Pope Adrian IV
Born 1100 (?); died 1 September, 1159. Very little is known about the birthplace, parentage, or boyhood of Adrian. Yet, as is usual in such cases, very various, and sometimes very circumstantial, accounts have reached us about him.
Our only reliable information we owe to two writers, Cardinal Boso and John of Salisbury. The former wrote a life of Adrian, which is included in the collection of Nicolas Roselli, made Cardinal of Aragon in 1356 during the pontificate of Innocent VI. Boso’s life, published by Muratori (SS. Rer. Ital. III, I 441-446) and reprinted in Migne (P.L., CLXXXVIII, 135-160), also edited by Watterich (Vitae Pontificum II, 323- 374), and now to be read in Duchesne’s edition of the Liber Pontificalis (II, 388-397; cf. proleg XXXVII-XLV), states that Boso, the author of it; was created cardinal-deacon of the title of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, was chamberlain to Adrian and in constant and familiar attendance upon him from the commencement of his apostolate. [Ciacconius says that Boso was the nephew of Adrian, but Watterich observes (op. cit. prolegomena) that he finds no proof of this.
Boso tells us that Adrian was born in England in or near the burg of St. Albans, and that he left his country and his relations in his boyhood to complete his studies, and went to Arles in France. During the vacation he visited the monastery of Sts. Rufus near Avignon, where he took the vows and habit of an Austin canon. After some time he was elected abbot and, going to Rome on important business connected with the monastery, was retained there by Pope Eugenius III, and made a cardinal and Bishop of Albano (1146). Matthew Paris agrees in some measure with this, for he tells us that on Adrian’s applying to the abbot of St. Alban’s to be received as a monk, the abbot, after examining him, found him deficient and said to him kindly: “Have patience, my son, and stay at school yet a while till you are better fitted for the position you desire.” He states further that he was “a native of some hamlet under the abbey, perhaps Langley,” and I may add that it is now tolerably certain that he was born at Abbot’s Langley in Hertfordshire, about the year 1100; that his father was Robert Brekespear, a man of humble means, though of a decent stock; and that Adrian went abroad as a poor wandering scholar, like John of Salisbury and many others at that time. However, William of Newburgh, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, an Austin canon and a historian of high repute (1136-98?), gives a very different account, which he probably had from the neighbouring Cistercian houses of Rievaulx and Byland. “Eugenius III”, he tells us,
was succeeded by Nicolas, Bishop of Albano, who, changing his name with his fortune, called himself Adrian. Of this man it may be well to relate how he was raised as it were from the dust to sit in the midst of princes and to occupy the throne of apostolic glory. He was born in England, and his father was a clerk of slender means who, abandoning his youthful son, became a monk at St. Albans. As the boy grew up, seeing that through want he could not afford the time to go to school, he attended the monastery for a daily pittance. His father was ashamed of this, taunted him with bitter words for his idleness, and, highly indignant, drove him away disconsolate. The boy, left to himself, and compelled to do something by hard necessity, ingenuously ashamed either to dig or beg, crossed over to France.
He then states that after Adrian was elected Abbot of Sts. Rufus the canons repented of their choice and came to hate him, and appealed to the Pope on two occasions, bringing divers charges against him (II, vi). This narrative is not only contrary to Boso’s but to what Adrian himself told John of Salisbury.
“The office of Pope, he assured me, was a thorny one, beset on all sides with sharp pricks. He wished indeed that he had never left England, his native land, or at least had lived his life quietly in the cloister of Sts. Rufus rather than have entered on such difficult paths, but he dared not refuse, since it was the Lord’s bidding” (Polycraticus, Bk. IV, xxviii).
How could he have looked back with regret to quiet and happy days if he had encountered parental cruelty at St. Albans and monastic insubordination at Sts. Rufus?
