Pope Adrian IV

Last updated


Adrian IV
Pope Hadrian IV.jpg
Papacy began4 December 1154
Papacy ended1 September 1159
Predecessor Anastasius IV
Successor Alexander III
Created cardinal1146
by Pope Eugene III
Personal details
Birth nameNicholas Breakspear
Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, Kingdom of England
Died(1159-09-01)1 September 1159 (aged 59)
Anagni, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Other popes named Adrian
Papal styles of
Pope Adrian IV
Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous stylenone

Pope Adrian IV (Latin : Adrianus IV; born Nicholas Breakspear; c.1100 1 September 1159), also known as Hadrian IV, [1] was Pope from 4 December 1154 to his death in 1159.

Pope Leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the bishop of Rome, leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state representing the Holy See. Since 1929, the pope has official residence in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, the Holy See's city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.


Adrian IV is both the only Englishman and the only inhabitant of the British Isles to have occupied the papal throne. [2] It is believed that he was born in Bedmond in the parish of Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire and received his early education at Merton Priory [3] and the Abbey School, St Albans. [4] [5] [6] [7]

British Isles Group of islands in northwest Europe

The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe that consist of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides and over six thousand smaller isles. They have a total area of about 315,159 km2 and a combined population of almost 72 million, and include two sovereign states, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The islands of Alderney, Jersey, Guernsey, and Sark, and their neighbouring smaller islands, are sometimes also taken to be part of the British Isles, even though, as islands off the coast of France, they do not form part of the archipelago.

Bedmond village in Hertfordshire, England

Bedmond is a village in the Three Rivers district of the English ceremonial county of Hertfordshire. It is located around one mile (1.6 km) north of the larger village of Abbots Langley. Bedmond belongs to the civil parish of Abbots Langley and at the time of the 2011 Census, its population was included in Abbots Langley's population figures.

Abbots Langley civil parish in Hertfordshire, England

Abbots Langley is a large village and civil parish in the English county of Hertfordshire. It is an old settlement and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Economically the village is closely linked to Watford and was formerly part of the Watford Rural District. Since 1974 it has been included in the Three Rivers district.

Breakspeare became a canon regular of St Rufus monastery near Arles and rose to be prior. He later served as papal legate in Scandinavia.

As Pope, he crowned Frederick I Barbarossa, and successfully removed Arnold of Brescia, who had challenged Papal rule of Rome, to become "to all intents and purposes, master of the city". [8]

Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor Holy Roman Emperor

Frederick Barbarossa, also known as Frederick I, was the Holy Roman Emperor from 2 January 1155 until his death. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March 1152. He was crowned King of Italy on 24 April 1155 in Pavia and emperor by Pope Adrian IV on 18 June 1155 in Rome. Two years later, the term sacrum ("holy") first appeared in a document in connection with his empire. He was later formally crowned King of Burgundy, at Arles on 30 June 1178. He was named Barbarossa by the northern Italian cities which he attempted to rule: Barbarossa means "red beard" in Italian; in German, he was known as Kaiser Rotbart, which has the same meaning.

Arnold of Brescia Canon regular and revolutionary

Arnold of Brescia, also known as Arnaldus, was an Italian canon regular from Lombardy. He called on the Church to renounce property ownership and participated in the failed Commune of Rome.

Early life

Nicholas' father was Robert, who later became a monk at St Albans. [9] Nicholas was refused admission to his local monastery, so he went to Paris [8] and later became a canon regular of St Rufus monastery near Arles. He rose to be prior and was then soon unanimously elected abbot; this latter event is traditionally dated to 1137, [10] but evidence from the abbey's chronicles suggests that it happened about 1145. [11]

St Albans Cathedral Church in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

St Albans Cathedral, sometimes called the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, and referred to locally as "the Abbey", is a Church of England cathedral in St Albans, England. Much of its architecture dates from Norman times. It ceased to be an abbey in the 16th century and became a cathedral in 1877. Although legally a cathedral church, it differs in certain particulars from most other cathedrals in England: it is also used as a parish church, of which the dean is rector with the same powers, responsibilities and duties as that of any other parish. At 85 metres long, it has the longest nave of any cathedral in England.

Arles Subprefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Arles is a city and commune in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, of which it is a subprefecture, in the former province of Provence.

Prior Ecclesiastical title

Prior, derived from the Latin for "earlier, first", is an ecclesiastical title for a superior, usually lower in rank than an abbot or abbess. Its earlier generic usage referred to any monastic superior.

