When the Bishop of Hippo closed his eyes in 430, the Vandals were storming the city. Yet he still clung firmly to the belief that Rome was the meaning and the substructure of world society. Al- ready the magic light of glamour and power lay on the See of Peter. Gifts from rich families enabled the spiritual masters of Rome to for- get the simplicity of the Fisherman of Capharnaum. The seriously devout were scandalized at their pomp and feasting. It was not al- ways noble passion that divided the electorate into parties. It was only after bloody street fighting that the Spaniard, Pope Damasus (366-384) , could make use of an imperial edict to maintain himself in power against his rival. His private secretary, St. Jerome, waxed satirical when he described the spiritual Beau Brummels of the hier- archy. Perfume and curling irons, fashionable clothes and gilded horses! Were these clerics or amorous swains? Nevertheless be- hind this too, too human facade there was much courage and vigour. Damasus reopened and readorned the ruined catacombs and entrusted to his friend, the self-same Jerome, who slept with Cicero and Aristoph- anes under his pillow, the translation of the Bible into Latin. His immediate successors strove energetically to strengthen the position of their See quite as if they were aware of coming storms and sought to make it a safe haven for Western society. The city council, which still bore the proud name of Senate and was the sole surviving organ of Imperial Rome and its provincial cities, became a mere shadow com- pared to the true Friend and Shepherd of the people.
In as far as we are able to determine historically, Leo I (440-461) was the first truly great Pope. Possessing the qualities that make a Caesar, he lent his throne a dignity that in turn reflected upon him. To him Peter, with Paul, the founder of a more fortunate Rome, is the eter- nal bishop of the Church, mystically present in his See, which is the symbol of the rights and duties conferred by the Master upon the "Rock." The Roman Empire and all its numerous wars were in- struments of Providence working to prepare the way for the Empire of the Pax Christiana. The great city had, he declared, been conse- crated anew by the throng of thousands who had worn the purple of martyrdom. In them the firmness of Peter had been manifested a firmness of Faith that would abide as an example. Just as what Peter believed concerning Christ shall always endure, so shall there