Our Pope today, Leo IX was born Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg on 21 June, 1002 in Egisheim Alsace, Duchy of Swabia, a place that is almost equivalent to parts of France and Switzerland, today. His family had royal ties, his father, Count Hugh, was first cousin to King Conrad II.
As a noblesman’s son, Bruno was sent to the school of Berthold, Bishop of Toul. By the time he was 15, he was a canon at St. Stephen’s of Toul.
In 1024, Conrad had replaced King Henry II and was declared emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. So, Bruno was sent to the palace to be the new emperor’s chaplain. Within two years, Bruno was a deacon. He was only 24.
Conrad was emperor but there had been no king of Italy for a while, due to factional fighting. Some Italians wanted to remove themselves from the empire. Conrad planned to squelch the attempt. Every diocese was required to send religious representatives to the army. The current bishop of Toul, Herlmann, was too old to go, so he entrusted command of diocesan forces to Bruno. Before they left, Herlmann died and Bruno was elected to succeed him. Bruno did not accompany the emperor.
After his consecration in 1027, Bruno spent twenty years in his see. Besides the normal difficulties of handling a diocese, Bruno had to deal with famine and war, as Toul was a frontier town. However, Bruno was also able to give important political services to both Conrad and to his successor, Henry III. He was a consummate peacemaker, negotiating with Robert the Pious of France for Conrad, creating an agreement that lasted a generation. He held Toul against Count Odo II of Blois and helped add Burgundy to the empire. Bruno was an earnest and reforming ecclesiastic, showing it by supporting the Rule of Cluny.
In August 1048, Pope Damasus died. An assembly at Worms elected Bruno pope in December. But Bruno wanted a canonical election in Rome. Setting out after Christmas, he met Hugh of Cluny and the young monk, Hildebrand, on his way. They arrived in Rome in February 1049, dressed as pilgrims. The city welcomed him and had him consecrated. He took the name Leo IX.
Leo was a no-nonsense, very organized man. He wished to make his understanding of Church theology and practice known immediately. He organized a synod for Easter time. He required celibacy in all clergy down to the level of subdeacon. And he made sure that everyone knew what he thought of simony. He spent the rest of the year processing through Italy, Germany and France, holding meetings and local synods throughout.
In 1050, Leo conducted another Easter synod. At this one the discussion was regarding the heretical teachings of Berengar of Tours. Leo then proceeded to have synods in Italy and Germany.
The next year the Easter synod discussed the reordination of those who had been ordained by simonists. In 1052, there were synods in Germany.
In the meantime, representatives of the Byzantine government asked for help. They were still titular rulers of southern Italy. But the Christian Vikings from Normandy were attacking and taking possession of these lands. Leo set out with an army of locals and Swabian soldiers to get the Normans to release the lands. The Normans almost relinquished the lands at the sight of their Pope, but the Swabians laughed at them. This gave the Normans the energy they needed to trounce the Pope’s army and take him captive. Leo was held from June 1053 to March 1054, when he was released. He got to Rome shortly after but died 19 April 1054.
However, the most historically significant occurrence of Leo’s papacy was at the very end. Before marching off to war, the Pope had received a letter from Patriarch Michael of Constantinople, objecting to the use of unleavened bread and some fast days. Leo responded, referring to the “Donation of Constantine”, which has now been proven false, but was still considered valid. Leo believed this document gave him full authority to dictate protocol and practices of the Church. So, he sent Cardinal Humbert to discuss this situation with the Patriarch. Apparently, Humbert did not see that as his assignment. He gave the Patriarch an order of excommunication. By the time it was presented, Leo had died, so the order was invalid. However, not knowing this information, the Patriarch, in turn, gave an order of excommunication to Humbert and all his emissaries. Within a short period, Michael closed all Latin rite churches and ordered the faithful to stop praying for the pope.
Thus began the split between the Latins and the Orthodox.