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The following spring, leaving his army to prosecute the siege of Pavia, he proceeded with a strong detachment to Rome, in order to celebrate the festival of Easter at the tomb of the Apostles.Arriving on Holy Saturday, he was received by Adrian and the Romans with the utmost solemnity.

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He released from prison or recalled from exile the numerous victims of the chamberlain's violence ; and, upon discovering that Afiarta had caused Sergius, a high official of the papal court, to be assassinated in prison, ordered his arrest in Rimini, just as Afiarta was returning from an embassy to Desiderius with the avowed intention of bringing the Pope to the Lombard court, "were it even in chains." The time seemed propitious for subjecting all Italy to the Lombard rule; and with less able antagonists than Adrian and Charles (to be famous in later ages as Charlemagne ), most probably the ambition of Desiderius would have been gratified.He was a Roman of noble extraction and majestic stature.By a life of singular piety, by accomplishments deemed extraordinary in that iron age, and by valuable services rendered during the pontificate of Paul I and Stephen III, he had so gained the esteem of his unruly countrymen that the powerful chamberlain, Paul Afiarta, who represented in Rome the interests of Desiderius, the Lombard king, was powerless to resist the unanimous voice of the clergy and people demanding for Adrian the papal chair.There seemed little prospect of Frankish intervention.The Lombards held the passes of the Alps, and Charles was engrossed by the difficulties of the Saxon war ; moreover, the presence in Pavia of Gerberga and her two sons, the widow and orphans of Carloman, whose territories, on his brother's death, Charles had annexed, seemed to offer an excellent opportunity of stirring up discord among the Franks, if only the Pope could be persuaded, or coerced, to anoint the children as heirs to their father's throne.

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