Pope St. Adrian III or Hadrian III was the 109th pope and was born within the Roman Papal States (territories within the Italian Peninsula directly overseen by the pope). He was elected to his position five months after Pope Marinus I death. The most notable thing about Adrian’s papacy (time as pope) is that it was filled with mystery and violence as nothing is known about his life before becoming pope and that he had a tendency.
Life Before the Papacy
There really isn’t much that is known about Adrian’s life before his consecration as the bishop of Rome. We don’t know anything about his family or his early life; only that he was born in Rome. It is assumed that Adrian worked his way through the papal ranks and was apparently liked enough by the people that he was voted into the position of pope.
Adrian’s Tenure As Pope
It has been found that Adrian was responsible for having helped the Roman people during a famine and did his best to keep them from war which could explain his enormous popularity among the people. One thing about Adrian III is that he had an intense dislike for the corruption of the aristocracy and took great pains to rid the Roman system of said corruption.
He had Bishop Formosus – the leader of the aristocrats – arrested (along with the faction’s more violent members). Pope Adrian was also known to have a widow of the aristocracy paraded through the streets while whipped and had George of the Aventine, a priest and known murderer that was allowed back to Rome by Pope Marinus I, tried for his crimes, condemned and then blinded.
Adrian’s crusade against the aristocracy, needless to say, did not make him very popular among their group. It is thought that in 885 when emperor Charles III – also called Charles the Fat – announced a Diet of Worms (a gathering of the Holy Roman Empire, in this case, to have his illegitimate son, Bernard, recognized as his heir) that Adrian was assassinated.
He was on his way to Worms (which is in present-day Germany) to decide if Bernard should be named as Charles III’s successor. There are sources that say that Adrian was indeed going to award Charles’ illegitimate son the imperial position of future emperor but was killed on his way to the assembly. It should be noted that the aristocracy felt that the papacy was theirs by right and it is theorized that this combined with his actions against them is why he could have been killed. Of course, there is no concrete evidence of this, but with how mysterious the circumstances of his death are, there is nothing to truly suggest otherwise either.
Quick Facts About Adrian III
• It’s not sure when he was born, only that it was in the Roman Papal States
• His birth name is said to be Agapitus as told by Jean Mabilion, a French monk and scholar
• He died July, 8 885 and was buried in the Church of San Silvestro’s Nonantola Abbey
• It’s only known that he died on his way to the Diet of Worms in support of Charles III, he may or may not have been assassinated on his way there.
• His papacy may have begun on May 17, 884
• His papacy ended on July, 8 885
• His successor was Stephen V
Interesting Facts About Pope Adrian III
• Adrian is one of the popes that is known the least about in terms of his personal life before he was elected to his position, it has been theorized that this may be because the records about him are the “official” version and the true events of his life were edited by the Church due to embarrassment
• One proposed reason for there not being much information on Adrian is that during his time as pope there was, in reality, a female pope, Pope Joan (called Pope John) that had records erased by the Church
• Adrian is one of three popes with the same name and may have even been related to Pope Adrian I
• Pope Adrian managed to get quite a bit done in his time as bishop of Rome even though he was only pope for little over a year – around 16 months or so
• While it is unsure, Adrian may have been a Cardinal (elected leader and authority figure granted their position by the pope) before his papacy
• Adrian, despite his legacy of violence, was canonized as a saint; in fairness to the times, punishments like what he issued amongst the aristocracy were common back then and he did still do a lot to help the Roman people. That said, there is still no concise reason as to why he was made a saint.