Adrian, or Hadrian I, (d. December 25, 795) was pope from 772 to 795. He was the son of Theodore, a Roman nobleman.
Soon after his accession, the territory ruled by the popes was invaded by Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and Adrian found it necessary to invoke the aid of the Frankish king Charlemagne, who entered Italy with a large army, besieged Desiderius in his capital of Pavia, took that town, banished the Lombard king to Corbie in France and, in an innovative gesture, took the title 'King of the Lombards' himself. The pope, whose expectations had been aroused, had to content himself with some additions to the duchy of Rome, and to the Exarchate of Ravenna, and the Pentapolis in the Marches, which consisted of the "five cities" on Adriatic coast from Rimini to Ancona with the coastal plain as far as the mountains.
In his contest with the Eastern Roman Empire and the Lombard dukes of Benevento, Adrian remained faithful to the Frankish alliance, and the friendly relations between pope and king were not disturbed by the difference which arose between them on the question of the veneration of images, to which Charlemagne and the bishops in Francia were strongly opposed, while Adrian favoured the views of the Eastern Church, and approved the decree of the second council of Nicaea (787), confirming the practice and excommunicating the iconoclasts. It was in connection with this controversy that the Libri Carolini were written, to which Adrian replied by letter, anathematizing all who refused to venerate the images of Jesus Christ, or the Virgin Mary, or saints. Notwithstanding this, a synod, held at Frankfort in 794, anew condemned the practice, and the dispute remained unsettled at Adrian's death.
An epitaph written by Charlemagne in verse, in which he styles Adrian "father," is still to be seen at the door of the Vatican basilica. Adrian restored some of the ancient aqueducts of Rome.