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Pope Hadrian I

Pope Hadrian I 95th Roman Catholic Pontiff  (772-795)

95th Catholic Pontiff (772-795)

Pope Hadrian I, a Roman of noble family, was elected unanimously and became pope on February 9, 772.  Pope Hadrian I was the oldest elected pope at age 80 and established a reputation of austere piety

Pope Hadrian I faced political struggle in defense of the supremacy of the Church. When the antipapal king of the Lombards marched on Rome, Pope Hadrian I immediately mobilized his army and forbade Desiderius to enter, warning that should he invade Rome, it would be under pain of excommunication. The Lombards withdrew but remained a constant threat. Pope Hadrian I appealed to Charlemagne for assistance, and after three individual meetings (774, 781, and 787) the boundaries of the Papal States were fixed and remained until their dissolution in 1870.

Veneration of images separated Constantinople from Catholic unity.  The Seventh Ecumenical Council, held at Nicaea in 787 under the legates of Pope Hadrian I, reaffirmed Catholic belief in the proper veneration of images.  Empress Irene accepted the decrees returning Constantinople to Catholic unity.

Charlemagne convened the 794 Council of Frankfort to censure the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Pope Hadrian I gently reminded Charlemagne that it was to Saint Peter that Christ left the government of the Church and explained the true meaning of the decrees of Nicaea.

Pope Hadrian I was now able to take advantage of the peaceful conditions made possible by Charlemagne. He built and restored many churches, strengthened the embankments of the Tiber River, fortified the walls of the city and reconstructed four great aqueducts. His passion was care of the poor, promoting monasticism, and church-operated farms that generated income for charitable projects. Pope Hadrian I was a true father to his people making time to visit them personally.

Pope Hadrian I died on Christmas Day 795 and is buried in the portico crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica. Mourning the pope, Charlemagne had a magnificent marble slab inscribed with memorial verses.

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