Gratsianskiy Mikhail

Haeres Petri sive vicarius Petri. Arguments of pope Leo the Great for the exceptional prerogatives of power for the bishop of Rome

Gratsianskiy Mikhail (2019) "Haeres Petri sive vicarius Petri. Arguments of pope Leo the Great for the exceptional prerogatives of power for the bishop of Rome ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia II : Istoriia. Istoriia Russkoy Pravoslavnoy Tserkvi, 2019, vol. 89, pp. 27-48 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturII201989.27-48


This article examines the concept of the power of bishop of Rome on the basis of the statements of Pope Leo the Great (440–461) presented in his sermons and epistles. Particular attention is paid to the analysis of the “Petrinology” of Pope Leo, i.e. his views on the role and place of Apostle Peter, who combines the apostolic and episcopal dignity and thus naturally turns out to be the fi rst bishop of Rome, which is the fi rst city of the Roman Empire. According to Leo’s views, Apostle Peter, preserving the gifts given to him by the Lord, continuously and directly controls the Roman Church and occupies the Roman see. This latter fact raises the question about the actual status of the current Roman bishop. In Leo’s writings, there are allegations that the Roman bishop is either the “heir” (haeres) or the “deputy” (vicarius) of the apostle. The article concludes that these designations essentially exclude each other, since, on the one hand, the Pope could hardly inherit the gifts of Saint Peter, individually handed over to him by Christ, and, on the other hand, if considered to be his deputy, he could not claim the integrity of his episcopal status, since the Roman see was considered to be occupied forever by Apostle Peter. Despite these contradictions, Leo considered Roman bishops to be fully legitimate “representatives” of the head of the Church, the Apostle Peter, thus having authority within the entire Church. Leo asserted his views in practice by using in his epistles the phraseology and terminology characteristic of the Roman administrative institutions and designed to emphasise the authority of the Roman Church with regard to other local churches.


Apostle Peter, Pope Leo the Great, Roman Church, Roman ecclesiology, papal primacy


