Eugene III. was followed by Anastasius IV., whose rule lasted only sixteen months.
His successor was Nicolas Breakspear, the first and the only Englishman that has (thus far) worn the tiara. He was the son of a poor priest of St. Albans. He went to France in pursuit of bread and learning, became a monk, prior, and abbot of the convent of St. Rufus, between Arles and Avignon. He studied theology and canon law. Eugene III. made him cardinal-bishop of Albano, and sent him as legate to Norway and Sweden, where he organized the Church and brought it into closer contact with Rome.
He occupied the papal chair as Adrian IV., from 1154 to 1159, with great ability and energy. A beggar raised to the highest dignity in Christendom! The extremes of fortune met in this Englishman. Yet he felt happier in his poverty than in his power. He declared soon after his consecration that "the papal chair was full of thorns and the papal mantle full of holes and so heavy as to load down the strongest man." And after some experience in that high office, he said: "Is there a man in the world so miserable as a pope? I have found so much trouble in St. Peter’s chair that all the bitterness of my former life appears sweet in comparison."130
The Romans, under the lead of Arnold, requested him to resign all claim to temporal rule; but he refused, and after a bloody attack made by an Arnoldist upon one of the cardinals in the open street, he laid—for the first time in history—the interdict on the city. By this unbloody, yet awful and most effective, weapon, he enforced the submission of the people. He abolished the republican government, expelled Arnold and his adherents, and took possession of the Lateran.
At this time, Frederick I., called Barbarossa (Redbeard) by the Italians from the color of his beard, one of the bravest, strongest, and most despotic of German emperors,—the sleeper in Kyffhäuser,131— made, with a powerful army, his first expedition to Italy to receive the iron crown of royalty from the Lombards and the golden crown of empire from the pope (1154).
The pope demanded, as the first condition of his coronation, the surrender of Arnold. With this Barbarossa willingly complied and ordered the execution of the popular agitator. In his first interview with Adrian, he kissed the pope’s toe, but neglected the ceremony of holding the stirrup on descending from his palfrey. Adrian felt indignant and refused to give him the kiss of peace. When informed that this was an old custom, Barbarossa on the following day complied with it, but in an ambiguous way by holding the left stirrup instead of the right. He took forcible possession of Trastevere, and was solemnly invested, anointed, and crowned, according to the prescribed ritual, in St. Peter’s, amid the acclamations of the curia, the clergy, and the army (June 13, 1155). An insurrection of the Roman people was speedily suppressed, the emperor leading the charge into the rebel ranks. But on the next morning he retired with the pope to the Tiburtine hills. He was reluctantly compelled by the want of supplies and by rumors of rebellion in Lombardy to return with his army. The pope, shut out from Rome, without foreign or domestic ally, retired to Benevento, was besieged there by King William of Sicily (son and successor of Roger II.) and forced by desertion and famine to submit to the terms of the conqueror by investing him with the kingdom of Sicily, the duchy of Apulia, and the principality of Capua. This involved him in a controversy with the emperor, who regarded Apulia and Capua as parts of the empire. He protested against the divorce from his first, and the marriage to his second, wife, 1156.
To these occasions of offence Adrian added another which Frederick would not bear. It was evoked by the ill-treatment done by robbers to the archbishop of Lund on his way from Rome through Germany to his Scandinavian diocese.132 Adrian spoke of Frederick’s empire as a benefice, beneficium, a word which meant either a fief or a gift. In either case the implication was offensive to the Germans, and they chose to interpret it as a claim that the emperor held his empire as a fief of the apostolic see. Two legates, rent by Adrian, attempted to soften down the meaning of the imprudent expression.
The pope was too much of a hierarch and Frederick too much of an emperor to live in peace. In 1158 Frederick led his army across the Alps to reduce Milan and other refractory Lombard cities to submission. Having accomplished this, he assembled a diet on the plain of Roncaglia, near Piacenza, which is memorable for the decision rendered by Bologna jurists, that the emperor held his empire by independent divine right and not by the will of the pope. This was the most decisive triumph the empire had won since the opening of the conflict with Henry IV. But the decision of professors of law did not change the policy of the papacy.
Adrian again gave offence by denying the emperor’s right to levy a tax for military purposes, fodrum, on estates claimed by the papacy and demanded that he should recognize the papal claim of feudal rights over the Matilda grant, Sardinia, Corsica, Ferrara, and the duchy of Spoleto. Frederick proudly retorted that instead of owing fealty to the pope, the popes owed fealty to the emperor, inasmuch as it was by the gift of the emperor Constantine that Pope Sylvester secured possession of Rome. A war of letters followed. Adrian was intending to punish his imperial foe with excommunication when he was struck down by death at Anagni. He was buried in St. Peter’s in an antique sarcophagus of red granite which is still shown. So ended the career of a man who by his moral character and personal attractions had lifted himself up from the condition of a child of a poor cleric to the supreme dignity of Christendom, and ventured to face the proudest monarch as his superior and to call the imperial crown a papal beneficium.133
This English pope, who laid the city of Rome under the interdict, which no Italian or German pope had dared to do, presented Ireland to the crown of England, on the ground that all the islands of the Christian world belong to the pope by virtue of Constantine’s donation. The curious bull Laudabiliter, encouraging Henry II. to invade and subjugate the land and giving it to him and to his heirs for a possession, may not be genuine, but the authorization was certainly made by Adrian as John of Salisbury, writing about 1159, attests, and it was renewed by Alexander III. and carried out, 1171.134 The loyal sons of Ireland will hardly want to have a second trial of an English pope.