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St. Adrian
of Canterbury
(AD 635-710)
Abbot of Nisida, Naples, Italy
Abbot of St. Augustine's, Canterbury
Born: circa AD 635 probably in Libya Cyrenaica, North Africa
Died: 9th January AD 710 at Canterbury, Kent


Adrian, or perhaps more properly, Hadrian, was born in the Greek speaking regions of North African in the mid AD 630s. At about the age of ten, his family fled the Arab invasions of their homeland and settled in Naples, then an dual Greek & Latin speaking outpost of the Byzantine Empire. The area boasted many distinguished monastery and, as a youth, Adrian, not surprisingly, decided to become a monk.

He eventually rose to become the Abbot of Hiridanum (the Isle of Nisida), in the Bay of Naples and, it was while holding this post, that he is thought to have become acquainted with the Emperor Constans II. In AD 663, the Emperor spent the best part of a year in Naples while his troops tried to recover the Imperial lands of Southern Italy taken by the Lombards. Surely he would have become friends with many of the leading churchmen in the city? Adrian certainly served his Imperial Majesty twice in an ambassadorial role during subsequent years. It also seems highly probable that it was Constans who introduced Adrian to Pope Vitalian whilst visiting to Rome from his temporary Neapolitan abode.

Adrian quickly became an esteemed advisor to the Pontiff and, three years later, he was offered the Archbishopric of Canterbury. He politely declined the Papal invitation in favour of Theodore of Tarsus, but was persuaded to accompany the latter to England as a trusted counsellor.

The two travelled separately. During Adrianís journey across Europe,he was detained for some time by Ebroin, the Mayor of the Palace of Neaustria (in modern France). King Theodoric III of the Franks suspected that he might again be acting as an Imperial ambassador and thus forced him to spent the winter of AD 668 in Meaux; after which, his departure was finally agreed.

Upon his arrival in Britain, Adrian immediately succeeded Benedict Biscop in his temporary appointment as Abbot of St. Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury. The former soon established a flourishing monastic school there, where many future bishops and abbots were educated in Latin, Greek, scripture, theology, Roman law and arithmetic. It was said to have outshone the best educational facilities of Western Europe.

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