Monday, November 10, 2008

Feast of St. Leo the Great

Today's Feast day always reminds me that Pope Leo's altar is one of my favorite altars to say Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.  Some of you may remember the blog entry I did a few months ago about the "nuts and bolts" of saying Mass at St. Peter's.

I like it for a few reasons:
  1. It's in the back, left corner of the Basilica, a nice, quiet, out of the way place.
  2. I mean, c'mon, how great is it that this is you're saying Mass over Pope Leo's relics?  He was the first Pope to be buried at St. Peter's Basilica.  Before this, Pope were buried in a cemetery outside of town.  In the previous Basilica he was under the porch.  He was moved to his present location in 1606.
  3. The altarpiece is an excellent bas-relief sculpture of the meeting between Pope Leo and Attila the Hun.  It was completed in the mid 1600s.  I love Leo pointing up at the angry looking Sts. Peter and Paul, who look ready to pounce on Attila.  To see a really good closeup of it, click this link to the Web Gallery of Art, then go to the bottom index, and click on the letter "A".  In the list, click on Alessandro Algardi (the artist), then follow the links to the sculpture.
  4. If you're standing in front of the altar, about 7 yards away from the rail, look down.  You'll see a slab of marble, under which is the tomb of Pope Leo XII (who died in 1829).  The slab, which Leo placed there himself, has an inscription (which he wrote himself) that essentially says that he was the least of the Popes who were heirs to the name Leo.
Fogey Priests, when in Rome you need to say Mass at this altar (unless I'm there, then get out of my way!).


Fr. Selvester said...

The very first time I ever said mass in St. Peter's this is the altar to which I was assigned. In my nervousness and excitement I hadn't even realized at which altar I was saying mass when I started. Halfway through mass before preparing the gifts I finally got around to looking at who was buried there and my heart skipped a beat! What a great privilege and just a really cool experience.

MCITL said...

Offered holy Mass at that very altar in April: early morning, 0700, Saint Peter's as quiet as a church ;-)