In 1152 Adrian was sent on a delicate and important mission to Scandinavia, as papal legate, in which he acquitted himself to the satisfaction of everybody. He established an independent archiepiscopal see for Norway at Trondhjem, which he selected chiefly in honour of St. Olaf, whose relics reposed in its church. He reformed the abuses that had crept into the usages of the clergy, and even aided in bettering the civil institutions of the country. Snorro relates that no foreigner ever came to Norway who gained so much public honour and deference among the people as Nicholas Brekespear. He was prevented for the time from establishing an archiepiscopal see in Sweden by the rivalry between Sweden and Gothland, the one party claiming the honour for Upsala, the other for Skara. But he reformed abuses there also, and established the contribution known as Peter’s pence.
On his return to Rome he was hailed as the Apostle of the North, and, the death of Anastasius IV occurring at that time (2 December, 1154), he was on the following day unanimously elected the successor of St. Peter; but the office was not a bed of roses. King William of Sicily was in open hostility, and the professed friendship of Frederick Barbarossa was even more dangerous. The barons in the Campagna fought with each other and with the Pope and, issuing from their castles, raided the country in every direction, and even robbed the pilgrims on their way to the tombs of the Apostles. The turbulent and fickle populace of Rome was in open revolt under the leadership of Arnold of Brescia. Cardinal Gerardus was mortally wounded in broad daylight, as he was walking along the Via Sacra.
Adrian, a determined man, at once laid the city under an interdict and retired to Viterbo. He forbade the observance of any sacred service until the Wednesday of Holy Week. “Then were the senators impelled by the voice of the clergy and laity alike to prostrate themselves before His Holiness.” Submission was made, and the ban removed. The Pope returned to Rome, and Arnold escaped and was taken under the protection of some of the bandit barons of the northern Campagna. He was subsequently delivered up and executed. Meanwhile Barbarossa was advancing through Lombardy, and after receiving the Iron Crown at Pavia had approached the confines of the papal territory, intending to receive the imperial crown in Rome at the hands of the Pope.
After some negotiations a famous meeting took place at Sutri, about 30 miles north of Rome, on the 9th of June, 1155, between Frederick of Hohenstauffen, then the most powerful ruler in Europe, and the humble canon of Sts. Rufus, now the most powerful spiritual ruler in the world. As the Pope approached, the Emperor advanced to meet him, but did not hold the Pope’s stirrup, which was part of the customary ceremony of homage. The Pope said nothing then, but dismounted, and the Emperor led him to a chair and kissed his slipper. Custom required that the Pope should then give the kiss of peace. He refused to do so, and told Frederick that until full homage had been paid he would withhold it. This implied that he would not crown him. Frederick had to submit, and on the 11th of June another meeting was arranged at Nepi, when Frederick advanced on foot and held the Pope’s stirrup, and the incident was closed.
Frederick was afterwards duly crowned at St. Peter’s, and took the solemn oaths prescribed by ancient custom. During the ceremonies a guard of imperial troops had been placed on or near the bridge of St. Angelo to protect that suburb, then known as the Leonine City. The bridge was stormed by the republican troops from the city proper, and a fierce battle ensued between the imperial army and the Romans. Fighting lasted through the hot summer’s day and far on into the evening. Finally the Romans were routed. Over 200 fell as prisoners into Frederick’s hands, including most of the leaders, and more than 1,000 were killed or drowned in the Tiber. The citizens, however, held the city and refused to give the Emperor provisions; the latter, now that he was crowned, made no serious effort either to help the Pope against the Normans or to reduce the city to subjection. Malaria appeared among his troops. “He was obliged to turn”, says Gregorovius, in his in History of the City of Rome, “and, not without some painful self-reproach, to abandon the Pope to his fate.” He took leave of him at Tivoli, and, marching north by way of Farfa, reduced to ashes on his route the ancient and celebrated city of Spoleto.
