Today is the feast day of Saint Adrian of Canterbury. Ora pro nobis.
Adrian was born in Africa. 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.
Pope Vitalian intended to appoint him Archbishop of Canterbury to succeed St. Deusdedit, who had died in 664, but Adrian considered himself unworthy of so great a dignity, and begged the Pope to appoint Theodore, a Greek monk, in his place. The Pope yielded, on condition that Adrian should accompany Theodore to England and be his adviser in the administration of the Diocese of Canterbury. They left Rome in 668, but Adrian was detained in France by Ebroin, the Mayor of the Palace who suspected that he had a secret mission from the Eastern Emperor, Constans II, to the English kings.
After two years Ebroin found that his suspicion had been groundless and allowed Adrian to proceed to England. Immediately upon his arrival in England, Archbishop Theodore appointed him Abbot of St. Peter in Canterbury, a monastery which had been founded by St. Augustine, the apostle of England, and became afterwards known as St. Austin’s.
An excellent administrator as well as a Greek and Latin scholar, Adrian insured that the monastery grew into a centre of theological learning drawing students from all over England and even Ireland. Adrian helped his archbishop in the pastoral governance of the English Church. Bede says of this time: “Never had there been such happy times as these since the English settled in Britain.”
Adrian worked at Canterbury for nearly forty years, far outliving Theodore. He was buried in the church of the monastery. His body was still incorrupt when renovations made the translation of Canterbury saints necessary. Many of the miracles for which his tomb became famous were in favour of boys who studied in the monastery and were in trouble with their masters.
Image: Saint Adrian of Canterbury icon. (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff