Pope Leo III  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Pope Leo III (died June 12, 816) was Pope from 795 to 816.

Leo announced his election to Charlemagne, sending him the keys of Saint Peter's tomb and the banner of Rome, requesting an envoy. Charlemagne in his reply stated that it was his function to defend the church and the popes' to pray for the realm and for victory of the army.

Leo, coming from a common-folk background, aroused the hostility of Rome's nobility, who saw the papal post as reserved for noble candidates. During his rule he was accused of adultery and perjury. In April 799 he was attacked by a gang, who attempted to gouge out his eyes and cut off his tongue for his earlier actions. He was then formally deposed and sent to a monastery, but escaped and made his way to Charlemagne, who escorted him back to Rome under royal protection. On Christmas Day, Leo placed the imperial crown on Charlemagne's head, resurrecting the office of Holy Roman Emperor (HRE).

Charlemagne went to Rome in November 800, and on December 1 held a council there with representatives of both sides. Leo, on December 23, took an oath of purgation concerning the charges brought against him, and his opponents were exiled. Two days later Leo crowned Charlemagne after the latter prayed at St. Peter's tomb. Charlemagne was to intervene in church affairs, not always being successful.

Leo helped restore King Eardwulf of Northumbria, and settled various matters of dispute between the Archbishops of York and Canterbury. He also reversed the decision of his predecessor in regards to the granting of the pallium to the bishop of Lichfield, Higbert. He believed that the English episcopate had been misrepresented before Hadrian and that therefore his act was invalid. In 803, Lichfield was a regular diocese again.

Leo forbade the addition of "filioque" to Nicene Creed which was added by Franks in Aachen in 809. He also ordered that the Nicene creed be engraved on silver tablets so that his conclusion might not be overturned in the future. He wrote «HAEC LEO POSUI AMORE ET CAUTELA ORTHODOXAE FIDEI» (I, Leo, put here for love and protection of orthodox faith)(VITA LEONIS, LIBER PONTIFICALIS (Ed.Duchene, TII, p.26)

The reasons for the coronation, the involvement beforehand of the Frankish court, and the relationship to the Byzantine Empire are all matters of debate among historians. An effective administrator of the papal territories, Leo contributed to the beautification of Rome.

His feast day, formerly, was June 12.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pope Leo III" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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