Pope Leo IV

Pope Leo IV (790 – 17 July 855) was pope from 10 April 847 to his death in 855. He is remembered for repairing Roman churches that had been damaged during Arab raids on Rome, and for building the Leonine Wall around Vatican Hill. Pope Leo organized a league of Italian cities who fought the sea Battle of Ostia against the Saracens.

Pope Saint

Leo IV
103-St.Leo IV
Papacy began10 April 847
Papacy ended17 July 855
PredecessorSergius II
SuccessorBenedict III
Personal details
Rome, Papal States
Died17 July 855
Rome, Papal States
Venerated inCatholic Church
  • Papal vestments
  • Rooster
Other popes named Leo
Papal styles of
Pope Leo IV
Emblem of the Papacy SE
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleSaint


A Roman by birth, Leo received his early education at Rome in the monastery of St. Martin, near St. Peter's. He attracted the notice of Pope Gregory IV, who made him a subdeacon; and was created Cardinal-Priest of Santi Quattro Coronati ("Four Crowned Martyrs") by Pope Sergius II.[1]

In April 847, Leo was unanimously chosen to succeed Sergius II. As the attack of the Saracens on Rome in 846 caused the people to fear for the safety of the city, he was consecrated on 10 April, 847 without waiting for the consent of the emperor.[1]

Saracen defenses

He immediately began to repair the damage done to various churches of the city by the Saracens during the reign of his predecessor. He restored and embellished the damaged Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura and St. Peter's. The latter's altar again received its gold covering (after being stolen), which weighed 206 lb. and was studded with precious gems. Following the restoration of St. Peter's, Leo appealed to the Christian kingdoms to confront the Arab raiders.[2]

Leo also took precautions against further raids. He put the walls of the city into a thorough state of repair, entirely rebuilding fifteen of the great towers. He was the first to enclose the Vatican hill by a wall. Leo ordered a new line of walls encompassing the suburb on the right bank of the Tiber to be built, including St. Peter's Basilica, which had been undefended until this time. The district enclosed by the walls is still known as the Leonine City, and corresponds to the later rione of Borgo. To do this, he received money from the emperor, and help from all the cities and agricultural colonies (domus cultae) of the Duchy of Rome. The work took him four years to accomplish, and the newly fortified portion was called the Leonine City, after him.[3]

Battle of Ostia

Battle of Ostia (1829 engraving)
The Battle of Ostia, 1829 engraving.

In 849, when a Saracen fleet from Sardinia approached Portus, the Pope summoned the Repubbliche Marinare (or mariner cities of Italy) – Naples, Gaeta and Amalfi – to form a league. The command of the unified fleet was given to Cesarius, son of Duke Sergius I of Naples. Aided by a fierce storm, the Saracen fleet was destroyed off Ostia.[1] The Battle of Ostia was one of the most famous in history of the Papacy of the Middle Ages and is celebrated in a famous fresco by Raphael and his pupils in his rooms of the Vatican Palace in the Vatican City.

A separate incident in Leo's life celebrated by Raphael's Incendio di Borgo, the fire in the pilgrims' district of Rome (the "Borgo"), which, according to legend, was stopped by Leo making the sign of the cross.

Leo IV held three synods, the one in 850 distinguished by the presence of Holy Roman Emperor Louis II, but the other two of little importance. In 863, he travelled to Ravenna to settle a dispute with the archbishop. As the archbishop was a good terms with Emperor Lothair I, the pope had little success.[4] The history of the papal struggle with Hincmar of Reims, which began during Leo's pontificate, belongs properly to that of Nicholas I.

Death and Burial

Leo IV died on 17 July 855 and succeeded by Benedict III.

