Pope Adrian I

"Adrian I" redirects here. For the Patriarch of Moscow, see Adrian of Moscow.
Adrian I
Papacy began 1 February 772
Papacy ended 25 December 795
Predecessor Stephen III
Successor Leo III
Personal details
Born 700
Rome, Exarchate of Ravenna, Roman Empire
Died 25 December 795(795-12-25)
Other popes named Adrian

Pope Adrian I (Latin: Hadrianus I c. 700  25 December 795) was Pope from 1 February 772 to his death in 795.[1] He was the son of Theodore, a Roman nobleman.

Start of papacy

Shortly after Adrian's accession in 772, the territory ruled by the papacy was invaded by Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and Adrian was compelled to seek the assistance of the Frankish king Charlemagne, who entered Italy with a large army. Charlemagne besieged Desiderius in his capital of Pavia. After taking the town, he banished the Lombard king to the Abbey of Corbie in France, and adopted the title "King of the Lombards" himself. The pope, whose expectations had been aroused, had to content himself with some additions to the Duchy of Rome, the Exarchate of Ravenna, and the Pentapolis in the Marches,[2] which consisted of the "five cities" on the Adriatic coast from Rimini to Ancona with the coastal plain as far as the mountains. He celebrated the occasion by striking the earliest papal coin,[3] and in a mark of the direction the mediaeval papacy was to take, no longer dated his documents by the Emperor in the east, but by the reign of Charles, king of the Franks.[4]

A mark of such newly settled conditions in the Duchy of Rome is the Domusculta Capracorum, the central Roman villa that Adrian assembled from a nucleus of his inherited estates and acquisitions from neighbors in the countryside north of Veii. The villa is documented in Liber Pontificalis, but its site was not rediscovered until the 1960s, when excavations revealed the structures on a gently-rounded hill that was only marginally capable of self-defense, but fully self-sufficient for a mixed economy of grains and vineyards, olives, vegetable gardens and piggery with its own grain mill, smithies and tile-kilns. During the 10th century villages were carved out of Adrian's Capracorum estate: Campagnano, mentioned first in 1076; Formello, mentioned in 1027; Mazzano, mentioned in 945; and Stabia (modern Faleria), mentioned in 998.[5]

Foreign relations

While the Lombards had always been openly respectful of the papacy, the popes distrusted them. The popes had sought aid from the Eastern Roman Empire to keep these barbarians in check. Adrian continued this policy. Because the East could offer no direct aid, Adrian then looked to the Franks to offset the power of the Lombards.

Friendly relations between pope and king were not disturbed by the theological dispute about the veneration of icons.[6] In 787, Second Council of Nicaea, approved by Pope Adrian, had confirmed the practice and excommunicated the iconoclasts. Charlemagne, however, who had received the Council's decisions only in a bad Latin translation, consulted with his theologians and sent the Pope the Capitulare contra synodum (792), a response critical of several passages found in the council's acts. He also had his theologians, including Theodulf of Orleans, compose the more comprehensive Libri Carolini. Pope Adrian reacted to the Capitulare with a defense of the Council. In 794, a synod held at Frankfurt in 794 discussed the issue but refused to receive the Libri and content itself with condemning extreme forms of veneration of icons.

In 787 Adrian elevated the English diocese of Lichfield to an archdiocese at the request of the English bishops and King Offa of Mercia to balance the ecclesiastic power in that land between Kent and Mercia. He gave the Lichfield bishop Hygeberht the pallium in 788.

Regarding the Muslims, he maintained the prohibition of Pope Zachary of selling slaves to Muslims, whom Adrian described as "the unspeakable race of Saracens,"[7] in order to guarantee a labor pool and to keep the power of Muslim rivals in check.[8] He also encouraged Charlemagne to lead his troops into Spain against the Muslims there[9] and was generally interested in expanding Christian influence and eliminating Muslim control.[10]


An epitaph written by Charlemagne in verse, in which he styles Adrian "father", is still to be seen at the door of the Vatican basilica.[2] Adrian restored some of the ancient aqueducts of Rome and rebuilt the churches of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, decorated by Greek monks fleeing from the iconoclastal persecutions, and of San Marco in Rome. At the time of his death at the age of 95, his was the longest pontificate in Church history until it was surpassed by the 24-year papacy of Pius VI in the late 18th century. Only three other popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, and John Paul II – have reigned for longer periods since.

See also


  1.  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Adrian I". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. 1 2  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Adrian". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 215.
  3. Lane-Poole, Stanley (1885). Coins and medals: their place in history and art. British Museum. p. 80.
  4. Ullmann, Walter (2003). A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Age. London: Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 0415302277.
  5. Ward-Perkins, J. B. (1962). "Etruscan Towns, Roman Roads and Medieval Villages: The Historical Geography of Southern Etruria". The Geographical Journal. 128 (4): 389–404 [p. 402]. JSTOR 1792035.
  6. Chisholm 1911.
  7. Robin Blackburn (1998). The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800 (illustrated, reprint ed.). Verso. p. 43. ISBN 9781859841952.
  8. John Victor Tolan; Gilles Veinstein; Henry Laurens (2013). Europe and the Islamic World: A History (illustrated ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 83. ISBN 9780691147055.
  9. Alex Roberto Hybel (13 May 2013). Ideology in World Politics. Routledge. p. 30. ISBN 9781134012503.
  10. Karolyn Kinane; Michael A. Ryan (9 Apr 2009). End of Days: Essays on the Apocalypse from Antiquity to Modernity. McFarland. p. 51. ISBN 9780786453597.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Stephen III
Succeeded by
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