Saint Boniface









Known as the Apostle to the Germans, Saint Boniface was the archbishop of Mainz and a leading figure in the mission to the Germanic parts of the Frankish Empire.












Saint Boniface was born around the year 675 in Crediton, Devon, though not much is known of his childhood. According to the Vitae he was part of a wealthy family and he went against his father's wishes by choosing a religious monastic life. He entered the Benedictine monastery not far from Winchester and was ordained a priest at the age of 30. He left for continental Europe in 716, first to Utrecht where he met and preached alongside Saint Willibrord (known as the Apostle to the Frisians).


The two priests preached throughout the country side, often times to large crowds but were frustrated by the war occurring between Charles Martel and the King of the Frisians, Radbod. When the war became too intense, Saint Boniface returned to his monastery. The following year, 717, Saint Boniface travelled to Rome and met with Pope Gregory II. Pope Gregory gave him a new name (His birth name was Winfrid) - Boniface after the martyr Saint Boniface of Tarsus. Pope Gregory also gave him a mission - he was appointed the missionary Bishop for Germania, a large area with no formal church organization.


According to the vitae, Saint Boniface felled a local pagan worshipped tree, known as Jupiter's Oak near the town of Fritzlar. Saint Boniface began to chop the tree down, but after only a few swings a massive and miraculous wind swept through the town and brought down the entire tree. The local's waited for their pagan god to strike him down and when no such event occurred they converted to Christianity on the spot. The wood from the tree was used to build a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter that would later form the first portion of the monastery there.





In 732, Saint Boniface returned to Rome and was given a pallium as archbishop from Pope Gregory III. After returning to German lands he continued his missionary efforts and used his new authority to help repair relations between the Vatican and the Frankish church. A third visit to Rome in 737 made him the Papal Legate for Germany. Once returned to German lands, Charles Martel established four diocese in Bavaria and gave them to Saint Boniface as archbishop and metropolitan over all Germany East of the Rhine. A synod, the first ever major synod for the eastern Frankish kingdoms, was called in April of 742 and presided over by Saint Boniface. Called the Concilium Germanicum, several key decisions were made:


  • Archbishops and Bishops were to be appointed to replace the members of nobility that had been given dioceses under Charles Martel

  • Bishops were required to visit their parishes

  • Clergy were required to report before the bishop annually to give report of their activities

  • Bishops were required to consecrate Chrism oil on Maundy Thursday

  • Clergy were no longer allowed to hunt and could not wear weapons

  • The Rule of Saint Benedict was now mandatory for all monasteries


In 754, Saint Boniface gathered a group of fellow missionaries and companions together and set out for Frisia, hoping to continue in his mission in converting the Frisians. He converted and baptized a large crowd and summoned them for confirmation near the town of Dokkum. When Saint Boniface arrived he did not find the confirmadi - he instead was met by a large group of armed robbers. When Saint Boniface's companions drew swords, Saint Boniface said to them :


Cease fighting. Lay down your arms, for we are told in Scripture not to render evil for evil but to overcome evil by good.




The thieves slew Saint Boniface and began to rummage through the baggage hoping to find gold and silver. They found no treasures instead finding many Holy Books including the Ragyndrudis Codex. His remains were eventually buried in the abbey churchof Fulda and are entombed underneath the high altar of Fulda Cathedral. Veneration of Saint Boniface started almost immediately and his grave and relics became the center of the abbey. Fulda monks prayed for newly elected abbots at the grave site and all monks remembered Saint Boniface in prayer every Monday. Today his feast day is celebrated on June 5th in both the Roman Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Church.


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