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The Selfless Courage of Leo the Cook In 6th century France, a faithful kitchen servant sold himself into slavery to rescue a kidnapped boy. ?506-?539 Music: Jean-Baptiste Lully

© François Bernardin, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0. Source

About this picture …

Remains of the Roman aqueduct (a bridge carrying water) from Gorze to Metz, at Jouy-aux-Arches near Metz.

The Selfless Courage of Leo the Cook
Early in the 6th century, northern Gaul came under the control of the Franks, whose capital was Metz on what is now the border between France and Germany. Their chieftains frequently kidnapped and enslaved or ransomed the sons of noble Roman families.

GREGORY, Bishop of Langres, had a nephew named Attalus, who was kidnapped by a Frankish chieftain near Trier, and kept in slavery as a stable-boy.

His ransom price was ten gold pounds, a sum the Bishop could not possibly raise, so Leo, the Bishop’s cook, offered to sell himself into slavery to the Franks, and help Attalus escape.

Leo’s gifts as a chef did so much for his new master’s political standing that he became indispensable.

‘Should we be worried,’ joked his master’s son-in-law, who fancied himself a wit, ‘that one day you’ll run off and leave us?’

‘I plan to do so tonight’ Leo said without a blush, and they both laughed.

But that night Leo and Attalus stole two horses from the stable, and made for home.

They passed four nervous and hungry days and nights, always listening for the sound of pursuit. But at last they reached Langres, where the Bishop publicly declared Leo a free man, and even made him a Roman citizen for life.


In the early 6th century, Frankish invaders kidnapped the nephew of the Bishop of Langres and demanded a ransom. As he could not pay, his cook, Leo, sold himself into slavery to the Franks, and helped the Bishop’s nephew to escape. Leo was officially set at liberty, and named a Roman Citizen. (52 / 60 words)


Based on ‘A Book of Golden Deeds’, by Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901).

Suggested Music

Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)

Performed by the French orchestra ‘Les Siècles’ under François-Xavier Roth.

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