Nicholas gained a reputation as a formidably strict disciplinarian. [8] His reforming zeal as abbot led to the lodging of complaints against him at Rome, but these merely attracted the favourable attention of Pope Eugene III ("a convinced Anglophile" [8] ), who named him Cardinal Bishop of Albano [12] in December 1149. [13] It is also reported that Nicholas' eloquence, ability and "his outstanding good looks" assisted with his selection. [8]

Pope Eugene III pope

Pope Eugene III, born Bernardo Pignatelli, called Bernardo da Pisa, was Pope from 15 February 1145 to his death in 1153. He was the first Cistercian to become Pope. In response to the fall of Edessa to the Muslims in 1144, Eugene proclaimed the Second Crusade. The crusade failed to recapture Edessa, which was the first of many failures by the Christians in the crusades to recapture lands won in the First Crusade.

Roman Catholic Suburbicarian Diocese of Albano suburbicarian diocese

The Diocese of Albano is a suburbicarian see of the Roman Catholic Church in a diocese in Italy, comprising seven towns in the Province of Rome. Albano Laziale is situated some 15 kilometers from Rome, on the Appian Way.

From 1152 to 1154, Nicholas was in Scandinavia as papal legate, establishing an independent archepiscopal see for Norway at Trondheim, a place he chose chiefly in honour of St Olaf. [14] This led him to create the Diocese at Hamar, and, according to tradition, to form cathedral schools in Norway's bishopric cities. These schools were to have a lasting effect on education and Catholic spirituality in Norway (even after the Reformation Norway's cathedral schools persisted, although they later lost their formal ties to the church.). [15] Nicholas made arrangements which resulted in the recognition of Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) as seat of the Swedish metropolitan in 1164 (later moved to Uppsala). As compensation for territory thus withdrawn, the Danish archbishop of Lund was made legate and perpetual vicar and given the title of primate of Denmark and Sweden. [12] Nicholas was accompanied to Scandinavia by another English-born priest, Henry, Bishop of Finland (d. 1156), who was later venerated by Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans as Saint Henry of Uppsala.

Scandinavia Region in Northern Europe

Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. The term Scandinavia in local usage covers the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The majority national languages of these three belong to the Scandinavian dialect continuum, and are mutually intelligible North Germanic languages. In English usage, Scandinavia also sometimes refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, or to the broader region including Finland and Iceland, which is always known locally as the Nordic countries.

Papal legate a personal representative of the pope

A papal legate or apostolic legate is a personal representative of the pope to foreign nations, or to some part of the Catholic Church. He is empowered on matters of Catholic faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters.

Trondheim City in Norway

Trondheim, historically Kaupangen, Nidaros and Trondhjem, is a city and municipality in Trøndelag county, Norway. It has a population of 196,939 (07/01/2019), and is the third most populous municipality in Norway, although the fourth largest urban area. Trondheim lies on the south shore of Trondheim Fjord at the mouth of the River Nidelva. The city is dominated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF), St. Olavs University Hospital and other technology-oriented institutions.

Accession as Pope

On his return to Rome, Nicholas was received with great honour by Pope Anastasius IV. On the death of Anastasius, Nicholas was unanimously elected [8] as Pope on 3 December 1154, [16] taking the name Adrian IV. He at once endeavoured to bring down Arnold of Brescia, the leader of the anti-papal faction in Rome. Disorder within the city led to the murder of a cardinal, prompting Adrian, shortly before Palm Sunday 1155, to take the unheard-of step of putting Rome under interdict, [12] effectively closing all the churches in Rome. [8] This act had a huge impact on daily life in Rome:

Exceptions were made for the baptism of infants and the absolution of the dying: otherwise all sacraments and services were forbidden. No masses could be said, no masses solemnised: even dead bodies might not be buried in consecrated grounds. In the days where religion still constituted an integral part of every man's life, the effect of such a moral blockade was immeasurable. [8]

This act also had a huge potential economic impact: the interdict greatly diminished the seasonal influx of pilgrims, thus damaging the local economy. Without Easter services the pilgrims would not visit; thereupon, the Senate (City Council of Rome) exiled Arnold, and the pope, with the cooperation of the newly arrived Frederick I (Barbarossa), procured Arnold's execution. [12]

The Byzantine Alliance

Pope Adrian IV cameo. PopeAdrianIVCameo.jpg
Pope Adrian IV cameo.

