Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The image of St Leo

Today is the feast of Pope St Leo I, the Great, about whom I have posted last year in St Leo the Great.

He is of particular interest as the Pope who begins the serious development and understanding of the implications and obligations of the petrine ministry of the Papacy. That theology was expressed, along with other teaching, in his sermons, both profound and elegant - a joy to read when they appear in the Office of Readings.  That fact, combined with a pontificate of twenty one years from 440-461, his famous meeting with Attila the Hun, established him as a key figure in the emergence of the Papal office, as well, of course, as his Tome which shaped the decision of the Council of Calcedon in 451 - "Peter has spoken through Leo "- makes him a crucial figure in the development of the Papacy.

There appears to be a degree of consistency in the way St Leo is depicted in early pictures of him, although they are all much later than his lifetime. Nevertheless they may preserve a tradition as to his appearance.


St Leo the Great
Santa Maria Antiqua Rome
Eighth century

Image: John Dillon on Medieval Religion discussion group site


St Leo I, detail of a miniature from the menologion of Emperor Basil II, 10th century
 Vatican Library (Vat. Gr. 1613 folio 412)

Image: Britannica.com


St Leo is shown on the right, paired with St Peter in a fresco, probably of thirteenth century date,
in the rupestrian church of San Nicola at Castelrotto, near Mottola in Apulia.
This painting surely indicates an awareness of St Leo's very concious identification of himself as St Peter's active successor

Image: John Dillon on the Medieval Religion discussion group site


The painting in its setting, which indicates the decorative style of the time as used in such a rock-cut church.
Note the figures of donors between the central and right hand panels.
Image: John Dillon on the Medieval Religion discussion group site

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