Adrian I of Rome

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Pope Adrian I of Rome, also Hadrian, was the Pope of the Church of Rome from 772 to 795. Backed by Charlemagne, Pope Adrian ended the threat by the Lombards to the Papal States and signified papal independence from the Eastern Empire by dating his documents by the reign of Charles, king of the Franks instead of by that of the Emperor in the east. His pontificate of over twenty three years was the longest until that of Pope Pius VI in the late eighteenth century.


The date of Adrian's birth is unknown, but is believed to be about the year 700. He was the son of Theodore, a Roman nobleman, but little else is known of his youth. He served under Popes Paul I and Stephen IV. He ascended to the papal cathedra on February 1, 772 with the support of the Frankish party in Rome. Adrian's policies thereafter were determined generally by the Frankish alliance rather than by his relations with emperors of Constantinople.

Shortly after having become the Pope of Rome, the Byzantine territories of the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Duchy of Rome were invaded by the king of the Lombards, Desiderius. Answering Adrian's call for help, Charlemagne attacked the Lombard capital, Pavia. After taking Pavia, Charlemagne defeated Desiderius and took the title of King of the Lombards himself. Under the protection of the Frankish king, Adrian was able to add to the Duchy of Rome the territories and cities along the Adriatic Sea that came under his temporal control as the Papal States. With these successes, Pope Adrian celebrated by striking the earliest papal coin.

An iconodule, Pope Adrian faithfully upheld the veneration of images in the face of the position of Charlemagne and the bishops of France and yet still remained faithful to his alliance with Charlemagne and the Franks. Favoring the position of the eastern bishops, he approved the decree of the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicea held in 787 defending the veneration of images. To Charlemagne's objections set forth in his Libri Carolini, Adrian replied with a dignified and wordy letter (grandis et verbosa epistola).[1] Pope Adrian also vigorously opposed the heresy of Spanish Adoptionism, which proclaimed a doctrine of the dual sonship of Christ which was one of the few Christological errors that began in the West.

Pope Adrian reposed on December 25, 795 at the age of ninety five. He was buried in St. Peter's Basilica.


  1. Gibbon, Edward. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol. 5. Kessinger Publishing. 2004. ISBN 1-4191-2419-6. p 37.
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Adrian I of Rome
Preceded by:
Stephen IV
Pope of Rome
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