In 1155, Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus reconquered southern Italy, landing his forces in the region of Apulia. Making contact with local rebels who were hostile to the Sicilian crown, Greek forces quickly overran the coastlands and began striking inland. Pope Adrian IV watched these developments with some satisfaction. The Papacy was never on good terms with the Normans of Sicily, except when under duress by the threat of direct military action. For Adrian, having the Eastern Roman Empire on its southern border was preferable to having to deal constantly with the troublesome Normans. Therefore, negotiations were hurriedly carried out, and an alliance was formed between Adrian and Manuel. Adrian undertook to raise a body of mercenary troops from Campania. Meanwhile, Manuel dreamed of restoration of the Roman Empire; this was, however, at the cost of a potential union between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church. Negotiations for union of the eastern and western churches, which had been in a state of schism since 1054, soon got under way. The combined Papal-Byzantine forces joined with the rebels against the Normans in Southern Italy, achieving a string of rapid successes as a number of cities yielded either to the threat of force or to the lure of gold.

But just as the war seemed decided in the allies' favour, things started to go wrong. The Greek commander Michael Palaeologus alienated some of his allies by his arrogance, and this stalled the campaign as rebel Count Robert of Loritello refused to speak to him. Although the two were reconciled, the campaign lost some of its momentum. Worse was to come: Michael was soon recalled to Constantinople. Although his arrogance had slowed the campaign, he was a brilliant general in the field, and his loss was a major blow to the allied campaign. The turning point was the battle for Brindisi, where the Sicilians launched a major counterattack by both land and sea. At the approach of the enemy, the mercenaries who were serving in the allied armies demanded impossible increases in their pay; when these were refused, they deserted. Even the local barons started to melt away, and soon Adrian's Byzantine allies were left hopelessly outnumbered. The naval battle was decided in the Sicilians' favour, and the Byzantine commander was captured. The defeat at Brindisi put an end to the restored Byzantine reign in Italy, [14] and by 1158 the Byzantine Army had left Italy.

Hopes for a lasting alliance with the Byzantine Empire had also come up against insuperable problems. Pope Adrian IV's conditions for a union between the eastern and western churches included recognition of his religious authority over Christians everywhere; the Emperor in turn required recognition of his secular authority. Neither East nor West could accept such conditions. Adrian's secular powers were too valuable to be surrendered and Manuel's subjects could never have accepted the authority of the distant Bishop of Rome. In spite of his friendliness towards the Roman Church, Adrian never felt able to honour Manuel with the title of "Augustus". Ultimately, a deal proved elusive, and the two churches remained divided.

Adrian IV and the Norman invasion of Ireland

In 1155, three years after the Synod of Kells, the Papal Bull Laudabiliter was published which was addressed to the Angevin King Henry II of England. It urged Henry to invade Ireland to bring its church under the Roman system and to conduct a general reform of governance and society throughout the island. The authenticity of this grant, the historian Edmund Curtis says, is one of "the great questions of history." He states that the matter was discussed at a Royal Council at Winchester, but that Henry's mother, the Empress Matilda, had protested, and the expedition was put off to another time. [14]

In Ireland however, nothing seems to have been known of it, and no provision appears to have been made to defend against the prospect of Angevin Norman aggression, despite their westward expansion throughout England and Wales. [17] Ernest F. Henderson states that the existence of this Bull is doubted by many [18] while, in noting that its authenticity has been questioned without resolution, P. S. O'Hegarty suggests that the question is now purely an academic one. It is notable that decisions of Pope Alexander III, Pope Lucius III, and King Henry VIII in proclaiming the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 were predicated on this document. [19]

The Normans invaded Ireland in two stages. Dermot McMurrough invited a small number of Norman knights led by Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke in 1169 to help in a local war, and they were rewarded with grants of land. Fearing that they might create an autonomous power, Henry II landed with a much larger force in 1171. In November 1171 Henry accepted the fealty of the Dublin Vikings, the Gaelic kings and the Norman knights. Henry's action was approved by Pope Alexander III and the Synod of Cashel met in 1172. Laudabiliter came to be seen as the first step in a process, but modern historians think it less important.

