Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The English Pope

Our offices in Merton Abbey Mills are on a site where a knight called Gilbert (who was granted the estate by Henry I in 1114) founded an Augustinian priory in 1117 at the point where the old Roman road crossed the River Wandle.

The stories of the Priory and the site are fascinating. One of the Abbey's many claims to fame is that it was the alma mater of Nicholas Brakespeare, who is known to history as Adrian IV, the only English man ever to become Pope.

Adrian's most controversial act was a bull that allowed Henry II of England to annex Ireland to his kingdom. "...[S]trive to imbue that people with good morals, and bring it to pass, as well through yourself as through those whom you know from their faith, doctrine, and course of life to be fit for such a work, that the church may there be adorned, the Christian religion planted and made to grow, and the things which pertain to the honor of God and to salvation be so ordered that you may merit to obtain an abundant and lasting reward from God, and on earth a name glorious throughout the ages," he wrote the king. ........ The pope based his authority on the Donation of Constantine, which was later shown to be a forgery. Although a few scholars deny that Adrian issued the troubling bull, the evidence is convincing that he did.

Strange how actions reverberate through history. The "Donation of Ireland" was around 1155 and 850 years later the dispute is still going strong.

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