4 December 2016

Pope Adrian IV

The warlike conduct of England’s one and only pontiff

A cameo of Pope Adrian IV at the  Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris
A cameo of Pope Adrian IV at the
Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris
The only Englishman to have ever sat on the papal throne, Nicholas Breakspear, became Pope on this day in 1154 in Rome.

Breakspear, who was from Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire, had previously been created Cardinal Bishop of Albano by Pope Eugene III.

After his election as Pope, Breakspear took the name of Adrian IV (also known as Hadrian IV) and immediately set about dealing with the anti-papal faction in Rome.

After Frederick Barbarossa, Duke of Swabia, caught and hanged the leader of the faction, a man known as Arnold of Brescia, Adrian crowned Frederick as Holy Roman Emperor in 1155 to reward him.

He then formed an alliance with the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel Comnenus, against the Normans in Sicily.

Adrian raised mercenary troops in Campania to fight alongside the Byzantine forces and the alliance was immediately successful, with many cities giving in, either because of the threat of force or the promise of gold.

Frederick I as portrayed in a document in the Vatican library dated 1188
Frederick I as portrayed in a document in
the Vatican library dated 1188
But the Normans launched a counter attack by land and sea and many of the mercenaries deserted leaving the Byzantine troops outnumbered and forced to return home.

Adrian is also believed to have urged King Henry II of England to invade Ireland and bring the church under Roman control. It was claimed that Henry’s mother, the Empress Mathilda, protested about it and so the proposed invasion was postponed.

Then a letter Adrian sent to Frederick I was misinterpreted by one of the Emperor’s officials causing a breach between the two leaders. Adrian was just about to excommunicate the Holy Roman Emperor when he died at Anagni near Rome in 1159, reputedly from choking on a fly in his wine, but it has also been suggested he was possibly suffering from a quinsy, a complication of tonsilitis.

Travel tip:

The Diocese of Albano, where Adrian IV was Cardinal Bishop between 1149 and 1154, includes several towns in the Castelli Romano area of Lazio. It was founded in the fourth century after a Basilica had been built at Albano Laziale, 25 kilometres from Rome. Albano is now one of the most important municipalities of the Castelli Romani. It is close to Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope’s present day summer residence was built in the 17th century for  Pope Urban VIII.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria in Agnani
The Cathedral of Santa Maria in Agnani
Travel tip:

Agnani, where Adrian IV died, is an ancient town, southeast of Rome in an area of Italy known as the Ciociaria, which takes its name from the type of footwear, cioce, once worn by the local people. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Agnani became one of the favourite residences of the Popes, who considered it safer and healthier than Rome. One of the main sights is the Cathedral of Santa Maria, built in Romanesque style between 1071 and 1105.

More reading:

St Clare of Assisi - the count's daughter inspired by hearing Francis of Assisi preach

Pope John Paul II - first non-Italian pope for 455 years

The 33-day reign of the 'smiling pope'

Also on this day:

1798: Death of the scientist whose name added a new word to the language

(Picture credits: Agnani Cathedral by Livioandronico2013 via Wikimedia Commons)


No comments:

Post a Comment