  1. Alzati C. (2015) “Ripensando alle vices Apostolicae Sedis nelle lettere di papa Leone I al presule di Tessalonica. Contributo alla storia dell’ecclesiologia in Occidente”, in Synthesis. Ejournal of the Faculty of Theology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 2015, vol. 4 (1), pp. 1–34.
  2. Arens H. (1982) Die christologische Sprache Leos des Großen. Analyse des Tomus an den Patriarchen Flavian. Freiburg, Basel, Wien.
  3. Arnauld D. (2001) Histoire du christianisme en Afrique. Paris.
  4. Baron Iu. (2005) Sistema rimskogo grazhdanskogo prava [The System of the Roman Civil Law]. St. Petersburg (in Russian).
  5. Batiff ol P. (1925) “Papa, sedes apostolica, apostolates”. Rivista di archeologia Cristiana, 1925, vol. 2 (3‒4), pp. 99‒116.
  6. Batiff ol P. (1924) “Petrus initium episcopatus”. Revue des Sciences Religieuses, 1924, vol. 4 (3), pp. 440‒453.
  7. Batiff ol P. (1924) Le siège apostolique (359–451). Paris.
  8. Blaudeau Ph. (2001) “Vice mea. Remarques sur les représentations pontifi cales auprès de l’empereur d’Orient dans la seconde moitié du Ve siècle (452–496)”. Mélanges de l’Ecole française de Rome, 2001, vol. 113 (2), pp. 1059‒1123.
  9. Blaudeau Ph. (2012) “Between Petrine Ideology and Realpolitik. The See of Constantinople in Roman Geo-Ecclesiology (449–536)”, in L. Grig, G. Kelly (eds.). Two Romes. Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity, Oxford, New York, pp. 364–384.
  10. Borovoi V. (2017) Rim, Konstantinopol’ i khristianskii Vostok v period “akakianskoi skhizmy” (484–518 gg.) [Rome, Constantinople, and the Christian Orient during the Period of the “Acacian Schism” (484‒518)]. Minsk (in Russian).
  11. Caspar E. (1933) Geschichte des Papsttums von den Anfängen bis zur Höhe der Weltherrschaft, vol. 1. Tübingen.
  12. Congar Y. (1984) “Note sur une valeur des termes «ordinare, ordinatio»”. Revue des Sciences Religieuses, 1984, vol. 58, pp. 7‒14.
  13. Dozhdev D. (1996) Rimskoe chastnoe parvo [Roman Private Law]. Moscow (In Russian).
  14. Dvornik F. (1958) The Idea of Apostolicity in Byzantium and the Legend of the Apostle Andrew. Cambridge (Mass).
  15. Gratsianskiy M. (2000) “Akakianskaia skhizma” [Acacian Schism], in Pravoslavnaia entsiklopediia, vol. 1. Moscow, p. 362 (in Russian)
  16. Gratsianskiy M. (2014) “Vozniknovenie i razvitie kontseptsii papskogo primata v I‒V vv.” [“Emergence and Further Development of the Idea of Papal Primacy in I‒IV centuries”]. Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia 1: Bogoslovie. Filosofiia, 2014, vol. 2 (52), pp. 9–29 (in Russian).
  17. Gratsianskiy M. (2015) “Apostol Petr i ‘Akakianskaia skhizma’” [“Apostle Peter and the ‘Acacian Schism’”]. Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia 1: Bogoslovie. Filosofiia, 2015, vol. 3 (59), pp. 9‒19 (in Russian).
  18. Gratsianskiy M. (2015) “Prichiny i obstoiatel’stva nachala ‘akakianskoi’ skhizmy (484 g.)” [“Causes and Circumstances of the Beginning of the ‘Acacian Schism’ (AD 484)”], in Iresiona. Antichnyi mir i ego nasledie. Vypusk IV. Sbornik nauchnykh trudov k 50-letiiu professora N. N. Bolgova, Belgorod, pp. 188‒200 (in Russian).
  19. Gratsianskiy M. (2016) “‘Akakianskaia’ ili vse zhe ‘felikianskaia’ skhizma? Problema obosnovannosti odnogo istoriografi cheskogo klishe” [“‘Acacian’ or Rather ‘Felician’ Schism? The Problem of Acceptability of One Historiographic Cliché’]. Vizantiiskii Vremennik, 2016, vol. 100, pp. 44‒63 (in Russian).
  20. Gratsianskiy M. (2016) “Papa Gelasii I (492‒496) i ego ekkleziologicheskie vozzreniia” [“Pope Gelasius I (492–496) and His Ecclesiological Views”]. Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia 1: Bogoslovie. Filosofiia, 2016, vol. 3 (65), pp. 25‒41 (in Russian).
  21. Gratsianskiy M. (2016) “Papa Lev Velikii i ego tolkovanie 6-go nikeiskogo kanona” [“Pope Leo the Great and his Interpretation of the Sixth Nicene Canon”]. In Tserkov’ v istorii Rossii. Sb. 11: K 70-letiiu Nikolaia Nikolaevicha Lisovogo. Moscow, pp. 159‒175 (in Russian).
  22. Gratsianskiy M. (2016) “Secundum Calchedonensem synodum haec ab apostolica sede gesta: Papa Gelasii I i eres’ Akakiia Konstantinopol’skogo” [Secundum Calchedonensem synodum haec ab apostolica sede gesta: Pope Gelasius I and the Heresy of Acacius of Constantinople”]. In Vizantiiskie ocherki. Trudy rossiiskikh uchenykh k XXIII Mezhdunarodnomu kongressu vizantinistov. St. Petersburg, pp. 62‒73 (in Russian).
  23. Gratsianskiy M. (2018) “Bor’ba rimskogo papy L’va Velikogo za tserkovnoe pervenstvo v kontekste vostochnykh soborov i imperatorskoi tserkovnoi politiki” [“The Struggle of Pope Leo the Great for Primacy in the Context of the Eastern Councils and the Church Policy of the Emperors”]. Vizantiiskii Vremennik, 2018, vol. 102 (in Russian).
  24. Haller J. (1950) Das Papsttum. Idee und Wirklichkeit, vol. 1. Stuttgart.