William I succeeded his father on the throne of Sicily in February, 1154. Adrian refused to recognize him as king, and addressed him merely as Dominus (Lord). Hostilities followed. The Sicilians laid siege to Beneventum without result, and afterwards ravaged the southern Campagna and retired. Adrian excommunicated William. After the departure of Frederick, Adrian collected his vassals and mercenaries and marched south to Beneventum, a papal possession, where he remained until June, 1156. It was during this time that John of Salisbury spent three months with him, and obtained from him the famous Donation of Ireland (see page 158). The fortune of war favoured William. He captured Brundusium, with an immense store of provisions and munitions of war, and five thousand pounds’ weight of gold that the Greek Emperor, Manuel I, intended for his ally the Pope. He also took captive many wealthy Greeks, whom he sent to Palermo, some for ransom, but the greater number to be sold into slavery. This practically determined the issue of the war. Peace was made in June, 1153, and a treaty concluded. The Pope agreed to invest William with the crowns of Sicily and Apulia, the territories and states of Naples, Salerno, and Amalfi, the March of Ancona, and all the other cities which the King then possessed. William on his part took the feudal oath and became the liegeman of the Pope, and promised to pay a yearly tribute, and to defend the papal possessions (Watterich, op. cit., II, 352). After this, the Pope went to Viterbo, where he came to an agreement with the Romans, and in the beginning of 1157 returned to the City. The Emperor deeply resented the act of the Pope in investing William with territories which he claimed as part of his dominions, and for this and other causes a conflict broke out between them. (See ALEXANDER III, FREDERICK I, INVESTITURES.) Adrian died at Anagni, in open strife with the Emperor, and in league with the Lombards against him. Alexander III carried out the intentions of Adrian, and shortly afterwards excommunicated the Emperor.
The donation of Ireland
It was during the Pope’s stay at Beneventum (1156), as we have stated, that John of Salisbury visited him. “I recollect”, he writes, “a journey I once made into Apulia for the purpose of visiting his Holiness, Pope Adrian IV. I stayed with him at Beneventum for nearly three months” (Polycraticus, VI, 24; P.L. CXCIX, 623). In another work, the Metalogicus, this writer says:
At my solicitation [ad preces meas] he gave and granted Hibernia to Henry II, the illustrious King of England, to hold by hereditary right as his letter [which is extant] to this day testifies. For all islands of ancient right, according to the Donation of Constantine, are said to belong to the Roman Church, which he founded. He sent also by me a ring of gold, with the best of emeralds set therein, wherewith the investiture might be made for his governorship of Ireland, and that same ring was ordered to be and is still in the public treasury of the King.
It will be observed that he says, “at my solicitation”, and not at the request of Henry, and that he went “for the purpose of visiting” (causâ visitandi), not on an official mission. The suggestion that because he was born in England Adrian made Ireland over to the Angevin monarch, who was no relation of his does not merit serious attention. The Metalogicus was written in the autumn of 1159 or early in 1160, and the passage quoted occurs in the last chapter (IV, xlii; P.L., vol. cit., col. 945). It is found in all manuscripts of the work, one of which was written possibly as early as 1175, and certainly before 1200. Nobody questions the truthfulness of John of Salisbury, and the only objection raised to the statement is that it may be an interpolation. If it is not an interpolation, it constitutes a complete proof of the Donation, the investiture by the ring being legally sufficient, and in fact the mode used in the case of the Isle of Man, as Boichorst points out. Adrian’s Letter, however, creates a difficulty. His Bull, usually called Laudabiliter, does not purport to confer Hibernia “by hereditary right”, but the letter referred to was not Laudabiliter, but a formal letter of investiture, such as was used in the case of Robert Guiscard in Italy, e.g. “I Gregory, Pope, invest you, Duke Robert, with the land of”, etc. (Ego Gregorius Papa investio te, Roberte Dux, de terra, etc.; Mansi, Coll. Conc., XX, 313). The question of the genuineness of the passage in the Metalogicus, impugned by Cardinal Moran, W.B. Morris, and others, must be kept quite separate from the question of the genuineness of Laudabiliter, and