(17 May 884–17 Sept. 885)
Born in Rome, the son of one Benedict, he succeeded Marinus I in circumstances which remain obscure. Almost nothing is known of his short reign, but he seems to have been sympathetic to the policies of John VIII, for one of his few recorded acts was his blinding of a high official of the Lateran palace, George of the Aventine, one of John's sworn enemies whom Marinus had permitted to return from exile. The report of his having a noble lady, perhaps the widow of another dignitary who had been murdered at the accession of Marinus, whipped naked through the streets suggests the continuance of the bloody vendettas which prevailed at the time of John's assassination. Like John and Marinus, Hadrian adopted a conciliatory approach to the east, sending Patriarch Photius (878–86) the customary letter announcing his election. In summer 885Emperor Charles the Fat (881–8), who had no legitimate male heir and wished to secure the succession for his bastard son Bernard, summoned him to attend the imperial diet at Worms to settle the matter, and Hadrian set out from Rome, entrusting its protection and government during his absence to the imperial envoy, John, bishop of Pavia. This fact suggests that there was already an understanding that, in return for his help over the succession, the emperor would give him his full backing in his struggle with his internal enemies. Any such plans, however, were cut short by his death at S. Cesario sul Panaro, near Modena. Foul play has been suspected, and it is significant that his body was not brought back to Rome but was buried in the abbey of Nonantula. His cultus developed locally and was approved by the holy see on 2 June1891. Feast 8 July.
LP ii. 225JW i. 426 f.DBI i. 329 f. (O. Bertolini)BSS i. 271 f. (F. Carotta)DHGE i. 624 (A. Noyon)EThC 52–3 (K. Herbers)Levillain ii. 682–3 (F. Bougard)NCE i. 125 (A. J. Ennis)Mann iii. 360–66Seppelt ii. 332