  25. Hornung Ch. (2011) “Haeres Petri: Kontinuitat und Wandel in der Bischofsnachfolge des Siricius von Rom”, in J. Leemans, P. Van Nuff elen, S. W. J. Keough, C. Nicolaye (eds.) Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity, Göttingen, pp. 375‒388.
  26. Jalland T. (1941) The Life and Times of St. Leo the Great. London. Jasper D., Fuhrmann H. (2001) Papal Letters in the Early Middle Ages. Washington.
  27. Jones A. (1964) The Later Roman Empire, 284–602, vol. 1. Oxford.
  28. Kissling W. (1921) Das Verhältnis zwischen Sacerdotium und Imperium nach den Anschauungen der Päpste von Leo dem Großen bis Gelasius I. Paderborn.
  29. Klinkenberg H. (1952) “Papsttum und Reichskirche bei Leo dem Großen”. Zeitschrift der Savigny- Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte. Kanonistische Abteilung, 1952, vol. 38 (1), pp. 37‒112.
  30. Maccarone M. (1957) “L’antico titolo papale Vicarius Petri e la concezione del Primato”. Divinitas, 1957, vol. 1, pp. 365‒371.
  31. Maccarrone M. (1991) “Sedes Apostolica — Vicarius Petri. La perpetuità del primato di Pietro nella sede e nel vescovo di Roma (Secoli III‒VIII)”, in M. Maccarrone (ed.) Il primato del vescovo di Roma nel primo millennio. Ricerche e testimonianze. Atti del Symposium storicoteologico. Roma, 9‒13 Ottobre 1989, Città del Vaticano, pp. 275‒362.
  32. Maccarrone M. (1960) “La dottrina del Primato papale dal IV all’ VIII secolo nelle relazioni con le Chiese occidental”, in Le Chiese nei regni dell’ Europa Occidentale e i loro rapporti con Roma sino all’ 800. [Settimane di studio del Centro Italiano di studi sull’alto Medioevo, VII], vol. 2, Spoleto, pp. 633‒742.
  33. Maccarrone M. (1962) “Cathedra Petri und die Idee der Entwicklung des päpstlichen Primats vom 2. bis 4. Jahrhundert”. Saeculum, 1962, vol. 13, pp. 278‒292.
  34. McCready W. (1973) “Papal Plenitudo Potestatis and the Source of Temporal Authority in Late Medieval Papal Hierocratic Theory”. Speculum, 1973, vol. 48/4, pp. 654‒674.
  35. McShane P. (1979) Romanitas et le pape Léon le Grand. Tournai, Montréal.
  36. Michel A. (1953) “Der Kampf um das politische oder petrinische Prinzip der Kirchenführung”, in A. Grillmeier, H. Bacht (eds.) Das Konzil von Chalkedon, vol. 1, Würzburg, pp. 500‒524.
  37. Miller J. (1980) The Divine Right of the Papacy in Recent Ecumenical Theology. Rome.
  38. Pietri Ch. (1961) “Concordia apostolorum et renovatio urbis (Culte des martyrs et propagande pontifi cale)”. Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire, 1961, vol. 73, pp. 275‒322.
  39. Powell D. (2008) “Haeres Petri: Leo I and Church Order.” International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church, 2008, vol. 8(3), pp. 203‒210.
  40. Rivière J. (1925) “In partem sollicitudinis. Evolution d’une formule pontifi cale”. Revue des Sciences Religieuses, 1925, vol. 5(2), pp. 210‒231.
  41. Schmidt K. (1936) “Papa Petrus ipse”. Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, 1936, vol. 54, pp. 267‒275.
  42. Schweizer Ch. (1991) Hierarchie und Organisation der römischen Reichskirche in der Kaisergesetzgebung vom vierten bis zum sechsten Jahrhundert. Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Paris.
  43. Stephanou P. (1967) “Sedes Apostolica, Regia Civitas”. Orientalia Christiana Periodica, 1967, vol. 33, pp. 563‒582.
  44. Stockmeier P. (1976) “Römische Kirche und Petrusamt im Licht frühchristlicher Zeugnisse”. Archivum Historiae Pontificiae, 1976, vol. 14, pp. 357‒372.
  45. Studer B. (1980) “Leo der Grosse und der Primat des römischen Bischofs”. In J. Brantschen, P. Selvatico (ed.) Unterwegs zur Einheit: Festschrift für Heinrich Stirnimann, Freiburg, pp. 617‒630.
  46. Uhalde K. (2009) “Pope Leo I on Power and Failure”. The Catholic Historical Review, 2009, vol. 95 (4), pp. 671‒688.
  47. Ullmann W. (1960) “Leo I and the Theme of Papal Primacy”. Journal of Theological Studies, 1960, vol. 11, pp. 25‒51.
  48. Ullmann W. (1981) Gelasius I. (492‒496). Das Papsttum an der Wende der Spätantike zum Mittelalter. Stuttgart.
  49. Wessel S. (2008) Leo the Great and the Spiritual Rebuilding of a Universal Rome. Leiden, Boston.
  50. Wilks M. (1962) “The Apostolicus and the Bishop of Rome, I”. The Journal of Theological Studies, 1962, vol. 13 (2), pp. 290‒317.
  51. Wilks M. (1963) “The Apostolicus and the Bishop of Rome, I”. The Journal of Theological Studies, 1963, vol. 14 (2), pp. 311‒354.
  52. Wojtowytsch M. (1981) Papsttum und Konzile von den Anfängen bis zu Leo I. (440‒461). Studien zur Entstehung der Überordnung des Papstes über Konzile. Stuttgart.

Information about the author

Gratsianskiy Mikhail

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in History;
Academic Degree: PhD in Philosophy;
Place of work: St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University for the Humanities; 4a Likhov per., Moscow, 127051, Russian Federation;
Post: Leading Researcher;
ORCID: 0000-0002-6981-3216;
Email: gratsianskiy@mail.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.