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Breakspear: the unknown English pope
17/11/2022 at 17:30 – 19:00
Speaker: Adrian Waddingham
Nicholas Breakspear has been overlooked for centuries, even though his achievements outshone those of his contemporary, Thomas Becket. Born in poverty and probably illegitimate, Breakspear rose to become the only Englishman to ascend the throne of Saint Peter, ruling over the papal states as Adrian IV. His life is not a tale of liturgy or sermons, and there are more cannons than canons, as Breakspear faced fighting in Scandinavia and the Second Crusade in Spain. He was immediately thrust into conflicts upon his election as pope in 1154. First, he had to overcome the rebellious republicans of Rome before defending his Church against armed threats from the Norman King William of Sicily, the Byzantine Emperor Comnenus and finally the German King Frederick Barbarossa, intent on restoring the former glories of the Holy Roman Empire. Breakspear saved his Church from German domination, but his legacy is contested. There was a papal schism on his death, while many blame him for allowing Henry II’s subjugation of Ireland in 1171. For the first time in over 100 years, R. A. J. Waddingham returns to the evidence in chronicles and medieval manuscripts to tell the whole story of Breakspear’s remarkable journey through twelfth-century Europe.
This event takes place in the Bancroft Room, Lambeth Palace Library (new building, entrance on Lambeth Palace Road). Please arrive 10 minutes before the advertised start time to allow time to take the lift to the top.