Adrian IV: England’s Only Pope

M. Foster Farley describes how, during his five years in the Vatican, Nicholas Breakspear had important dealings with the Holy Roman Empire, England and Ireland, and the Norman kingdom of Sicily.

Of approximately two hundred and sixty-five popes and anti-popes, only one has been an Englishman, Nicholas Breakspear, known as Adrian (Hadrian) IV. Although his pontificate lasted only five years (1154-1159), Adrian was one of the stronger Popes, who maintained the ‘highest Hildebrandine conceptions’ against the imperialism of the German Emperor, Frederick I Barbarossa, the strongest ‘Western prince since Charlemagne’. This English Pope was also a contemporary of Arnold of Brescia, William I the Bad of Sicily, and Henry II of England.

Adrian was a person of lofty ideals, who as supreme pontiff displayed all the qualities of righteousness that should be associated with the Vicar of Christ on Earth. From two of his contemporaries, Cardinal Boso (an English cleric who was a close confidant, and perhaps a nephew of Adrian), and John of Salisbury, we learn that the new Pope was a forgiving individual, who never spoke of the shabby treatment (to be mentioned in a moment) that he had received from his natural father and the monks of the monastery of St. Albans.

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