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November 1154

YE OLDEN TIMES CORONATION OF ENGLISH POPE – ADRIAN IV

Following the death of ninety year old Pope Anastasius IV this month, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Empire unanimously voted the highly successful Bishop and Cardinal Nicholas Breakspear to the position of Pope, leader of the Catholic Church, born 1100 in Bedmond, Hertfordshire, England.

King Henry II of England, son of French King William I has sent his sincere best wishes to the new Pope and his family in Abbots Langley. The proud father is local man Richard de Camera, monk at our Benedictine Abbey of St. Albans. Nicholas studied at St. Albans School. The Archdeacon of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett who some say will be the future head of the Catholic church in England, has expressed his delight that such an honest and accomplished diplomat as Nicholas has achieved such heights. Nicholas left England in 1120 for France. He eventually became Abbot of the Augustinian Abbey of Saint-Ruf in Avignon. It was at St. Ruf where he adopted the Latin name Hastifragus or Breakspear. In 1149, Pope Eugenius III invited Nicholas to Rome where he became Bishop of Albano. This made him the second English Cardinal ever. From 1152 – 1154, with the Pope’s authority, he went to Scandinavia where for the first time the Norwegian church was allowed to organise themselves independently of Germany. Messages of congratulations have been sent from Frederick I of Germany, William of Sicily, Henry II of England and from all over the world. ___________________________________________________________


Modern Times – Local History Nicholas Breakspear was born in Bedmond in 1100 near Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire.

In Bedmond a plaque marks the place where he was born – this was to become Breakspear farm which still contained parts of the original building where Nicholas lived. It was a place for pilgrim visitors and had a Holy Well which was said to cure eye problems.

Breakspear Farm – demolished in the 1960s it was known to have hidden rooms for priests, used when Catholicism was outlawed by Henry VIII. It came to be about 96 acres in size.

Behind the Farm was a well – it came to be known as the Holy Well - and in the gardens of the present houses there are remnant water springs. Holy Well at Breakspear Farm, painted by N.Trent RA, 1906


Born into the parish of Abbots Langley the church of St. Lawrence the Martyr is where Nicholas Breakspear was baptised and received Holy Communion.

There is a commemorative plaque inside the church.

This bust is in the Catholic Church of St. Saviours Abbots Langley.


A number of roads are named after the Pope in Abbots Langley

Bedmond is 3 miles from Hemel Hempstead and the gateway to the town from the Motorway is Breakspear Park.

Saint Albans has special links with Nicholas Breakspear.


The Abbey as it stands today was being developed and completed around the time of his youth. His father had become a monk there. Nicholas Breakspear was to grant it enormous privileges which enabled it and the parishes around to prosper.

This is a statue of Nicholas Breakspear on the high altar in St. Albans Abbey.

On the floor nearby is a slab which marks where his father Robert of the Chamber is buried alongside other important Abbots and notable persons at the time.

There are informative displays about Nicholas Breakspear in the Abbey which reflect the important role Nicholas played in securing its position in England as one of the foremost Abbeys of its time. In St. Albans they built a Catholic School named after Nicholas Breakspear. The school has annual pilgrimages to Rome.


13 Miles from Bedmond we have Breakspear Crematorium.

Descendants of the family run Brakspear Brewery – currently in Oxfordshire. Ironically, Nicholas died drinking wine.

He is buried beneath St Peters Basilica in the Vatican City, Rome.


As Pope, Nicholas became known as Adrian IV or Hadrian (Italian). His tomb beneath St Peters Basilica is a sarcophagus of Egyptian granite, above it inscribed - HADRIANVS PAPA IIII .

Nicholas’ diplomatic work and kindness to Norway is remembered with gratitude by a plaque alongside his tomb placed by the Royal Norwegian Society of Science.


Hadrianus IIII, Aka: Adrian IV, Nicholas Breakspear, Nic, Supreme Pontif, Papa, Pontifex Maximus. William “the bad” of Siciliy (Norman Ruler of Sicily) wrote… What? Yeah right Nick … I’m the daddy !

