Popes in a Year
#106 - Pope Adrian II
Pope from December 14, 867 - December 14, 872
Lived: 792 - December 14, 872
Give me the scoop on Adrian II.
Adrian was a popular and beloved cardinal of the church at the time of his election, but was an unusual choice given his advanced age (75). The Roman nobility seemed to use the election of Adrian, a relative of popes Stephen III and Sergius II, as a response to Nicholas I giving them trouble with hard-line stances on things like, you know, nepotism and rigging papal elections. Adrian was still married, with one daughter, at the time of his election -- it’s unclear whether or not this was considered scandalous at the time. In any case, tragedy struck in 868 when both wife and daughter were the victim of Adrian’s greedy and power-hungry family. Inexplicably, the two were kidnapped and assassinated by Adrian’s own brother.
Among some of the monumental tasks he had to undertake as pope, Adrian was tasked with mitigating Holy Roman Emperor Lothair’s wish to be divorced from his first wife, organizing the succession of Frankish kings following Lothair’s death, and trying unsuccessfully to convince the Bulgarian Church to ally with the West instead of the East. Easy enough, right? All in all, the papacy ended up being too unwieldy for Adrian (or anyone, probably) to have much success. He died in 872 on December 14, his fifth anniversary as pope.
What was he known for?
Adrian is perhaps best known for convening, along with Byzantine Emperor Basil the Macedonian, what became the Church's Eighth Ecumenical Council, the Fourth Council of Constantinople. Adrian was represented by 10 papal legates at the council, which among other things deposed Photius, a layman who had unjustly claimed the office of Patriarch of Constantinople, and restored Ignatius, his predecessor, to the seat. The council also reaffirmed the findings from the Second Council of Nicaea (787) in favor of using holy images and icons in the liturgy and at prayer, and required that images of Christ be granted the same veneration as that of the book of the Gospels. We see this today, for example, in how the priest or deacon will
both the crucifix and the gospel book in the same fashion.
Adrian II was a fan of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, having given his stamp of approval on their continued missionary work to the Slavs, and even granting them a unique privilege to have the liturgy said in the Slavonic language.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 870, construction on Prague Castle was begun. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the official residence of the Czech Republic’s president is currently the largest ancient castle in the world.
Coming Tomorrow...Pope John VIII
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Adrian II -
Pope Adrian II -
Fourth Council of Constantinople -
Incensing the Host, Altars, Etc. -
Prague Castle -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Monday, May 29 at 2:00AM