowned and saluted emperor by the pope, and the temporal sovereignty of the pope over the Roman city and state, under, however, the suzerainty of the emperor, was formally established. In 804, Leo visited Charlemagne at his court at Aix-la-Chapelle. With Charlemagne's successor, Louis le Debonnaire, Leo was embroiled in a dispute, about the right of sovereign jurisdiction in Rome, which had not been brought to a conclusion when Leo died in 816.

LEO X., Giovanni de' Medici, the second son of the celebrated Lorenzo de' Medici, was born at Florence in December 1475. From his cradle, he was destined to the ecclesiastical career. His education was intrusted to the ablest scholars of the age; and through the influence of his father with the pope, Innocent VIII., he was created cardinal at the unprecedented age of thirteen years, in 1488. In the expulsion of the Medici from Florence, after the death of Lorenzo, the young cardinal was included, and he used the occasion as an opportunity of foreign travel. He was employed as legate by Julius II.; and during the war with the French, he was taken prisoner in the battle of Ravenna, but soon afterwards effected his escape. On the death of Julius II. in 1513, Cardinal de' Medici was chosen pope at the early age of 37, under the name of Leo X. His first appointment of the two great scholars Bembo and Sadoleto as his secretaries was a pledge of the favour towards learning which was the characteristic of his pontificate; but he did not neglect the more material interests of the church and the Roman see. He brought to a successful conclusion the fifth council of the Lateran (see council), and the schism which was threatened by the rival council of Pisa. He concluded a concordat with Francis I. of France, which continued to regulate the French church till the Revolution. In the political relations of the Roman see, he consolidated and, in some degree, extended the re-conquests of his warlike predecessor, Julius II., although he also used his position and his influence for the aggrandisement of his family. His desertion of the alliance of Francis I. for that of his young rival, Charles V., although the subject of much criticism, was dictated by a sound consideration of the interests of Italy. But it is most of all as a patron of learning and art that the reputation of Leo has lived with posterity. Himself a scholar, he loved learning for its own sake; and his court was the meeting-point of all the scholars of Italy and the world. He founded a Greek college in Rome, and established a Greek press, which he endowed munificently (see lascakis). In the encouragement of art, he was no less munificent. Painting, sculpture, architecture, were equally favoured; and it is to his vast project for the rebuilding of St Peter's, and to the step to which he had recourse for procuring the necessary funds - his permitting the preaching of an indulgence, one of the conditions of obtaining which was the contribution to this work - that the first rise of the Reformation in Germany is ascribed. He himself seems to have regarded the movement as of little importance, describing it as 'a squabble among the friars;' and though he condemned the propositions of Luther, and issued a commission to inquire into his doctrines, his measures, on the whole, were not marked by much severity. His personal habits were in keeping with his taste. - splendid and munificent in the highest degree; but in his moral conduct he maintained a strict propriety, and his character, although not free from the stain of nepotism, the vice of that age, and more modelled on the ideal of an enlightened prince than on that of a zealous and ascetic churchman, was beyond all imputation of unworthiness or irregularity. His death, which occurred rather suddenly on 1st Dec. 1521, during the public rejoicings in Rome for the taking of Milan, was by some ascribed to poison; but there seems no solid reason for the suspicion. See Roscoe's Life and Pontificate of Leo X. (1805).


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UPDATED: 18 April 2014

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