Leo IV of Rome

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Pope Leo IV of Rome was the Pope of the Church of Rome from 847 to 855.


Leo was born in 790 in Rome, the son of Radoald. Leo received his early education in the monastery of St. Martin, near the Basilica of St. Peter. He was made subdeacon by Pope Gregory IV who had noticed his pious behavior. Pope Sergius II made him Cardinal priest of the Church of Santi Quattro Coronati, the position he held when he was consecrated, against his will, to the papacy on April 10, 847. His consecration was without the consent of the emperor.

As soon as he became pope, Leo ordered the restoration of the walls of Rome as a precaution against a repetition of the Saracen raid of 846. The restoration included rebuilding fifteen of the towers and the enclosure of the Vatican hill by a wall. He also directed the repair of the various damaged churches of the city, especially the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul Outside the Walls. To finance this work, Leo received money from the emperor and help from all the cities and agricultural colonies (domus cultae) of the Duchy of Rome. In 852 after four years of work, the fortifications were completed, and the newly fortified portion was given the name Leonine City, after him.

As the Saracens again approached Portus, Leo summoned from among the Repubbliche Marinare (maritime republics of Italy) – Naples, Gaeta, and Amalfi – to form a unified fleet that under the command of Caesar, son of Duke Sergius I of Naples, subdued, in 849, the Saracens in the Battle of Ostia one of the most famous in history of the papacy in the Middle Ages. The battle is celebrated in a famous fresco by Raphael and his pupils in the Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Palace in Vatican City.

In 850, Pope Leo crowned Louis II, who had been King of Italy, as joint emperor with his father Lothair I. In 853, Leo presided at a synod in Rome that was concerned with ecclesiastical discipline and learning, and that also condemned Anastasius, Cardinal of the Church of St. Marcellus and sometime librarian of the Roman Church. He was also involved in issues of discipline with Archbishop John of Ravenna and, at the time of his death, with Abp. Hincmar of Riems, a dispute that continued until the pontificate of Pope Nicholas I.

Pope Leo reposed on July 17, 855 and was buried in the Basilica of St. Peter. Some years after his death, his remains were moved to a tomb that contained the first four Pope Leos. In the eighteenth century, the relics of Leo the Great were separated from the other Leos and given their own chapel. The Roman Church later canonized Pope Leo IV a saint.

Succession box:
Leo IV of Rome
Preceded by:
Sergius II
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
Benedict III
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