Crowning of Frederick I as Holy Roman Emperor

Adrian and Frederick Barbarossa met on 9 June 1155 near Sutri to discuss Barbarossa's crowning as Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. According to protocol, the King should have met the Pope outside the camp to hold the bridle of the Pope's horse while he dismounted; Barbarossa did not do this, saying it was not part of his duty to act as Papal groom. [8] In turn, Adrian refused the King the traditional kiss of peace until this service was delivered. In the end, Barbarossa gave in and ordered his camp moved a little further south where, on 11 June, the procedure was repeated - this time with Barbarossa undertaking the groom duties - and conversations about the coronation began. [8]

Adrian crowned Frederick I as Holy Roman Emperor on 18 June in Rome. [8]

Disagreement with Barbarossa and the death of Adrian IV

At the diet of Besançon in October 1157, the legates presented to Frederick I a letter from Adrian IV which alluded to the beneficia or "benefits" conferred upon the Emperor. The German chancellor translated this beneficia in the feudal sense of the presentation of property from a lord to a vassal (benefice). Frederick was infuriated by the suggestion that he was dependent on the Pope, and in the storm which ensued the legates were glad to escape with their lives. The incident at length closed with a letter from the Pope, declaring that by beneficium he meant merely bonum factum or "a good deed," i.e. the coronation. The breach subsequently became wider, and the Emperor was about to be excommunicated when Adrian died at Anagni on 1 September 1159, [12] reputedly by choking on a fly in his wine, but more likely from quinsy.

His biography was first written by Cardinal Boso in his extension to the Liber Pontificalis . [20]

Memorials in Hertfordshire

Amongst a group of modern houses in the village of Bedmond near St Albans is a small plaque recording the spot as his birthplace, historically in the parish of Abbots Langley. Today the village has several streets named after him, including Popes Road, Adrian Road and Breakspeare Road. [21]

There is a Nicholas Breakspear Catholic School in St Albans, and a Breakspear Primary School in Ickenham, near Uxbridge. [22]

One of the school houses of St Albans School (Hertfordshire) (founded in 948 AD) was named "Breakspear" until 1996.

See also

Related Research Articles

Pope Alexander III 12th-century Pope

Pope Alexander III, born Roland of Siena, was pope from 7 September 1159 to his death in 1181.

The 1150s was a decade of the Julian Calendar which began on January 1, 1150, and ended on December 31, 1159.

Anastasius Bibliothecarius or Anastasius the Librarian was bibliothecarius and chief archivist of the Church of Rome and also briefly an Antipope.

Victor IV was elected as a Ghibelline antipope in 1159, following the death of Pope Adrian IV and the election of Alexander III. His election was supported by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. He took the name Victor IV, not accounting for Antipope Victor IV of 1138, whose holding of the papal office was deemed illegitimate.

Rainald of Dassel archbishop of Cologne, archchancellor of Italy

Rainald of Dassel was Archbishop of Cologne and Archchancellor of Italy from 1159 until his death. A close advisor to the Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick Barbarossa, he had an important influence on Imperial politics, mainly in the Italian conflict of Guelphs and Ghibellines.

Laudabiliter was a bull issued in 1155 by Pope Adrian IV, the only Englishman to have served in that office. Existence of the bull has been disputed by scholars over the centuries; no copy is extant but scholars cite the many references to it as early as the 13th century to support the validity of its existence. The bull purports to grant the right to the Angevin King Henry II of England to invade and govern Ireland and to enforce the Gregorian Reforms on the semi-autonomous Christian Church in Ireland. Richard de Clare ("Strongbow") and the other leaders of the Norman invasion of Ireland (1169–71) claimed that Laudabiliter authorised the invasion. These Cambro-Norman knights were retained by Diarmuid MacMorrough, the deposed King of Leinster, as an ally in his fight with the High King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair.

Hillin of Falmagne Roman Catholic archbishop

Hillin of Falmagne, was the Archbishop of Trier from 1152. He was an imperialist and a partisan of Frederick Barbarossa in the Investiture Controversy of the twelfth century.

Oddone Frangipane was an Italian lord and military leader in the service of the Papacy in the 12th century.

Boso was an Italian prelate and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic church.

Jordan was a Carthusian monk, created Cardinal Deacon by Pope Lucius II in December 1144 and then Cardinal Priest of Santa Susanna by Eugene III on 21 December 1145. He is often referred to as a member of the Roman family of the Orsini, but more recent research concludes that he was probably a Frenchman. He served as Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church under Eugene III and subscribed the papal bulls between 9 January 1145 and 11 June 1154.

