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Adrian IV
Pope Hadrian IV.jpg
Papacy began December 4, 1154
Papacy ended September 1, 1159
Predecessor Anastasius IV
Successor Alexander III
Personal details
Birth name Nicholas Breakspear or Breakspeare
Born c. 1100 Hertfordshire, England
Died September 1, 1159
Anagni, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Other Popes named Adrian

Pope Adrian IV (c. 1100–1 September 1159),[1] born Nicholas Breakspear or Breakspeare, was Pope from 1154 to 1159.

Adrian IV is the only Englishman who has occupied the papal chair.[2][3] It is generally believed that Nicholas Breakspear was born at Breakspear Farm[4][5][6][7] in the parish of Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire and received his early education at the Abbey School, St Albans (St Albans School).


Early life

His father was Robert who later became a monk at St Albans.[8] Nicholas himself, however, was refused admission to the monastery, being told by the abbot to 'wait to go on with his schooling so that he might be considered more suitable' (Abbey chronicles). In the event he did not wait and went instead to Paris and finally became a canon regular of the cloister of St. Rufus monastery near Arles. He rose to be prior and soon thereafter was unanimously elected abbot.[3] This election has been traditionally dated to 1137,[3] but evidence from the abbey's chronicles suggests it occurred about 1145.[9]

His reforming zeal as abbot led to the lodging of complaints against him at Rome; but these merely attracted to him the favourable attention of Pope Eugene III (1145–1153), who created him cardinal bishop of Albano in December 1149.[10]

From 1152 to 1154 Nicholas was in Scandinavia as papal legate, organizing the affairs of the new Norwegian archbishopric of Nidaros (now Trondheim), creating the diocese at Hamar, and, according to tradition, founding the Oslo Cathedral School, (Schola Osloensis) in 1153. The school still exists and is generally regarded as one of the most prestigious schools in Norway. He made arrangements which resulted in the recognition of Gamla Uppsala (later moved to Uppsala) as seat of the Swedish metropolitan in 1164. As a compensation for territory thus withdrawn, the Danish archbishop of Lund was made legate and perpetual vicar and given the title of primate of Denmark and Sweden.

Accession as Pope

On his return Nicholas was received with great honour by Pope Anastasius IV (1153–1154). On the death of Anastasius, Nicholas was elected pope on 3 December 1154.[11] 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, causing Adrian IV, shortly before Palm Sunday 1155, to take the previously unheard-of step of putting Rome under interdict. The Senate (City Council of Rome) thereupon exiled Arnold.

The Byzantine Alliance

Pope Adrian IV cameo.

In 1155, Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus invaded Italy from the south, landing his forces in the region of Apulia. Making contact with local rebels who were hostile to the Sicilian crown, Byzantine 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. Having the "civilised" Eastern Roman Empire on its southern border was infinitely preferable to Adrian than having to constantly deal 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 underway. 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. The future looked bleak for the Sicilians.

It was at this point, just as the war seemed decided in the allies' favour, that things started to go wrong. The Byzantine 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. Yet 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 counter attack by both land and sea. At the approach of the enemy, the mercenaries that were serving in the allied armies demanded impossible rises in their pay. When this was 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, 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 church included recognition of his religious authority over all Christians everywhere, and the Emperor's recognition of his secular authority. Neither East nor West could accept such conditions. Adrian's secular powers were too valuable to be rendered; Manuel's subjects could never have accepted the authority of the distant Pope in 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 have remained divided ever since.

Adrian IV and Ireland

In 1155, Adrian IV granted the Papal Bull 'Laudabiliter', three years after the Synod of Kells in 1152, to the Angevin King Henry II of England. He urged him to invade Ireland to bring its Celtic Christian Church under the Roman system, and conduct 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 against it. In Ireland however, nothing seems to have been known of it, and no provision had been made against the prospect of Angevin Norman aggression, despite their westward expansion throughout England and Wales.[12] Ernest F. Henderson states that the existence of this Bull is doubted by many [13] while, in noting that its authenticity has been questioned without success, P. S. O'Hegarty suggests that the question is now purely an academic one. It is notable that decisions of Pope Alexander III, his successor, Lucius III, and King Henry VIII in proclaiming the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 was predicated on this document.[14]

Barbarossa and the death of Adrian IV

At the diet of Besançon in October 1157, the legates presented to Barbarossa a letter from Adrian IV which alluded to the beneficia or "benefits" conferred upon the Emperor, and the German chancellor translated this beneficia in the feudal sense of the presentation of property from a lord to a vassal (benefice). Barbarossa 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, and the incident at length closed with a letter from the Pope, declaring that by beneficium he meant merely bonum factum or "a good deed," the coronation. The breach subsequently became wider, and Adrian IV was about to excommunicate the Emperor when he (Adrian) died at Anagni on 1 September 1159, reputedly choking on a fly in his wine, but probably of quinsy[5].

His biography was first written by Cardinal Boso in his extension to the Liber Pontificalis.[15]


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Pope Adrian IV" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Mackie, John Duncan (1907). Pope Adrian IV: The Lothian Essay, 1907. Blackwell. p. 2.  
  3. ^ a b c The English Pope by George F. Tull
  4. ^ Clark, Clive W.. "Prologue". Abbots Langley Then 1760–1960. 143 Sussex Way, Cockfosters, Herts, EN4 0BG: Clive W. Clark. p. 1. ISBN 0-953-14730-4.  
  5. ^ a b St Albans Cathedral
  6. ^ Breakspear Farm was demolished for housing redevelopment in the 1960s. It stood at 51°43′8″N 0°24′41″W / 51.71889°N 0.41139°W / 51.71889; -0.41139
  7. ^ Hertfordshire Genealogy
  8. ^ Mackie, John Duncan (1907). Pope Adrian IV: The Lothian Essay, 1907. Blackwell. p. 13.  
  9. ^ He is mentioned for the first time as abbot on January 29, 1147; his predecessor Fulchier appears for the last time in 1143. See Brenda Bolton, Anne Duggan, Adrian IV, the English Pope, 1154-1159: Studies and Texts, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003, p. 25
  10. ^ Brenda Bolton, Anne Duggan, Adrian IV, the English Pope, 1154-1159: Studies and Texts, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003, p. 26, 42 and 75
  11. ^ 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.  
  12. ^ Curtis, Edmund (2002). A History of Ireland from Earliest Times to 1922. New York: Routledge. pp. 38–39. ISBN 0 415 27949 6.  
  13. ^ Avalon Project, Yale
  14. ^ O’Hegarty, P. S. (1918). "1". The Indestructible Nation. 1. Dublin & London: Maunsel & Company, Ltd. p. 3.  
  15. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Boso (Breakspear)" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.. This source indicates that Boso was a cardinal-nephew of Adrian IV, but more recent sources say that this is incorrect (B. Zenker, Die Mitglieder des Kardinalkollegiums von 1130 bis 1159, Würzburg 1964 p. 149).

External links

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


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