Leo IV was originally buried in his own monument in St. Peter's Basilica, however some years after his death, his remains were put into a tomb that contained the first four Pope Leos. In the 18th century, the relics of Leo the Great were separated from the other Leos and given their own chapel.[5]


Leo IV had the figure of a rooster placed on the Old St. Peter's Basilica or old Constantinian basilica[6] which has served as a religious icon and reminder of Peter's denial of Christ since that time, with some churches still having the cockerel on the steeple today. It is reputed that Pope Gregory I had previously said that the cock (rooster) "was the most suitable emblem of Christianity", being "the emblem of St Peter".[7][8] After Leo IV, Pope Nicholas I, who had been made a deacon by Leo IV, decreed that the figure of the cock (rooster) should be placed on every church.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Mann, Horace. "Pope St. Leo IV." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 23 September 2017
  2. ^ Pierre Riche, The Carolingians:A Family who forged Europe, transl. Michael Idomir Allen, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 175.
  3. ^ Gregorovius, Ferdinand. History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages, vol. 3, (Annie Hamilton, tr.), 1903 ch. III "The Leonine City" pp 95ff.
  4. ^ Partner, Peter. The Lands of St. Peter: The Papal State in the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance, University of California Press, 1972, p. 62, ISBN 9780520021815
  5. ^ Reardon, Wendy. The deaths of the Popes.
  6. ^ ST PETER'S BASILICA.ORG - Providing information on St. Peter's Basilica and Square in the Vatican City - The Treasury Museum [1]
  7. ^ John G. R. Forlong, Encyclopedia of Religions: A-d - Page 471
  8. ^ The Antiquary: a magazine devoted to the study of the past, Volume 17 edited by Edward Walford, John Charles Cox, George Latimer Apperson - page 202 [2]
  9. ^ How the Chicken Conquered the World - By Jerry Adler and Andrew Lawler - Smithsonian magazine, June 2012 [3]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope St. Leo IV". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.


  • Cheetham, Nicolas, Keepers of the Keys, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1983. ISBN 0-684-17863-X

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Sergius II
Succeeded by
Benedict III
Audradus Modicus

Audradus Modicus (or Hardradus; fl. 847–53) was a Frankish ecclesiastic and author during the Carolingian Renaissance. He wrote in Latin.

Audradus was a monk of Saint Martin's of Tours. He served as an auxiliary bishop (chorepiscopus) to Archbishop Wenilo of Sens (836–65) from 847 until 849, when he was deposed by the Council of Paris. After his deposition, he went to Rome, where he presented his writings to Pope Leo IV.Audradus was a prolific author. In verse, he composed the Liber de fonte vitae ("Book of the Source of Life") in 404 hexameters, the Carmen in honore sancti Petri ecclesiae ("Song in Honour of Saint Peter's Church"), some verses in honour of Saint Martin and a passion of Saint Julian (Passiones beatorum Iuliani et sociorum eius) in 800 lines. He also wrote the prose Liber revelationum, known from passages quoted by Alberic of Trois-Fontaines in the 13th century. They show him to have been a partisan of Charles the Bald, king of West Francia, and of Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, and extremely hostile to Charles's brothers, the Emperor Lothair I and Louis the German, king of East Francia. The Liber revelationum can be dated to no earlier than 853.Audradus was buried in the church of Saint-Didier at Nevers. Like his superior, Wenilo, he morphed into a villain in popular memory. The chansons de geste remember him as the henchman Hardré or Adradus to the archtraitor Ganelon, a figure based on Wenilo.

Battle of Ostia (Raphael's painting)

The Battle of Ostia (Battaglia di Ostia) is a painting by the workshop of the Italian renaissance artist Raphael. The painting was part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It is located in the room that was named after The Fire in the Borgo, the Stanza dell'incendio del Borgo and was inspired by the naval battle fought in 849 between the Saracens and a Christian League of Papal, Neapolitan and Gaetan ships. In the painting Pope Leo IV, with the features of Pope Leo X, is giving thanks after the Arab ships were destroyed by a storm.

Corps of Firefighters of the Vatican City State

The Corps of Firefighters of the Vatican City State (Italian: Corpo dei vigili del fuoco dello Stato della Città del Vaticano) is the fire brigade of the Vatican City State. It was founded in its present form by Pope Pius XII in 1941, although its origins are much older.

