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 Main Index : History : Sketches of Church History : Part 2, Chapter XII
Chapter XI | Chapter Index | Chapter XIII

Part 2
CHAPTER XII: ADRIAN IV; ALEXANDER III; BECKET; THE THIRD CRUSADE; (AD 1153-1192)

      In the year of Bernard's death, Adrian IV was chosen pope; and he is especially to be noted by us because he was the only Englishman who ever held the papacy. His name at first was Nicolas Breakspeare; and he was born near St. Albans, where, in his youth, he asked to be received into the famous abbey as a monk. But the monks of St. Albans refused him; and he then went to seek his fortune abroad, where he rose step by step, until at length the poor Hertfordshire lad, who would have had no chance of any great place in his own country (for he was of Saxon family, and the Normans, after the Conquest, kept all the good places for themselves), was chosen to be the head of Christendom (AD. 1154).

      Adrian had a high notion of the greatness and dignity of his office. When the emperor Frederick I (who is called Barbarossa, or Redbeard) went from Germany into Italy, and was visited in his camp by the pope, Adrian required that the emperor should hold his stirrup as he mounted his horse, and said that such had been the custom from the time of the great Constantine. Frederick had never heard of such a thing before, and was not willing to submit; but on inquiry he found that a late emperor, Lothair III, had held a pope's stirrup, and then he agreed to do the like. But he took care to do it so awkwardly that every one who saw it began to laugh; and thus he made his submission appear like a joke.

      Frederick Redbeard carried on a long struggle with the popes. When, at Adrian's death, two rival popes had been chosen (AD 1159), the emperor required them to let him judge between their claims; and, as one of them, Alexander III, refused to admit any earthly judge, Frederick took part with the other, who called himself Victor IV. And when Victor was dead, Frederick set up three more antipopes, one after another, to oppose Alexander.

      But Alexander had the kings of France and England on his side, and at last he not only got himself firmly settled, but brought Frederick to entreat for peace with him, and with some cities of North Italy, which had formed themselves into what was called the Lombard League (AD 1177). But we must not believe a story that, when this treaty was concluded in the great church of St. Mark at Venice, the pope put his foot on the emperor's neck, and the choir chanted the words of the 91st Psalm, "Thou shalt go upon the lion and the adder:" for this story was not made up until long after, and has no truth at all in it.

      It was in Alexander III's time that the great quarrel between Henry II of England and Archbishop Thomas Becket took place. Becket had been raised by the king's favour to be his chancellor and afterwards to be archbishop of Canterbury and head of all the English clergy (AD 1162). But, although until then he had done everything just as the king wished, no sooner had he become archbishop than he turned round on Henry. He claimed that any clergyman who might be guilty of crimes should not be tried by the king's judges, but only in the Church's courts. He was willing to allow that, if a clergyman were found guilty of a great crime in these courts, he might be degraded-that is to say, that he should be turned out of the ranks of the clergy-and that, when he had thus become like other men, he might be tried like any other man for any fresh offences which he might commit. But for the first crime Becket would allow no other punishment than degradation at the utmost. The king said that in such matters clergy and laity ought to be alike; and about this chiefly the two quarrelled, although there were also other matters which helped to stir up the strife.

      In order to get out of the king's way, the archbishop secretly left England (AD 1164), and for six years he lived in France, where King Lewis treated him with much kindness, partly because this seemed a good way to annoy the king of England. But at length peace was made, and Becket had returned to England, when some new acts of his provoked the king to utter some hasty words against him; whereupon four knights, who thought to do Henry a service, took occasion to try to seize the archbishop, and, as he refused to go with them, murdered him in his own cathedral (AD 1170). But as you must have read the story of Becket in the history of England, I need not spend much time in repeating it.

      In 1185, when Urban III was pope, tidings reached Europe that Jerusalem had been taken by the great Mussulman hero and conqueror, Saladin; and at once all Western Christendom was stirred up to make a grand attempt for the recovery of the Holy City. The lion-hearted Richard of England, Philip Augustus of France, and the emperor Frederick Redbeard, who had lately made his peace with the pope, were all to take part, but very little came of it. Frederick, after having successfully made his way by Constantinople into Asia Minor, was drowned in the river Cydnus, in Cilicia. Richard, Philip, and other leaders, after reaching the Holy Land quarrelled among themselves; and the Crusaders, after a vast sacrifice of life, returned home without having effected the deliverance of Jerusalem. You will remember how Richard, in taking his way through Austria, fell into the hands of the emperor Henry VI, the son of Frederick Redbeard, and was imprisoned in Germany until his subjects were able to raise the large sum which was demanded for his ransom.

Chapter XI | Chapter Index | Chapter XIII




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