Adrian of Canterbury
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 Adrian (or Hadrian) of Canterbury (died 710) was a famous scholar and the Abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

 of St Augustine's Abbey
St Augustine's Abbey
St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictine abbey in Canterbury, Kent, England.-Early history:In 597 Saint Augustine arrived in England, having been sent by Pope Gregory I, on what might nowadays be called a revival mission. The King of Kent at this time was Æthelberht, who happened to be married to a...

 in Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

 in the English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 county of Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...



According to Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

, he was a Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 native of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

-speaking North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, and abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

 of a monastery near Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, called Monasterium Niridanum (perhaps a mistake for Nisidanum, as being situated on the island of Nisida
Nisida is a volcanic islet of the Flegrean Islands archipelago, in southern Italy. It lies at a very short distance from Cape Posillipo, just north of Naples; it is now connected to the mainland by a stone bridge. The islet is almost circular, with a flooded crater forming the bay of Porto Paone on...

). He was offered the vacant archbishopric of Canterbury, by Pope Vitalian
Pope Vitalian
Pope Saint Vitalianus was Pope of the Catholic Church from July 30, 657, until January 27, 672.He was born in Segni, Lazio, the son of Anastasius.-Reign:...

 (twice), but modestly declined the appointment. He first recommended that it should be given to Andrew, a monk belonging to a neighbouring nunnery (monachum quemdam de vicino virginum monasterio), who also declined on the plea of advanced years. Then, when the offer was again made to Adrian, he introduced to the pontiff his friend Theodore of Tarsus
Theodore of Tarsus
Theodore was the eighth Archbishop of Canterbury, best known for his reform of the English Church and establishment of a school in Canterbury....

, who then chanced to be at Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, and who consented to undertake the charge. Vitalian, however, stipulated that Adrian should accompany the new archbishop to Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. He gave as his reasons that Adrian, having twice before made a journey into Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, knew the road and the mode of travelling.

The two set out from Rome on May 27, 668, and proceeding by sea to Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

, crossed the country to Arles
Arles is a city and commune in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, of which it is a subprefecture, in the former province of Provence....

, where they remained with John, the archbishop, till they got passports from Ebroin
Ebroin was the Frankish mayor of the palace of Neustria on two occasions; firstly from 658 to his deposition in 673 and secondly from 675 to his death in 680 or 681...

, who ruled that part of Gaul as Mayor of the Palace
Mayor of the Palace
Mayor of the Palace was an early medieval title and office, also called majordomo, from the Latin title maior domus , used most notably in the Frankish kingdoms in the 7th and 8th centuries....

, for the minor king Clotaire III
Clotaire III
Chlothar III was the eldest son of Clovis II, king of Neustria and Burgundy, and his queen Balthild...

. Having then made their way together to the north of France, they parted company, and went severally to reside for the winter, Theodore with Agelberctus, bishop of Paris, Adrian first with Emme
Emme may refer to:*Rivers in Switzerland:**Emme , flowing through Emmental, Canton of Berne**Kleine Emme, flowing through Entlebuch, Canton of Lucerne*Emme Emme Aronson, a plus-size model...

, bishop of Sens, and afterwards with Faro
Saint Faro
Saint Faro , count of Guines, was bishop of Meaux. The family to which Faro belonged is known as the Faronids and is named after him....

, bishop of Meaux. Theodore, being sent for in the following spring by King Ecgberht of Kent
Ecgberht of Kent
Ecgberht was a King of Kent who ruled from 664 to 673, succeeding his father Eorcenberht s:Ecclesiastical History of the English People/Book 4#1....

, was allowed to take his departure, and he reached England in the end of May, 669; but Adrian was detained by order of Ebroin, who is said to have suspected him of being an emissary of the Greek emperor sent to stir up troubles against the kingdom of the Franks. At length, however, the tyrant became convinced that there was no ground for this notion, and Adrian was permitted to proceed to England, where, immediately on his arrival, he was made abbot of the monastery of St. Peter (afterwards called St. Augustine
St. Augustine
-People:* Augustine of Hippo or Augustine of Hippo , father of the Latin church* Augustine of Canterbury , first Archbishop of Canterbury* Augustine Webster, an English Catholic martyr.-Places:*St. Augustine, Florida, United States...

's Abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

) at Canterbury, an appointment which was in conformity with instructions given by the pope to Theodore. Such is the account given in the Ecclesiastical History (iv. 1.). Adrian was known to be a man learned in the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, as well as Greek and Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, and an excellent administrator. Under his direction the abbey came to have substantial, far-reaching influence.

In another account, also attributed to Bede, in his Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth, it is stated that Adrian was not made abbot till after the resignation of Benedict Biscop
Benedict Biscop
Benedict Biscop , also known as Biscop Baducing, was an Anglo-Saxon abbot and founder of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Priory and was considered a saint after his death.-Early career:...

, who is made to have accompanied Theodore all the way from Rome, and to have been immediately on their arrival appointed to this place, which he appears to have held for about two years. The facts in the two relations are not perhaps absolutely irreconcilable; but they are strangely dissimilar in manner, and in the circumstances which they respectively notice, to have come from the same pen. Bede describes Adrian (or Hadrian, as he calls him in the Ecclesiastical History), as not only a distinguished theologian, but eminently accomplished in secular learning; he and Theodore, we are told, traversing all parts of the island, gathered multitudes of scholars around them wherever they appeared, and employed themselves daily with equal diligence and success in instructing those who flocked to them not only in the truths of religion but in the several branches of science and literature then cultivated. Bede particularly mentions the metrical art, astronomy, and arithmetic (which may be considered as representing what we should now call rhetoric and the belles lettres, physical science, and mathematics); and he adds, that while he wrote (in the early part of the eighth century), there still remained some of the pupils of Theodore and Adrian, who spoke the Greek and Latin languages as readily as their native tongue.

To the flourishing state of learning thus introduced into England, and for a short time maintained, King Alfred appears to allude in the preface to his translation of Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I , better known in English as Gregory the Great, was pope from 3 September 590 until his death...

's Liber Pastoralis Curae, in the latter part of the ninth century, where he says that it often came into his mind what wise men there were in the country, both laymen and ecclesiastics, in a former age; how the clergy in those happy times were diligent both to teach and to study, and how foreigners then came hither to acquire learning and wisdom; whereas now, in his own day, if any Englishman desired to make himself a scholar, he was obliged to go abroad for instruction. Adrian, long surviving his friend the archbishop, is said to have lived for thirty-nine years after he came to England, continuing till his death to preside over the monastery at Canterbury. (Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
The Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum is a work in Latin by Bede on the history of the Christian Churches in England, and of England generally; its main focus is on the conflict between Roman and Celtic Christianity.It is considered to be one of the most important original references on...

iv. 1, 2.; and Vita Abbatum Wiramuth., in Smith's Beda, p. 293.; W. Malmes. De Pontif. p. 340.) He died on January 9 which is now his feast day. He is buried in the church of the monastery.


  1. Long, George. The Biographical Dictionary of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1842-1844. 4 vols.
    • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.

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