Pope Leo IX
Pope Leo IX was born Bruno, Graf von Egisheim und Dagsburg, on April 19, 1002, in Egisheim, Alsace, Upper Lorraine (now Eguisheim, France), to an aristocratic family. His father was Count Hugh of Egisheim, and his father’s cousin was Emperor Conrad II.
At the age of 5, Leo IX’s family sent their only son to Toul to be educated alongside other boys of noble birth. Well-liked, he flourished there and was a popular student. He was canonized, and in 1026, at age 25, was consecrated bishop.
After the death of Damasus II, Leo IX was appointed pope by Emperor Henry III of Germany. Seeking the approval of the clergy and the citizens, he traveled to Rome, Italy, where he gained the consent of the masses. He became pope on February 12, 1049, and assumed the name Leo IX.
Leo IX’s more traditional values compelled him to campaign toward erasing what he believed were the Church’s evils at the time, including clerical marriage (pushing for celibacy among members of the clergy), simony (the buying or selling of church offices or powers) and lay investiture (the appointment of bishops, abbots and other church officials by feudal lords). His desire to hold synods, or church councils, and his travels around Europe earned him the nickname “The Pilgrim Pope.”
In his desire to have the Roman Catholic Church become the heart of all Christianity, Leo IX, leader of the Western Church, gathered others like himself who sought reform. With their help, he succeeded in transforming the Roman papacy into a worldwide power.
The actual break from the Eastern Church—which was headed by Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople—came about in part because of Leo IX’s military involvement. When the Normans, who threatened the papal state, invaded Italian regions in 1053, Leo IX—now without the help of Emperor Henry III, who had withdrawn—led an army to banish them. The Normans defeated the papal army, however, taking the pope prisoner in June 1053. He was held for nine months in Benevento, Italy.
Leo IX died on April 19, 1054, shortly after his return to Rome, and was succeeded by Victor II. Leo IX was later declared a saint by the Church, and his feast day is celebrated annually on April 19.
The Great Schism
Even after his death, Leo IX’s military and papal actions triggered the final split between the Eastern and Western Churches, known as the Great Schism of 1054.
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