10.11.

461: The Pope who Dissuaded Attila from Destroying Rome

461: The Pope who Dissuaded Attila from Destroying Rome
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  • historical event: Attila planned to attack Rome and demanded the Roman emperor to give him his sister Honoria for his wife, together with a rich dowry. The Emperor, in turn, sent Pope Leo to negotiate with Attila and dissuade him from destroying Rome.

On this day, the Catholic Church celebrates the renowned Pope Saint Leo the Great, who is credited with rescuing Italy from the invasion of the Huns. His era was characterized by heavy fighting related to the last breaths of the dying Western Roman Empire. At that time, the mighty Hun conquerors invaded the territory of the Empire and ravaged its provinces. The Balkan peninsula was devastated and the Huns invaded south, reaching even Greece. After the devastation of Gaul (today’s France), Hun leader Attila broke through the Alps to the area of present-day Italy. There he destroyed Aquileia, Vicenza (Roman Vicetia), Verona, Brescia (Roman Brixia), Bergamo (Roman Bergamum) and Milan (Roman Mediolanum).

 Attila planned to attack Rome as well and demanded of the Roman emperor to give him his sister Honoria for his wife, together with a rich dowry. The Emperor, in turn, sent Pope Leo to negotiate with Attila and dissuade him from destroying Rome. The Pope actually succeeded in this. He met with Attila on the southern shore of the famous Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) in northern Italy. After the meeting, Attila withdrew with his army from Italy and Rome was saved. It is not exactly known how the pope managed to persuade Attila (known as the “Scourge of God”). The pope was carrying a considerable amount of money, which was probably used to bribe Attila, but Christian chroniclers of the period attributed the merit to the pope’s saintly nature.

St. Leo the Great died, according to tradition, in Rome on this day, after 21 years on the papal chair.

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