The patron saints of the Corps are Pope Leo IV, to whom tradition attributes the miraculous extinction of a fire in the Borgo district (event represented by Raphael's fresco of the Fire in the Borgo) and Saint Barbara, also the patron saint of firefighters in Italy. The anniversary of the celebration of the Corps is on 4 December.

Eala Frya Fresena

Eala Frya Fresena is the motto for the coat of arms of East Frisia in northern Germany. The motto is often mistranslated as "Hail, free Frisians!", but it was the reversal of the feudal prostration and is better translated as "Stand up, free Frisians!". According to 16th century sources, it was spoken at the Upstalsboom in Aurich where Frisian judges meet on Pentecost and it is traditionally answered with Lever dood as Slaav, or in English, rather dead than slaves.

The motto refers to the legendary "Frisian freedom," a right to accept no rule besides the Holy Roman Emperor and the Christian God. The right was in the Middle Ages supposed to have been granted by Charlemagne for Frisian support of Pope Leo IV (who was not contemporary with Charlemagne). It was said to have been renewed by Charles the Fat in 885 for saving him from Normans. The Frisian freedom basically meant a claim of freedom from tax and fief, to defend themselves against the Normans, Vikings and the northern sea. Friesland offered unclaimed land for everyone, however the unclaimed land of the country was under water half of the day. The daily fight against the northern sea ensured equality of the people who were living on warfs during this time. Tax and fief was therefore replaced by the duty to build dikes.

Frankish Papacy

From 756 to 857, the papacy shifted from the orbit of the Byzantine Empire to that of the kings of the Franks. Pepin the Short (ruled 751–768), Charlemagne (r. 768–814) (co-ruler with his brother Carloman I until 771), and Louis the Pious (r. 814-840) had considerable influence in the selection and administration of popes. The "Donation of Pepin" (756) ratified a new period of papal rule in central Italy, which became known as the Papal States.

This shift was initiated by the Lombards conquering the Exarchate of Ravenna from the Byzantines, strengthened by the Frankish triumph over the Lombards, and ended by the fragmentation of the Frankish Kingdom into West Francia, Middle Francia, and East Francia. Lothair I continued to rule Middle Francia which included much of the Italian peninsula, from 843 to 855.

This period was "a critical time in Rome's transformation from ancient capital to powerful bishopric to new state capital." The period was characterized by "battles between Franks, Lombards and Romans for control of the Italian peninsula and of supreme authority within Christendom."

Leo IV

Leon IV or Leo IV may refer to:

Leo IV the Khazar (750 – 780), Byzantine Emperor

Pope Leo IV, pope from 847 – 855

Leo IV, King of Armenia (1309 – 1341), last Hethumid king of Cilicia

Leo IV (dwarf galaxy), a dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milky Way

Leonine City

Leonine City (Latin: Civitas Leonina) is the part of the city of Rome around which the ninth-century Pope Leo IV commissioned the construction of the Leonine Wall. It is located on the opposite side of the Tiber from the seven hills of Rome and was not enclosed within the ancient city's Aurelian Walls, built between 271 and 275. Vatican City is within the enclosed area, but the Leonine City, containing also the Roman rione of Borgo, is much more extensive than the Vatican.

List of saints named Leo

St. Leo may refer to one of several saints named Leo, including:

Pope Leo I (d. 461), pope and saint

Pope Leo II (d. 683), pope and saint

Pope Leo III (d. 816), pope and saint

Pope Leo IV (d. 855), pope and saint

Pope Leo IX (d. 1054), pope and saint

Saint Leo of Bayonne, France

Saint Leo of Catania otherwise Saint Leo the Thaumaturge (d. 785), saint and bishop of Catania in Sicily

Saint Leo of Montefeltro (d. 366), bishop of Montefeltro

Ostia (Rome)

Ostia () is a large neighbourhood in the X Municipio of the comune of Rome, Italy, near the ancient port of Rome, named Ostia, which is now a major archaeological site known as Ostia Antica. Ostia (also called Ostia Lido or Lido di Roma or Lido di Ostia) is also the only municipio or district of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea and many Romans spend the summer holidays there. With about 85,000 inhabitants, Ostia is the first or second-most populated frazione of Italy, depending on whether Mestre is counted.


