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The Meeting Between Leo the Great and Attila
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cschuster's picture

Sr. Contributor

The floating guys are ghosts, the guy doing an America's Funniest Home Videos pratfall off the horse is Attila the Hun.

The fresco depicts Pope Leo the Great giving Attila the Hun a piece of his mind. Attila's been the scourge of the Italian countryside, burning and pillaging to his heart's content. Until big Leo comes to town. The fresco's set outside the gates of Rome, but the actual chat took place around Mantua. One demerit for factual inaccuracies, but so be it. Legend has it that Attila approached the Pope, and saw the ghosts of Saints Peter and Paul floating in the air with swords. After that, the Hun was like, "Nope!," and peacefully left Italy never to return.

Except, that's a pretty heavily edited and redacted version of the story. Leo went to the meeting with backup. The fledgling Roman emperor sent some heavies with Leo to make sure Attila understood this whole invasion wouldn't be a cakewalk (although, in all reality, it would have been). What's most likely is that Attila never planned on staying in Italy and Leo the Great talked to him, coincidentally, right before he bounced. Attila was just seeing what invading Italy might be like, with the intention of returning en masse the following Spring to take it for realsies. But that never happened, because Attila died at his own wedding party shortly after returning home. No one knows how Attila died, but the odds favor either some chronic condition related to the ruler's alcoholism or a massive nosebleed. Attila's heirs couldn't manage an empire like their Dad, so the whole thing fell to pieces.

Fast forward 1000 years, and we have Raphael painting over the Vatican. Rockstar art patron Pope Julius II gets his fave artist Raphael working on a Leo the Great/Attila concept. Raphael's set up in a room dedicated to art showing off God's intercessions on behalf of the Church, really leaning on the idea that Leo the Great personally kicked Attila out of Italy with the help of ghosts. Or, his assistants were leaning on it, since Raphael barely touched the painting. Since Julius was footing the bill, his was to be the face gracing Leo the Great's body. Then Julius dies, as popes do from time to time. The new pope, Leo X, takes over the Vatican's coffers and was the obvious next choice for the face atop Leo the Great's body. Leo X was also featured as one of the also-ran cardinal's at Leo the Great's side. Raphael's assistants had already painted him in before Julius died, and it would have been a huge pain in the cassock to take him out.

mhoutzager's picture

Contributor

Atilla the Hun ran one of the biggest protection rackets of all time.

Except that sometimes you'd pay him and he would still pillage your country.

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila

The Meeting of Leo I and Attila is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael and his assistant Giulio Romano. It was painted in 1514 as part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It is located in the Stanza di Eliodoro, which is named after The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple.

The painting depicts the meeting between the Pope Leo I and Attila the Hun, and includes the images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the sky bearing swords. Initially, Raphael depicted Leo I with the face of Pope Julius II but after Julius' death,Raphael changed the painting to resemble the new pope, Leo X. Leo X appears both as cardinal and as pope on the Chinea given to the pope.

The left half of the painting is mainly by Raphael, with only minimal work by his students.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila.