1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Leo (popes)/Leo III

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Leo III., whose pontificate (795–816) covered the last eighteen years of the reign of Charlemagne, was a native of Rome, and having been chosen successor of Adrian I. on the 26th of December 795, was consecrated to the office on the following day. His first act was to send to Charles as patrician the standard of Rome along with the keys of the sepulchre of St Peter and of the city; a gracious and condescending letter in reply made it still more clear where all real power at that moment lay. For more than three years his term of office was uneventful; but at the end of that period the feelings of disappointment which had secretly been rankling in the breasts of Paschalis and Campulus, nephews of Adrian I., who had received from him the offices of primicerius and sacellarius respectively, suddenly manifested themselves in an organized attack upon Leo as he was riding in procession through the city on the day of the Greater Litany (25th April 799); the object of his assailants was, by depriving him of his eyes and tongue, to disqualify him for the papal office, and, although they were unsuccessful in this attempt, he found it necessary to accept the protection of Winegis, the Frankish duke of Spoleto, who came to the rescue. Having vainly requested the presence of Charles in Rome, Leo went beyond the Alps to meet the king at Paderborn; he was received with much ceremony and respect, but his enemies having sent in serious written charges, of which the character is not now known, Charles decided to appoint both the pope and his accusers to appear as parties before him when he should have arrived in Rome. Leo returned in great state to his diocese, and was received with honour; Charles, who did not arrive until November in the following year, lost no time in assuming the office of a judge, and the result of his investigation was the acquittal of the pope, who at the same time, however, was permitted or rather required to clear himself by the oath of compurgation. The coronation of the emperor followed two days afterwards; its effect was to bring out with increased clearness the personally subordinate position of Leo. The decision of the emperor, however, secured for Leo’s pontificate an external peace which was only broken after the accession of Louis the Pious. His enemies began to renew their attacks; the violent repression of a conspiracy led to an open rebellion at Rome; serious charges were once more brought against him, when he was overtaken by death in 816. It was under this pontificate that Felix of Urgel, the adoptianist, was anathematized (798) by a Roman synod. Leo at another synod held in Rome in 810 admitted the dogmatic correctness of the filioque, but deprecated its introduction into the creed. On this point, however, the Frankish Church persevered in the course it had already initiated. Leo’s successor was Stephen IV.