Perto (Italian: Pertone) was the Abbot of Farfa from 854/7 to 872. Between 857 and 859 he received a privilege from the Emperor Louis II confirming a cella (probably a small monastic house) called Santa Maria del Mignone. Since this is the first time Santa Maria is mentioned in Farfa's possession it may have been acquired around this time by Perto. Louis's diploma confirmed privileges granted Farfa by his father, Lothair I, in 840. The imperial diploma forbade any financial imposition ("tribute or census") on Farfa by any pope or secular ruler ("duke or prince"). This diploma may have been aimed at courting good relations with the pope (either Benedict III or Nicholas II) or it may be associated with Louis's intervention in the Duchy of Spoleto in 860. In 864 Louis confirmed Farfa's possessions and, at the insistence of Bishop Peter of Spoleto, protector of the abbey since 840, made a donation to it in the region of Massa Torana.Around this time Centumcellae, a village on the other side of the valley of Mignone from Santa Maria, was sacked by Saracen marauders. In 854 it was refounded by Pope Leo IV and renamed Leopolis (modern Civitavecchia). Before the ninth century was out Farfa itself would be attacked by Saracens. To them is probably due the obscurity of Farfa's abbots during the period from Perto, who succeeded Hilderic, to Peter, who rescued his monks and his library from the Saracens.

Perto was succeeded by John I.

Pope Benedict III

Pope Benedict III (Latin: Benedictus III; died 17 April 858) was pope from 29 September 855 to his death in 858.Little is known of Benedict's life before his papacy. His father was named Peter. Benedict was educated, and lived in Rome and was appointed by Pope Leo IV as cardinal-priest of the church of San Callisto. Benedict had a reputation for learning and piety. He was elected upon the refusal of Hadrian, the initial choice of the clergy and people.

Arsenius, bishop of Horta, intercepted the legates sent to advise the emperor of the election and persuaded them to betray Benedict and convince the Emperor name the bishop's son Anastasius instead. Anastasius had previously been excommunicated by Leo IV. The legates returned with the imperial envoys and had Benedict's election disavowed and Anastasius installed. Anastasius took his place at the Lateran and Benedict was imprisoned. However, local popular opinion was so strong that the Franks recognized Benedict's consecration. Benedict treated Anastasius and his adherents leniently. The schism helped to weaken the hold of the emperors upon the popes, especially upon their elections.

Benedict intervened in the conflict between the sons of Lothair I (the future King Lothair II of Lotharingia, Emperor Louis II and Charles of Provence) on the latter's death. He wrote to the Frankish bishops, rebuking them for remaining silent in the face of the disorder affecting the Carolingian realms.Æthelwulf of Wessex and his son, the future king Alfred the Great, visited Rome in Benedict's reign. The Schola Anglorum, which was destroyed by fire in 847, was restored by Benedict.A medieval tradition claimed that Pope Joan, a woman disguised as a man, was Benedict's immediate predecessor. The legendary Joan is generally believed to be fictitious.

Pope Leo

Pope Leo was the name of thirteen Roman Catholic Popes:

Pope Leo I (the Great) (440–461)

Pope Leo II (682–683)

Pope Leo III (795–816)

Pope Leo IV (847–855)

Pope Leo V (903)

Pope Leo VI (928)

Pope Leo VII (936–939)

Pope Leo VIII (964–965)

Pope Leo IX (1049–1054)

Pope Leo X (1513–1521)

Pope Leo XI (1605)

Pope Leo XII (1823–1829)

Pope Leo XIII (1878–1903)

Porta Cavalleggeri

Porta Cavalleggeri was one of the gates of the Leonine Wall in Rome (Italy).