it is mainly by mixing both together that the passage in the Metalogicus is assailed as a forgery. Boichorst (Mittheilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung IV, supplementary vol., 1893, p. 101) regards the Donation as indisputable, while rejecting Laudabiliter as a forgery. Liebermann (Deutsche Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 1892, I, 58) holds the same view. Thatcher, in Studies Concerning Adrian IV; I. The Offer of Ireland to Henry II, printed in the fourth volume of the Decennial Publications for the University of Chicago (Series I, Chicago, 1903), reproduces the arguments of Boichorst. Bishop Creighton held John of Salisbury to be unanswerable (Tarleton, p. 180). The overwhelming weight of authority is therefore in favour of the genuineness of the passage in Metalogicus. The Bull Laudabiliter stands on a different footing. Opinions have hitherto been sharply divided as to its genuineness, as will be seen by a reference to the end of this article; but these opinions have been formed without a knowledge of the text of the Laudabiliter in the Book of Leinster, except in the case of Boichorst, who refers to it casually in a note which has been recently published for the first time by the writer (New Ireland Review March, 1906; cf. his History of Ireland, xxvi, Dublin, 1906). To the text of the Bull are prefixed the following headings: “Ah! men of the faith of the world, how beautiful [so far Gaelic] when over the cold sea in ships Zephyrus wafts glad tidings” [Latin] a Bull granted to the King of the English on the collation, i.e. grant, of Hibernia, in which nothing is derogated from the rights of the Irish, as appears by the words of the text. This was almost certainly written, and probably by his old tutor Aedh McCrimthainn, during the lifetime of Diarmaid MacMurchada, who was banished in 1157, and died in 1171. The text of the Bull was therefore no medieval scholastic exercise. Assuming the statements in the Metalogicus to be correct, the texts relating to the Donation of Adrian may be conjecturally arranged as follows: (1) The Letter of Investiture referred to by John of Salisbury, 1156; (2) Laudabiliter, prepared probably in 1156, and issued in 1159(?); (3) A Confirmation of the Letter of Investiture by Alexander III in 1159 (?); (4) Three Letters of Alexander III, 20 September, 1172, in substance a confirmation of Laudabiliter. The Bull was not sent forward in 1156 because the offer of Adrian was not then acted on, though the investiture was accepted. Robert of Torrigny (d. 1186 or 1184) tells us that at a Council held at Winchester, 29 September, 1156, the question of subduing Ireland and giving it to William, Henry’s brother, was considered; “but because it was not pleasing to the Empress, Henry’s mother, the expedition was put off to another time” [intermissa est ad tempus illa expedite]. This clearly implies an acceptance of the investiture and supports the genuineness of the passage in the Metalogicus. Henry, then twenty-two, had his hands full of domestic troubles with the refractory barons in England, with the Welsh, and with the discordant elements in his French dominions, and could not undertake a great military operation like the invasion of Ireland. And not having done so in the lifetime of Adrian, he would certainly require a confirmation of the Donation by Alexander before leading an army into a territory the overlordship of which belonged to the latter. The Letter of Confirmation is found only in Giraldus Cambrensis, first in the De Expugnatione Hiberniae (II, v, in Rolls Series V, 31t5), and again in the De Instructione Principis (II, c. xix, in Rolls Series VIII, 197), where the text states that the genuineness of the confirmation was denied by some. This, however, may be a later interpolation, as some maintain. The three letters of 20 September, 1172, do not contain any direct confirmation of the Donation of Adrian. They are addressed to Henry II, the bishops, and the kings and chieftains of Ireland respectively. The letter addressed to Henry congratulates him on his success, and exhorts him to protect and extend the rights of the Church, and to offer the first fruits of his victory to God. A point is made that there is no grant of Ireland contained in the letter, nor any confirmation of a previous grant, but how could we expect a second confirmation if Adrian’s grant had in fact been already confirmed according to the text in Giraldus? There is no question as to the genuineness of the three letters of the 20th of September. They are found in the Liber Scaccarii, and are printed in Migne (P.L. CC, col. 882).
