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Pope Adrian I
|Papacy began||1 February 772|
|Papacy ended||25 December 795|
Rome, Exarchate of Ravenna, Roman Empire
25 December 795|
|Other Popes named Adrian|
Shortly after Adrian's accession 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, 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, 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.
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.
In his contest with the Eastern Roman Empire and the Lombard dukes of Benevento, Adrian remained faithful to the Frankish alliance, and the friendly relations between pope and king were not disturbed by the difference which arose between them on the question of the veneration of images, to which Charlemagne and the bishops in France were strongly opposed. Adrian favoured the views of the eastern bishops and approved the decree of the Second Council of Nicaea (787) confirming the practice and excommunicating the iconoclasts. It was in connection with this controversy that the Libri Carolini were written, to which Adrian replied by letter, anathematizing all who refused to venerate the images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or saints. Notwithstanding his reply, a synod held at Frankfurt in 794 condemned the practice anew, and the dispute remained unsettled at Adrian's death.
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 Hygberht the pallium in 788.
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. 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 papacy 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.
- Stanley Lane-Poole, Coins and medals: their place in history and art (British Museum) 1885:80.
- Walter Ullmann, A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Age 2003:79.
- J.B. Ward-Perkins, "Etruscan Towns, Roman Roads and Medieval Villages: The Historical Geography of Southern Etruria" The Geographical Journal 128.4 (December 1962:389–404) p. 402
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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