Its remains are now walled in the stretch of wall facing the square that takes its name after it: this is nevertheless a recreation, since the original location of the gate, until 1904, was some meters away, on the other side of Piazza del Sant’Uffizio.

Its former name was Porta ad Scholam Longobardorum, due to its vicinity to a community of Lombards that had settled close to it. It was later named Porta Turrionis, as it rose alongside the tower (whose building date is uncertain, but surely restored by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger during the papacy of Paul III), that is still visible at the entrance of Galleria Principe Amedeo. When Pope Pius IV built the barracks of the Cavalry Guard Regiment in the vicinity, the gate took the name it still bears.

The age of its construction is quite controversial (just the same as Porta Pertusa). According to Nibby, it was erected soon after the return of the Popes from the Avignon Papacy, that is at the end of the 14th century, when the pontiffs, coming back to Rome from Avignon with a large retinue, took up definitively their residence in Vatican (thus leaving their previous residence in Lateran). The three gates of the Leonine Wall turned out to be too few to meet the needs of the resulting population and building increase.

On the other hand Stefano Piale, on the basis of a 1590 document and some previous quotes, maintains that it was built by Pope Nicholas V, thus dating it back to mid-14th century. Other quotes even backdate it to the building of the walls of Pope Leo IV, in about 850, but they appear to be scarcely reliable, as they clash with most of the texts, some of which are absolutely accredited. Moreover, references to Porta Turrionis appear just in reports and chronicles subsequent to the end of the 14th century.

On the top of the arch are still visible two coats of arms of the House of Borgia, placed by Pope Alexander VI in memory of the restoration works that involved the gate and the surrounding stretch of wall about in 1500. The aspect of the gate and of the restoration is the one still visible nowadays.

In this place, on 30 April 1849, the Brigade of General Pierre Alexandre Jean Mollière (belonging to the French army led by General Nicolas Charles Victor Oudinot) launched its first attack against the Roman Republic. The gate was defended by the 2nd Brigade of the 8th Battalion, led by General Luigi Masi, made up of 1,000 men from the National Guard and 1,700 men from the Papal troops, among which there was the actor Tommaso Salvini. On that occasion the French were rejected.

Primate of Africa

The Primate of Africa is an honorific title in the Roman Catholic church, but in early Christianity was the leading bishop (primas) in Africa except for Mauretania which was under the bishop of Rome and Egypt which was suffragan to Alexandria.

There were at times primates in Numidia and Byzacena, and Donatist claimants, but generally the role of the bishop of Carthage was seen as total.In the 3rd century, at the time of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage exercised a real though not formalized primacy in the Early African Church, not only in the Roman province of Proconsular Africa in the broadest sense (even when divided into three provinces including Byzacena and Tripolitania) but also, in some supra-metropolitan form, over the Church in Numidia and Mauretania. The provincial primacy was associated with the senior bishop in the province rather than with a particular see and was of little importance in comparison to the authority of the bishop of Carthage, who could be appealed to directly by the clergy of any province.Pope Leo confirmed the primacy of the Bishop of Carthage in 446 when he wrote: Indeed, after the Roman Bishop, the leading Bishop and metropolitan for all Africa is the Bishop of Carthage.At the beginning of the 8th century and at the end of the 9th century, the Patriarch of Alexandria claimed jurisdiction over Carthage, however in 1053 Pope Leo IV confirmed the primacy of Carthage and twenty years latter pope Gregory VII reiterated Leo's statement.Today the Archbishop of Carthage and Primate of Africa has been incorporated into the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tunis. The title Primate was applied to the Archbishop of Carthage and Tunis for a time from 1894 till Tunisian independence in 1964.

Raphael Rooms

The four Raphael Rooms (Italian: Stanze di Raffaello) form a suite of reception rooms in the palace, the public part of the papal apartments in the Palace of the Vatican. They are famous for their frescoes, painted by Raphael and his workshop. Together with Michelangelo's ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, they are the grand fresco sequences that mark the High Renaissance in Rome.

