An Englishman in Rome

Three living Archbishops of Canterbury and two living Popes. We live in different times. This year has seen changes at the head of both the Anglican and Catholic communions generating more than usual optimism: even euphoria as all within both churches look to the future. Catholics in particular have seen dramatic unexpected changes that are akin to a ‘spring-clean’ in the approach that Pope Francis has brought to the Papal role. As a non Catholic I found it uplifting to see His Holiness embracing the mood in St. Peters Square, meeting believers without the use of a bullet proof ‘Pope-mobile’ and giving an unprecedented thumbs up to the world’s media. He is the first non European Pontiff since the year 741, one fact that fired my imagination in the account of the Pope as a magnificent and controversial role in world history. One of my favourite European cities is Avignon in southern France which seems to have been built around the medieval and gothic Palais des Papes – the Papal residence of Western Christianity during the 14th century. There is another fact that was never included in any religious studies lesson at school. Including St. Peter, there have been a total of 266 Popes, one of whom was English. PopeAdrianIVCameoPope Adrian IV was born Nicholas Breakspear (or Breakspeare) around 1100 in Abbots Langley, being educated at the Abbey school in St. Albans. Indeed, if one were to visit the city, his name unsurprisingly appears everywhere. His Papacy ran from 4th December 1154 until 1st September 1159. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover. So far there is not one single person that I know that was aware of this Englishman that ruled a body of people greater in power than that of any King or Queen. He likely died as a result of a throat abscess – or quinsy, though folklore suggests that he choked to death after swallowing a fly that had found itself in his glass of wine.

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