Pope Adrian's Bull

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XVII

It has been already shown that the possession of Ireland was coveted at an early period by the Norman rulers of Great Britain. When Henry II. ascended the throne in 1154, he probably intended to take the matter in hands at once. An Englishman, Adrian IV., filled the Papal chair. The English monarch would naturally find him favourable to his own country. John of Salisbury, then chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was commissioned to request the favour. No doubt he represented his master as very zealous for the interests of religion, and made it appear that his sole motive was the good, temporal and spiritual, of the barbarous Irish; at least this is plainly implied in Adrian's Bull.[6]

The Pope could have no motive except that which he expressed in the document itself. He had been led to believe that the state of Ireland was deplorable; he naturally hoped that a wise and good government would restore what was amiss. There is no doubt that there was much which required amendment, and no one was more conscious of this, or strove more earnestly to effect it, than the saintly prelate who governed the archiepiscopal see of Dublin. The Irish clergy had already made the most zealous efforts to remedy whatever needed correction; but it was an age of lawless violence, Reform was quite as much wanted both in England and in the Italian States; but Ireland had the additional disadvantage of having undergone three centuries of ruthless plunder and desecration of her churches and shrines, and the result told fearfully on that land which had once been the home of saints.


[6] Bull.—There can be no reasonable doubt of the authenticity of this document. Baronius published it from the Codex Vaticanus ; John XXII. has annexed it to his brief addresed to Edward II.; and John of Salisbury states distinctly, in his Metalogicus, that he obtained this Bull from Adrian. He grounds the right of donation on the supposed gift of the island by Constantine. As the question is one of interest and importance, we subjoin the original: "Ad preces meas illustri Regi Anglorum Henrico II. concessit (Adrianus) et dedit Hiberniam jure haereditario possidendam, sicut litera ipsius testantur in hodiernum diem. Nam omnes insulae de jure antiquo ex donatione Constantini, qui eam fundavit et dotavit, dicuntur ad Romanam Ecclesiam pertinere."—Metalogicus, i. 4.