Adrian wrote… William, you seem not so “bad” after all. For a minute I thought we were going to beat you. But … as you are the winner … I wonder if you’d like to become King? We might as well be friends. How about it … we can discuss terms … Benevento sound good to you? Frederick I Barbarossa (German King and Holy Roman Emperor) wrote… Don’t ever make me beg man … I’m telling you … you do that again … you crowned ME … now DON’T YOU EVER FORGET IT!!!!!! ME Emperor.. now don’t you forget it … Adrian wrote… Ah yes, was kind of you to turn up with all your friends (big army). However, I didn’t really crown you so much as “place the crown on your head”. And Redbeard - 2, 4, 6, 8, who should I excommunicate ! ha haha

Henry II (recently crowned King of England – French Norman ruler, relative of William the Conqueror, ambitious. Wants permission to invade Ireland) wrote… Errr, …to be sure …. what is Green, rainy, and mine all mine all mine !!! Ireland!

Adrain wrote… Yes Norman, sorry, I mean Henry, you have my papal permission to take Ireland (they will thank you for it) but don’t forget Peters Pence please … one penny per household every year ….

Thomas Becket (Archdeacon soon to be Archibishop of Canterbury) wrote… Hey, Henry has got big ambitions – he is talking about invading Spain also.

Christiane of Markyate (Supernun and Visionary) wrote… Did you get the sandals Nicky? St Mary told taught me how to put that nice stitching ..


His Story Nicholas was Pope for only 5 years but in that short amount of time lots happened. He was intelligent and spoke many languages and went to France to start life there as a monk. Eventually Nicholas became Abbot in Avignon where he achieved great things working for the Church in Spain. It was this that got him recognised by the Pope at the time (Eugene III) who made him Cardinal Bishop. Nicholas’ successes continued as he managed to create independent Catholic regions in Norway from Germany. On his return to Rome the Pope died and this was when Nicholas was voted in as his successor in 1154 and took the Pope name - Adrian IV. Adrian never forgot his roots. Whilst Pope, he promoted St Albans Abbey to become one of the leading monasteries in England. One of the gifts he received from the Abbey was a pair of well decorated special slippers made by Lady Christina of Markyate. The twelfth century was a busy time for Adrian. He was involved in English politics and gave permission to Henry II to take Ireland. The German King Frederick Barbarossa wanted Nicholas to crown him Holy Roman Emperor in Europe and it was also the time of Crusades. A famous monk called Arnold of Bresica disagreed with the Pope’s power over Rome and created a Republic. We should not underestimate the Pope’s power at the time. He could raise armies and crown kings. The coronation of Nicholas Breakspear would have been an amazing occasion. As the German king was marching to Rome to be crowned Emperor the King of Sicily, William I (“the bad”) invaded some of the Pope’s territory so Adrian banned him from the Church. This made William “the bad” go mad. The two fought in battle where Adrian lost and so had to except William into the Church. Adrian was in trouble, he was caught in-between the powers of the King of Germany, the King of Sicily, and the Republicans. In 1159 Adrian unexpectedly died, some say he choked on his wine. Although massively involved in politics and trouble in his short reign, Nicholas did the best he could to support Christian communities for peace wherever he could. Hertfordshire should be proud of the achievements of England’s only Pope – Nicholas Breakspear.


Chronology of Significant Events 1053 - East-West split in Catholic Church between Latin and Greek church. 1066 – The Norman Conquest of England. 1100 - Nicholas Breakspear born in Bedmond. 1130 - Joins order of Saint Ruf in France. 1145 - Promoted to Abbot of Saint Ruf monastery at Avignon. 1150 - Pope Eugene III makes Nicholas Bishop of Albano in Rome. 1152 – Mission to Scandinavia. 1154 - William I the Bad becomes King of Sicily 1154 - December 3rd - Elected Pope. 1155 - 18th June - Adrian crowns Frederick I Barbarossa Emperor of Holy Roman Empire in St Peters Basilica. 1155 - Grants control of Ireland to Henry II of England. 1156 - June - peace made with William of Sicily after defeat. 1157-59 - General falling out between Pope Adrian IV and Emperor Frederick. 1159 - September 1st Nicholas Breakspear, Pope Hadrian IIII dies. Emperor Frederick sends a representative to the funeral.

F. Ribeiro Brady/2013



Pope Adrian IV