Adrian IV, Pope

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Reigned Dec. 4, 1154, to Sept. 1, 1159; born Nicholas Breakspear, Abbot's Langley, on land belonging to St. Albans' abbey, c. 1100; d. Anagni; buried in St. Peter's, Rome, beside Pope Eugenius III; son of Robert of the Chamber, a clerk in royal service and later monk at St. Albans; created cardinal bishop of Albano (c. 114950). The young Breakspear left England to study in France, eventually joining the reformed canonical congregation of St. Ruf near Avignon in the Arelate. Elected prior and then abbot (c. 1135) of this prestigious house, he more than once pursued the community's business at Rome before apparently so alienating his fellow canons that they petitioned the pope for his removal. Eugenius, however, acknowledging his potential by a direct promotion to the cardinalate, later entrusted him with the legation to Scandinavia (1152), his high-profile mission being to reorganize and reform the Church there.

In Norway, he established a metropolitan see at Nidaros (Trondheim), thus breaking the control of the Danish archbishopric of Lund over that country. He introduced the payment of an annual census to Rome and limited royal influence over clerical appointments by insisting on canonical elections. In Sweden, he held a council at Linköping (1152) which facilitated the elevation of Uppsala to metropolitan see (1163) and confirmed the payment of census: however, he failed to impose clerical celibacy in the face of local rivalries between Goths and Swedes. He returned to Rome before November 1153, having earned from the Scandinavians the epithet "the Good Cardinal," and received full support for his work from the recently elected Anastasius IV. On Anastasius's death, he was unanimously chosen as pope, the first Englishman to attain this position.

The pontificate was dominated by interrelated problems, including tensions over the Roman Commune; the imminent coronation of Frederick Barbarossa and the resumption of imperial rights over Lombardy; William I of Sicily's request for papal recognition; the Italian aspirations of Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus; and the security of the Patrimony of St. Peter. Following disturbances among the Romans after his election, Adrian was immediately forced to take refuge inside the Leonine City, placing Rome under interdict until the Wednesday of Holy Week, March 23, 1155. On the following day, the Senate expelled Arnold of Brescia, heretic and chief perpetrator of violence, leaving Adrian free at last to move to the Lateran, where he celebrated Holy Friday with his cardinals. In spite of slightly improved relations with the Commune, nearly half his pontificate of 56 months was spent outside Rome.

Early in 1155, Adrian renewed the Treaty of Constance (March 23, 1153), which was negotiated by his predecessor, Eugenius III, and the German king, Frederick Barbarossa. Adrian's promise of imperial consecration aimed to bind Barbarossa into an agreement to defend the status of the papacy and the integrity of the Patrimony, and he insisted on a sworn undertaking to respect the person of the pope and cardinals. After a destructive progress across Lombardy, the king marched on Rome (April 1155), seeking the promised imperial coronation "in such haste that he seemed to be an enemy rather than a friend." Following complicated diplomatic manoeuvres, Adrian and Barbarossa finally met (June 9, 1155) at Campo Grasso outside Sutri where the king performed the office of strator, leading the pope's horse, holding his stirrup, and receiving the kiss of peace. The long-awaited coronation (June 18, 1155), marred by violence between Romans and Germans, was followed by a processional crown-wearing ceremony at Ponte Lucano (June 29, 1155), cordiality between pope and emperor being reinforced by Barbarossa's instruction to the people of Tivoli to maintain their allegiance to the pope. Frederick then returned to Germany to avoid the heat of summer, looting Spoleto on the way.

At precisely the same time a crisis broke out in the south, following William I's failure to obtain prior papal consent for his coronation as king of Sicily (April 5, 1154) and his illegal retention of papal lands. In winter 115455, William offered his submission to the new pope, but refused to confirm papal overlordship of his kingdom. In May 1155 William was excommunicated for besieging Benevento and burning several unfortified places in the southern Patrimony. The pope hoped to win Barbarossa's assistance against Sicily through the good offices of Wilbald, abbot of Corvey and Stavelot, who was engaged at the time in sensitive negotiations with Manuel I Comnenus. The increasing significance of Byzantine power in southern Italy was to prove a difficult problem for the pope. The Greeks had never accepted the Norman conquest there, while the Normans had, from time to time, shown themselves willing to attack the Byzantine Empire. Manuel I had agreed to the Treaty of Thessalonica (1148) with Conrad III of Germany whereby the two rulers would together attack Sicily.

