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Pope Leo IV

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Saint Leo IV
Papacy began 10 April 847
Papacy ended 17 July 855
Predecessor Sergius II
Successor Benedict III
Personal details
Birth name ???
Born 790
Rome, Papal States
Died 17 July 855(855-07-17)
Other Popes named Leo
Papal styles of
Pope Leo IV
Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Saint

Pope Saint Leo IV was pope from 10 April 847 to 17 July 855.

A Roman by birth, he was unanimously chosen to succeed Sergius II. When he was elected, on 10 April 847, he was cardinal of Santi Quattro Coronati and had been subdeacon of Gregory IV and archpriest under his predecessor. His pontificate was chiefly distinguished by his efforts to repair the damage done by the Saracens during the reign of his predecessor to various churches of the city, especially those of St Peter and St Paul.

The Battle of Ostia in an 1829 engraving.

The Saracens were besieging Gaeta, which led to Leo's order that the walls of the city be restored and strengthened between 848 and 849. When the Muslims approached Portus, he 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. The subsequent 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. Another episode of Leo's life celebrated by the Urbinate in his series of frescoes for the Incendio di Borgo is the burning of the Anglo-Saxon district of Rome (the "Borgo"), which, according to the legend, was stopped by Leo simply making the sign of the cross.

In order to counter the Saracen menace definitively, 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. He also 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.

Leo held three synods, one in 850 that was distinguished by the presence of Holy Roman Emperor Louis II, but the other two of little importance. The history of the papal struggle with Hincmar of Reims, which began during Leo's pontificate, belongs properly to that of Nicholas I.

Leo died on 17 July 855 and was buried in St. Peter's Basilica. Benedict III was Leo's immediate successor. A medieval tradition claimed that a woman, Pope Joan, succeeded him, disguising herself as a man, but Joan is generally believed to be fictitious.


Leo was originally buried in his own monument, 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.[1]


  1. Reardon, Wendy (McFarland). The deaths of the Popes.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • 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