The Stanze, as they are commonly called, were originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. He commissioned Raphael, then a relatively young artist from Urbino, and his studio in 1508 or 1509 to redecorate the existing interiors of the rooms entirely. It was possibly Julius' intent to outshine the apartments of his predecessor (and rival) Pope Alexander VI, as the Stanze are directly above Alexander's Borgia Apartment. They are on the third floor, overlooking the south side of the Belvedere Courtyard.

Running from east to west, as a visitor would have entered the apartment, but not following the sequence in which the Stanze were frescoed, the rooms are the Sala di Costantino ("Hall of Constantine"), the Stanza di Eliodoro ("Room of Heliodorus"), the Stanza della Segnatura ("Room of the Signatura") and the Stanza dell'Incendio del Borgo ("The Room of the Fire in the Borgo").

After the death of Julius in 1513, with two rooms frescoed, Pope Leo X continued the program. Following Raphael's death in 1520, his assistants Gianfrancesco Penni, Giulio Romano and Raffaellino del Colle finished the project with the frescoes in the Sala di Costantino.

Roman Catholic Suburbicarian Diocese of Frascati

The Diocese of Frascati (Lat.: Tusculana) is a suburbicarian see of the Holy Roman Church and a diocese of the Catholic Church in Italy, based at Frascati, near Rome. The bishop of Frascati is a Cardinal Bishop; from the Latin name of the area, the bishop has also been called Bishop of Tusculum. Tusculum was destroyed in 1191. The bishopric moved from Tusculum to Frascati, a nearby town which is first mentioned in the pontificate of Pope Leo IV. Until 1962, the Cardinal-Bishop was concurrently the diocesan bishop of the see in addition to any curial duties he possessed. Pope John XXIII removed the Cardinal Bishops from any actual responsibility in their suburbicarian dioceses, and made the title purely honorific.

Santi Quattro Coronati

Santi Quattro Coronati is an ancient basilica in Rome, Italy. The church dates back to the 4th (or 5th) century, and is devoted to four anonymous saints and martyrs. The complex of the basilica with its two courtyards, the fortified Cardinal Palace with the Saint Silvester Chapel, and the monastery with its cosmatesque cloister is built in a silent and green part of Rome, between the Colosseum and San Giovanni in Laterano, in an out-of-time setting.

The Fire in the Borgo

The Fire in the Borgo is a painting created by the workshop of the Italian renaissance artist Raphael. Though it is assumed that Raphael did make the designs for the complex composition, the fresco was most likely painted by his assistant Giulio Romano. The painting was part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It depicts Pope Leo IV halting a fire in 847 with a benediction from a balcony in front of the Old St. Peter's Basilica. The mural lends its name to the Stanza dell'incendio del Borgo ("The Room of the Fire in the Borgo").

Vatican Hill

Vatican Hill (; Latin: Mons Vaticanus, Italian: Colle Vaticano) is a hill located across the Tiber river from the traditional seven hills of Rome, that also gave the name of Vatican City. It is the location of St. Peter's Basilica.

1st–4th centuries
During the Roman Empire (until 493)
including under Constantine (312–337)
5th–8th centuries
Ostrogothic Papacy (493–537)
Byzantine Papacy (537–752)
Frankish Papacy (756–857)
9th–12th centuries
Papal selection before 1059
Saeculum obscurum (904–964)
Crescentii era (974–1012)
Tusculan Papacy (1012–1044/1048)
Imperial Papacy (1048–1257)
13th–16th centuries
Viterbo (1257–1281)
Orvieto (1262–1297)
Perugia (1228–1304)
Avignon Papacy (1309–1378)
Western Schism (1378–1417)
Renaissance Papacy (1417–1534)
Reformation Papacy (1534–1585)
Baroque Papacy (1585–1689)
17th–20th centuries
Age of Enlightenment (c. 1640-1740)
Revolutionary Papacy (1775–1848)
Roman Question (1870–1929)
Vatican City (1929–present)
21st century
History of the papacy
Virgin Mary
See also

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