However, the "accord and agreement" made by Eugenius and Barbarossa in March 1153 at Constance had been intended to keep the Greeks out of the peninsula. Manuel, nonetheless, remained sufficiently confident to send a mission to Ancona late in 1154. In spring 1155, the nobles of Apulia, encouraged by Barbarossa's entry into Italy, launched a rebellion against their new ruler. William I of Sicily appealed for assistance, but the emperor refused and returned to Germany. In September 1155, Adrian gathered an army to march on Benevento and remained there until mid-July 1156, the Greeks offering him unlimited supplies of men and money in return for their acquisition of three cities in Apulia, but ultimately failing in their invasion.

The Treaty of Benevento (June 1156) forced Adrian into recognizing William and his heirs as kings of Sicily in return for liege homage, an annual tribute in gold, and far-reaching concessions over the churches of southern Italy and Sicily. Papal recognition of the Sicilian monarchy ultimately worked to the advantage of Adrian's successors by bringing stability in the south for more than 20 years, but it caused Barbarossa grave displeasure. In 1157 when the Greeks again tried to intervene, Adrian held firm to his agreement with William but, in a famous letter to Patriarch Basil of Ochrida, the pope pursued his idea of a possible future union between the Greek and Latin churches.

In September 1157, Adrian sent a letter to Barbarossa, then at Besançon, complaining that Eskil, archbishop of Lund, being held for ransom in Burgundy, had not yet been released. The pope's use of the word beneficium in relation to the imperial crown and its translation into German by Rainald of Dassel, the emperor's chancellor, in such a way as to imply that the empire was a fief of the papacy, helped both to manufacture and inflame this dispute. Relations with the emperor rapidly deteriorated, Fredrick unfairly impugning Adrian's legitimacy by calling him the son of a monk. The pope refused to confirm Barbarossa's nominee to the archbishopric of Ravenna; in April 1159 at Bologna, Adrian protested against the imposition of imperial rights announced at the Diet of Roncaglia (Nov. 1213, 1158) which involved not only Lombardy, but also parts of the Patrimony. In mid-June 1159, the pope, already known to be unwell, withdrew to Anagni with the so-called Sicilian group of cardinals and made common cause with four anti-imperial cities in Lombardy.

Among Adrian's significant promotions to the cardinalate were figures chosen for their ability to serve the Church: Albert de Morra, later pope Gregory VIII; Walter, successor to the cardinal bishopric of Albano; Boso, papal scriptor, friend and biographer, appointed papal chamberlain (115455) and cardinal deacon of SS Cosma e Damiano (1156); and Roland Bandinelli, the future Alexander III, retained as chancellor. Adrian made no canonizations, nor have any sermons, treatises or commentaries survived from his pontificate. However, nearly 700 letters and privileges indicate some of the many difficult problems he addressed, attempting to mediate between conflicting claims.

Two particular decisions passed into Canon Law: Commissum nobis (X, 3.30.4) restricted monastic exemptions on tithe payments, while Dignum est (X.4.9.1) proclaimed the absolute right of the unfree to contract valid marriages. The authenticity of Adrian's letter Laudabiliter, once alleged to have permitted the invasion of Ireland by Henry II, is now regarded with much more caution than previously. In collaboration with Boso, Adrian put in place throughout the Patrimony a whole network of castra specialia, military and administrative strongholds under the special protection of the Holy See, that bound the local nobles in a system of feudal dependency, and it was this model which Innocent III used to recover the position of the papacy in the early thirteenth century.

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[b. m. bolton]