Pope Saint Leo III

detail from 'The Oath of Leo III' by Raphael, date unknownAlso known as



The son of Atyuppius and Elizabeth. Priest. Cardinal. Papal treasurer. Elected pope the day after his predecessor’s burial, probably so there would not be any outside interference with the decision of the cardinals.

Upon his election, he sent Charlemagne the keys of Saint Peter and the standard of the city of Rome, Italy indicating his choice of Charlemagne as protector of the city and the see. Charlemagne, with his letters of congratulations, sent a fortune which Leo used to build churches and found charitable institutions.

On 25 April 799, members of Pope Adrian I‘s family hired thugs to attack Leo in a procession. They scarred his face and tried to tear out his toungue and eyes to render him unfit for the papacy. He survived the attack, scarred but tongue and eyes miraculously healed. He fled to Charlemagne‘s protection at Paderborn, Germany where his enemies tried to turn the king against him. When Leo recovered, Charlemagne escorted him back to Rome. In 800 he conducted a trial of Leo and of his accusers. There was no evidence of Leo’s guilt, but there was of his accusers, and they were imprisoned. On Christmas day in 800, Leo crowned Charlemagne emperor, marking the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire.


Papal Ascension



MLA Citation

  • “Pope Saint Leo III“. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 June 2020. Web. 16 May 2021. <>