Hadrian I, Pope

Hadrian I, Pope
( d. 795)
   Roman noble and pope (r. 772-795), Hadrian was an important figure in the birth of the Papal States and an important ally of the Carolingian ruler Charlemagne. The pope contributed to Charlemagne's renewal of church and society and supplied law and liturgical models that helped the king reform affairs in his realm. He also welcomed the king to Rome twice as a pilgrim. Moreover, Hadrian presided over the final separation of the papacy from the Byzantine Empire, its long-time protector, and strengthened the alliance with the Carolingians. The pope contributed also to the strengthening of the Papal States and the demise of the Lombard kingdom. His appeal to Charlemagne for aid against the Lombard king Desiderius led to the Carolingian king's invasion and destruction of the Lombard kingdom. Hadrian's invitation also led to the greater involvement of the Carolingian dynasty in Italian affairs.
   According to the Liber Pontificalis (Book of the Popes), Hadrian was a "very distinguished man, sprung from noble ancestry and born to influential parents"(123). He was, the official biography notes further, "elegant and most decorous of manner, a resolute and strenuous defender of the orthodox faith, his homeland and the flock entrusted to him" (123). He was raised by his uncle Theodatus, a powerful figure in Roman lay and religious circles, because his parents died while Hadrian was still young. The Liber Pontificalis records that from his youth, Hadrian was a pious and devout person who spent much time in prayer and praise of God. He lived a chaste life and was generous to the poor. His piety was noticed by Pope Paul I (r. 757-767), who made him a cleric and gave him an important office in the Roman church. Hadrian also served Paul's successor, Stephen III (r. 768-772), who also employed Hadrian in important positions in the church of Rome. His service brought him the favor of the people of Rome and election to the office of pope on the death of Stephen III.
   Along with a number of internal political difficulties, which he effectively resolved, Hadrian's greatest challenge upon his elevation to the papal throne was the protection of the Papal States from the lingering Lombard threat. Indeed, the internal tensions that existed at Rome were related to Italian political affairs, as some factions in Rome were still friendly to the Lombard king, Desiderius. The papacy, during the reign of Stephen II (752-757), had confirmed its alliance with the Frankish Carolingian dynasty, however, and Hadrian continued that policy and was supported by the pro-Frankish faction in Rome. The situation was complicated by affairs in the Frankish kingdom, as its rulers Charlemagne and Carloman found themselves on the point of civil war and Charlemagne himself married the daughter of Desiderius. The death of Carloman ended one crisis, but his widow and children fled to Italy and the protection of Desiderius, whose daughter was repudiated by Charlemagne in 771-772.
   The situation only improved slightly for Hadrian with the death of Carloman; he still faced an aggressive Desiderius, who sought to expand Lombard control in Italy and see Carloman's sons elevated to the kingship. Hadrian sent emissaries to Desiderius noting the pope's willingness to negotiate matters with the Lombard king, but also demanding the return of several key cities that the king had recently conquered. Desiderius refused the pope's request and even threatened to invade Roman territory, but withdrew from the border when Hadrian threatened to excommunicate him. Desiderius's continued hostility to Rome led Hadrian to seek aid once and for all from the Frankish king. He petitioned Charlemagne, after first giving Desiderius one last chance, to fulfill the obligations his father, Pippin the Short, had undertaken toward Rome. The Carolingian king willingly invaded Italy at the pope's request in 773 and defeated his Lombard rival in 774, who was besieged in his capital of Pavia for six months before submitting.
   While the siege was proceeding, Charlemagne journeyed to Rome as a pilgrim to celebrate Easter and was welcomed by the pope, who sent an official delegation to meet the king some thirty miles from the city. Indeed, Hadrian accorded Charlemagne full honors as patrician, the title that had been bestowed on his father Pippin. The pope also welcomed the king on the steps of St. Peter's, and the two established a personal friendship that lasted until Hadrian's death in 795, despite the occasional tension caused by their competing claims to authority in Italy. Not only did the two forge a lasting friendship at that time, but they also renewed the political alliance the papacy had established under Charlemagne's father. The exact terms of the political discussions that took place between Charlemagne and Hadrian at their first meeting, however, remain vague and uncertain. According to the Liber Pontificalis, Charlemagne confirmed the donation of his father, the so-called Donatron of Pippin which granted the papacy extensive lands in Italy, in full and deposited it on the altar of St. Peter. But this is a later and uncertain tradition and may not signal Charlemagne's exact intentions in regard to Italy and papal territory at that time. At the very least, Charlemagne did end the Lombard threat, with the exception of occasional raids on Roman territory from the Lombard duchies of the south, and established himself as king of the Lombards after his final victory over Desiderius.
   Hadrian and Charlemagne remained close friends and important allies for the next two decades, and the pope provided further aid to the Carolingian ruler. In 780, Charlemagne made his second visit to Rome, where he was once again welcomed by Hadrian. On Easter, Charlemagne's son, Pippin (775/756-781), was baptized by the pope, who was also his baptismal sponsor. Hadrian, at Charlemagne's request, anointed the king's sons, Louis the Pious as king of Aquitaine and Pippin as king of Italy. Pippin established himself as king in Pavia, the old Lombard capital, and acted as his father's representative in Italy and did his will. Indeed, the establishment of Italy as part of the growing Carolingian Empire and the introduction of Carolingian authority in the peninsula remained a source of tension between Hadrian and Charlemagne. But the pope had little recourse, and his anointing strengthened the already powerful dynasty.
   Although Charlemagne and Hadrian found themselves at odds at times over political and religious issues, they did find common cause in their opposition to the Spanish heresy of Adoptionism, which maintained that Christ was the son of God by adoption. Hadrian was also an important contributor to Charlemagne's religious reforms and sent him a copy of church law that the king could apply to the Frankish church. On the other hand, they found themselves in dispute over the second Council of Nicaea in 787. The empress Irene had invited representatives of the pope to attend the council, which repudiated Iconoclasm and restored the Byzantine tradition of the veneration of icons (religious images). Charlemagne and his advisors, as a result of a faulty translation of the decisions of the council, attacked the council. Despite religious and political differences, Charlemagne and Hadrian remained on good terms, and the king was greatly saddened at Hadrian's death and, according to Einhard, wept as if he had lost a brother. When he died in 795, Hadrian had presided over an important period in the history of the papacy and in relations between the Carolingians and Rome. He was succeed by Pope Leo III, who further developed the alliance with the Carolingians.
   See also
 ♦ Einhard and Notker the Stammerer. Two Lives of Charlemagne. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1981.
 ♦ Christie, Neil. The Lombards: The Ancient Langobards. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.
 ♦ Davis, Raymond, trans. The Lives of the Eighth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis): The Ancient Biographies of Nine Popes from a.d. 715 to a.d. 817. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1992.
 ♦ Halphen, Louis. Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire. Trans. Giselle de Nie. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1977.
 ♦ Llewellyn, Peter. Rome in the Dark Ages. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.
 ♦ Noble, Thomas X. F. The Republic of St. Peter: The Birth of the Papal State, 680-825. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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