The Donation of Adrian was subsequently recognized in many official writings, and the Pope for more than four centuries claimed the overlordship of Ireland In 1318 (1317?) Domhnall O’Neill and other kings and chieftains, and the whole laity of Ireland, forwarded to Pope John XXII a letter of appeal and protest. They state in the letter that Pope Adrian, induced by false representations, granted Ireland to Henry II, and enclose a copy of the Bull which the context shows was Laudabiliter. On 30 May, 1318, the Pope wrote from Avignon a letter of paternal advice to Edward II, urging him to redress the grievances of the Irish, and enclosed O’Neill’s letters and “a copy of the grant which Pope Adrian is said to have made to Henry II.” Edward II did not deny that he held under that grant. By an Act of the Irish Parliament (Parliament Roll, 7th Edward IV, Ann. 1467), after reciting that “as our Holy Father Adrian, Pope of Rome, was possessed of all sovereignty of Ireland in his demesne as of fee in the right of his Church of Rome, and with the intent that vice should be subdued had alienated the said land to the King of England . . . by which grant the said subjects of Ireland owe their allegiance to the King of England as their sovereign Lord”, it was enacted “that all archbishops and bishops shall excommunicate all disobedient Irish subjects, and if they neglect to do so they shall forfeit £100.” In 1555, by a consistorial decree followed by a Bull, Paul IV, on the humble supplication of Philip and Mary, erected into a kingdom the Island of Hibernia, of which, from the time that the kings of England obtained the dominion of it through the Apostolic See, they had merely called themselves Lords (Domini), without prejudice to the rights of the Roman Church and of any other person claiming to have right in it or to it. [Bull. Rom (ed. Turin.) VI, 489, 490.] In 1570 the Irish had offered or were about to offer the kingship of Ireland to Philip of Spain. The Archbishop of Cashel acted as their envoy. The project was communicated to the Pope through Cardinal Alciato, who wrote to the Archbishop of Cashel (9 June, 1570):
His Holiness was astonished that anything of the kind should be attempted without his authority since it was easy to remember that the kingdom of Ireland belonged to the dominion of the Church, was held as a fief under it, and could not therefore, unless by the Pope, be subjected to any new ruler. And the Pope, that the right of the Church may be preserved as it should be, says he will not give the letters you ask for the King of Spain. But if the King of Spain himself were to ask for the fief of that Kingdom in my opinion the Pope would not refuse. (Spicil. Ossor., ed. Card. Moran, I, 69).
In conclusion there is not in my judgment any controverted matter in history about which the evidence preponderates in favour of one view so decisively as about the Donation of Adrian.
The principal authorities for the life of Adrian are collected in WATTERICH S Vitae Pontificum Romanorum (saec. IX-XIII) adjectis suis cuique et annalibus et documentis gravioribus (Leipzig, 1862), II. He gives the Life of Adrian by BOSO, and extracts from the annals of WILLIAM OF NEWBURGH, WILLIAM OF TYRE, ROMUALD OF SALERNO, OTTO OF FREISING, RADEWIN, and GODFREY OF COLOGNE, as well as several letters (II, 323). There is also a valuable chapter (v) of Prolegomena (I, LXXI). TO Watterich may be added JOHN OF SALISBURY and GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS, already mentioned, RABY, Pope Adrian the Fourth, an Historical Sketch, 1849; ALFRED TARLETON, Nicholas Breakspear (Adrian IV), Englishman and Pope (London, 1906). As to the genuineness of Laudabiliter, the literature is very voluminous. The following names may be mentioned: against it, JOHN LYNCH, Cambrensis Eversus (1662), STEPHEN WHITE (d. before 1650), CARDINAL MORAN, DOM GASQUET, W.B. MORRIS, the writer in Analecta Juris Pontificii (1882), A. BELLESHEIM PFLUGK- HARTUNG, GINNELL, HERGENRÖTHER, DAMBERGER, SCHEFFER-BOICHORST, F. LIEBERMANN, and O. THATCHER; in favour of it: LINGARD, LANIGAN, J. DIMOCK (editor of GIRALDUS in Rolls Series, V, 316 he says that it is indisputably genuine), J.C. O’CALLAGHAN S. MALONE, O. P.L., KATE NORGATE, A. TARLETON, L. CASARTELLI. None of these writers, except Scheffer-Boichorst, refer to the text of Laudabiliter in the Book of Leinster, which is by far the most important piece of evidence bearing on the question. An extensive bibliography of the subject is given in CHEVALIER, Rep. des sources hist. du moyen âge (Bio.-bibl., 2d ed., Paris 905), 56, 57. Cf. also O. J. THATCHER op. cit., 154.
About this page
APA citation. Ua Clerigh, A. (1907). Pope Adrian IV. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
MLA citation. Ua Clerigh, Arthur. “Pope Adrian IV.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.