Popes in a Year
#169 - Pope Adrian IV
Pope from December 4, 1154 - September 1, 1159
Lived: c. 1100 - September 1, 1159
Birth name: Nicholas Breakspear
Who was this guy before he was pope?
Nicholas Breakspear was born near St. Alban’s abbey in Hertfordshire, England around the year 1100. He was educated at St. Alban’s School, then became a monk and eventually an abbot at St. Rufus monastery in Arles, France. He was a staunch reformer and soon caught the eye of Blessed Eugene III, who elevated Nicholas to Cardinal Bishop of Albano in 1149. From 1152-1154 he was sent to Scandinavia as a papal legate, where he founded a handful of schools and a couple new dioceses.
Okay, give me the scoop on Adrian IV.
The cardinal electors picked Nicholas to succeed Anastasius IV on December 4, 1154 without opposition. He inherited a bit of a diplomatic mess, having to handle delicate relations with Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in Germany and King William I in southern Italy simultaneously. Adrian officially coronated Barbarossa Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter’s on June 18, 1155, but they wouldn’t stay friends long. By the end of Adrian’s reign, the pair were in open opposition to each other over land disputes and other issues. Adrian died in Anagni a few months shy of his five-year anniversary in 1159. He either choked on a fly in his wine (yes, really) or a died from a sudden case of quinsy - a throat abscess.
What was he known for?
Pope Adrian IV was best known for putting all of Rome under what’s called an
, a censure on a person or a place that prohibits any church activities. It was almost unheard of to put a whole city under such a restriction, let alone the Eternal City itself, but times were desperate. Around the time of Adrian’s election, the anti-papal heck-raiser Arnold of Brescia was still stirring up trouble by trying to take the pope’s temporal power away. After a cardinal was murdered in the uproar, Adrian finally took the drastic step around Palm Sunday 1155. There were no church things allowed as a result, so pilgrims stopped coming to Rome, which in turn hurt the local economy. Bad. Since money talks louder than pope-hating rebels, the Roman Senate exiled Arnold and the interdict was soon lifted.
There’s been only one Englishman to hold the Chair of Peter, and it was our venerable pontiff Adrian IV. It might’ve had something to do with his papal bull,
, granting the Kingdom of England dominion over Ireland, where the Church had begun to operate somewhat independently.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
1158 marked the first year of the British pound as a form of currency.
Coming tomorrow....Pope Alexander III
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Guruge, A. (2010). The Next Pope. New Hampshire: WOWNH
Pope Adrian IV -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 2:00AM