Gregorio della Suburra was an Italian cardinal, created by Pope Innocent II in 1140 as priest of the title of S. Maria in Trastevere. He was nephew of Pope Anastasius IV, who promoted him to suburbicarian see of Sabina in September 1154. After the double papal election in September 1159 he supported the obedience of Pope Alexander III. He became Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals in 1159, after the deposition of Cardinal Icmar of Tusculum, who had consecrated Antipope Victor IV (1159-1164) and joined his obedience. He was papal vicar at Rome in 1160. His name appears for the last time in the papal bull dated 20 September 1162.

1159 papal election 1159 election of the Catholic pope

The papal election of 1159 followed the death of Pope Adrian IV. It resulted in a double papal election. A majority of the cardinals elected Cardinal Rolando of Siena as Pope Alexander III, but a minority refused to recognize him and elected their own candidate Ottaviano de Monticelli, who took the name Victor IV, creating a schism that lasted until 1178.

1154 papal election 1154 election of the Catholic pope

The papal election of 1154 followed the death of Pope Anastasius IV and resulted in the election of Pope Adrian IV, the only Englishman to become pope.

Viterbo Papacy

With a long history as a vantage point for anti-popes forces threatening Rome, Viterbo became a papal city in 1243. During the later thirteenth century, the ancient Italian city of Viterbo was the site of five papal elections and the residence of seven popes and their Curias, and it remains the location of four papal tombs. These popes resided in the Palazzo dei Papi di Viterbo alongside the Viterbo Cathedral intermittently for two decades, from 1257 to 1281; as a result, the papal palace in Viterbo, with that in Orvieto, are the most extensive thirteenth-century papal palaces to have survived.


  1. "Adrian IV | pope". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  2. Mackie 1907, p. 2.
  3. Colker, M (1969). The Life of Guy of Merton in Mediaeval Studies XXXI. p. 252.
  4. Clark, Clive W. (1997). "Prologue". Abbots Langley Then 1760–1960. 143 Sussex Way, Cockfosters, Herts, EN4 0BG: Clive W. Clark. p. 1. ISBN   978-0-9531473-0-4.
  5. St Albans Cathedral Archived 9 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Breakspear Farm was demolished for housing redevelopment in the 1960s. It stood at 51°43′8″N0°24′41″W / 51.71889°N 0.41139°W
  7. "Breakspear Farm, Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire". www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 NORWICH, JOHN JU (2012). The Popes: A History. London: Vintage. ISBN   9780099565871.
  9. Mackie 1907, p. 13.
  10. "The English Pope by George F. Tull". www.churchinhistory.org.
  11. Bolton & Duggan 2003, p. 25.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Adrian s.v. Adrian IV.". Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 215–216.
  13. Bolton & Duggan 2003, p. 26.
  14. 1 2 3 Ua Clerigh, Arthur. "Pope Adrian IV." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 13 Jun. 2013
  15. The protestant Reformation began in Norway during the 1520s, under King Christian III of Denmark. A late example of Nicholas Breakspear's influence is Scandinavia's most creative and forceful Counter-Reformation figure, the Jesuit Laurentius Nicolai Norvegicus (born Laurids Nielsen; c. 1539–1622), who attended Oslo Cathedral School in his youth.
  16. Burke, O.P., Very Rev. Thomas N. (1873). "1". English Misrule in Ireland: A Course of Lectures in Reply to J. A Froude. 1. New York: Lynch, Cole & Meehan. p. 27.
  17. Curtis, Edmund (2002). A History of Ireland from Earliest Times to 1922. New York: Routledge. pp. 38–39. ISBN   978-0-415-27949-9.
  18. "The Bull of Pope Adrian IV Empowering Henry II to Conquer Ireland. A.D. 1155". avalon.law.yale.edu.
  19. O’Hegarty, P. S. (1918). "1". The Indestructible Nation. 1. Dublin & London: Maunsel & Company, Ltd. p. 3.
  20. Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Boso (Breakspear)"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.. Henry Birt says that Boso was a cardinal-nephew of Adrian IV, but Arthur Ua Clerigh finds no evidence. More recent sources say that this is incorrect (B. Zenker, Die Mitglieder des Kardinalkollegiums von 1130 bis 1159, Würzburg 1964 p. 149).
  21. "The story of the only English Pope". 12 March 2013 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  22. "Breakspear School - Home". www.breakspear.hillingdon.sch.uk.


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pietro Papareschi
Bishop of Albano
Succeeded by
Walter II of Albano
Preceded by
Anastasius IV
Succeeded by
Alexander III