Nicholas Breakspear : England's only pope

Pope Adrian IV (also known as Hadrian IV) was born in Hertfordshire, as Nicholas Breakspear. He is the only Englishman to have been pope. He was head of the Catholic church and ruler of the Papal States from from 4 December 1154 to his death on 1 September 1159.

Little is known of his early life, but tradition has that he had family links with Bedmond and Abbots Langley. He attended St Alban’s Abbey School and did not forget this when he was pope, granting the abbey exceptional privileges.

Whilst still a young man he travelled to Arles in France, where he studied law. He then travelled to Avignon, where he became a canon. He was eventually appointed abbot, but his community complained that the discipline he imposed was too strong, so Pope Eugene III appointed him Bishop of Albano about 1149 and sent him as a papal legate on diplomatic missions to Spain, Norway and Sweden.

He returned to Rome in 1154, just as Pope Anastasius IV died, and he was consequently elected pope by the cardinals.
He was pope for nearly five years, and during that time had to deal with problems in his relations with the Holy Roman Emperor and conflict within Rome itself.

He died at Agnani, Italy on 1 September 1159, and was buried at St Peter’s in Rome on 4 September.

This page was added on 23/09/2022.

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