Saint Boniface, Bishop, Martyr

Mark 12:35-37

‘David himself calls him Lord’

At that time while teaching in the Temple, Jesus said, ‘How can the scribes maintain that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, moved by the Holy Spirit, said:

The Lord said to my Lord:

Sit at my right hand

and I will put your enemies

under your feet.

David himself calls him Lord, in what way then can he be his son?’ And the great majority of the people heard this with delight.


2 Timothy 3:10-17

Anyone who tries to live in devotion to Christ will be attacked

You know what I have taught, how I have lived, what I have aimed at; you know my faith, my patience and my love; my constancy and the persecutions and hardships that came to me in places like Antioch, Iconium and Lystra – all the persecutions I have endured; and the Lord has rescued me from every one of them. You are well aware, then, that anybody who tries to live in devotion to Christ is certain to be attacked; while these wicked impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and deceived themselves.

You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true; remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the holy scriptures – from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy. This is how the man who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work.


Psalm 118(119):157,160-161,165-166,168

The lovers of your law have great peace.

Though my foes and oppressors are countless

I have not swerved from your will.

Your word is founded on truth,

your decrees are eternal.

The lovers of your law have great peace.

Though princes oppress me without cause

I stand in awe of your word.

The lovers of your law have great peace;

they never stumble.

The lovers of your law have great peace.

I await your saving help, O Lord,

I fulfil your commands.

I obey your precepts and your will;

all that I do is before you.

The lovers of your law have great peace.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

“I Believe In One God”

200 These are the words with which the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed begins. The confession of God’s oneness, which has its roots in the divine revelation of the Old Covenant, is inseparable from the profession of God’s existence and is equally fundamental. God is unique; there is only one God: “The Christian faith confesses that God is one in nature, substance and essence.”

201 To Israel, his chosen, God revealed himself as the only One: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Through the prophets, God calls Israel and all nations to turn to him, the one and only God: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.. . To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. ‘Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength.'”

202 Jesus himself affirms that God is “the one Lord” whom you must love “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. At the same time Jesus gives us to understand that he himself is “the Lord”. To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. This is not contrary to belief in the One God. Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as “Lord and giver of life” introduce any division into the One God:

We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.


Saint Boniface (Latin: Bonifatius; c. 675 – 5 June 754 AD), born Winfrid, Wynfrith, or Wynfryth in the kingdom of Wessex in Anglo-Saxon England, was a leading figure in the Anglo-Saxon mission to the Germanic parts of the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He established the first organized Christianity in many parts of Germania. He is the patron saint of Germania, the first archbishop of Mainz and the “Apostle of the Germans”. He was killed in Frisia in 754, along with 52 others. His remains were returned to Fulda, where they rest in a sarcophagus which became a site of pilgrimage. Facts about Boniface’s life and death as well as his work became widely known, since there is a wealth of material available—a number of vitae, especially the near-contemporary Vita Bonifatii auctore Willibaldi, and legal documents, possibly some sermons, and above all his correspondence.

Early life and first mission to Frisia

The earliest Bonifacian vita, Willibald’s, does not mention his place of birth but says that at an early age he attended a monastery ruled by Abbot Wulfhard in escancastre, or Examchester, which seems to denote Exeter, and may have been one of many monasteriola built by local landowners and churchmen; nothing else is known of it outside the Bonifacian vitae. This monastery is believed to have occupied the site of the Church of St Mary Major in the City of Exeter, demolished in 1971, next to which was later built Exeter Cathedral. Later tradition places his birth at Crediton, but the earliest mention of Crediton in connection to Boniface is from the early fourteenth century, in John Grandisson’s Legenda Sanctorum: The Proper Lessons for Saints’ Days according to the use of Exeter. In one of his letters Boniface mentions he was “born and reared…[in] the synod of London”, but he may have been speaking metaphorically.

According to the vitae, Winfrid was of a respected and prosperous family. Against his father’s wishes he devoted himself at an early age to the monastic life. He received further theological training in the Benedictine monastery and minster of Nhutscelle (Nursling), not far from Winchester, which under the direction of abbot Winbert had grown into an industrious centre of learning in the tradition of Aldhelm. Winfrid taught in the abbey school and at the age of 30 became a priest; in this time, he wrote a Latin grammar, the Ars Grammatica, besides a treatise on verse and some Aldhelm-inspired riddles. While little is known about Nursling outside of Boniface’s vitae, it seems clear that the library there was significant. In order to supply Boniface with the materials he needed, it would have contained works by Donatus, Priscian, Isidore, and many others. Around 716, when his abbot Wynberth of Nursling died, he was invited (or expected) to assume his position—it is possible that they were related, and the practice of hereditary right among the early Anglo-Saxons would affirm this. Winfrid, however, declined the position and in 716 set out on a missionary expedition to Frisia.

Early missionary work in Frisia and Germania

Boniface first left for the continent in 716. He traveled to Utrecht, where Willibrord, the “Apostle of the Frisians,” had been working since the 690s. He spent a year with Willibrord, preaching in the countryside, but their efforts were frustrated by the war then being carried on between Charles Martel and Radbod, King of the Frisians. Willibrord fled to the abbey he had founded in Echternach (in modern-day Luxembourg) while Boniface returned to Nursling.

Boniface returned to the continent the next year and went straight to Rome, where Pope Gregory II renamed him “Boniface”, after the (legendary) fourth-century martyr Boniface of Tarsus, and appointed him missionary bishop for Germania—he became a bishop without a diocese for an area that lacked any church organization. He would never return to England, though he remained in correspondence with his countrymen and kinfolk throughout his life.

According to the vitae Boniface felled the Donar Oak, Latinized by Willibald as “Jupiter’s oak,” near the present-day town of Fritzlar in northern Hesse. According to his early biographer Willibald, Boniface started to chop the oak down, when suddenly a great wind, as if by miracle, blew the ancient oak over. When the god did not strike him down, the people were amazed and converted to Christianity. He built a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter from its wood at the site—the chapel was the beginning of the monastery in Fritzlar. This account from the vita is stylized to portray Boniface as a singular character who alone acts to root out paganism. Lutz von Padberg and others point out that what the vitae leave out is that the action was most likely well-prepared and widely publicized in advance for maximum effect, and that Boniface had little reason to fear for his personal safety since the Frankish fortified settlement of Büraburg was nearby. According to Willibald, Boniface later had a church with an attached monastery built in Fritzlar, on the site of the previously built chapel, according to tradition.

Boniface and the Carolingians

The support of the Frankish mayors of the palace (maior domos), and later the early Pippinid and Carolingian rulers, was essential for Boniface’s work. Boniface had been under the protection of Charles Martel from 723 on. The Christian Frankish leaders desired to defeat their rival power, the non-Christian Saxons, and to incorporate the Saxon lands into their own growing empire. Boniface’s campaign of destruction of indigenous Germanic pagan sites may have benefited the Franks in their campaign against the Saxons.

In 732, Boniface traveled again to Rome to report, and Pope Gregory III conferred upon him the pallium as archbishop with jurisdiction over Germany. Boniface again set out for what is now Germany, continued his mission, and used his authority to resolve the problems of many other Christians who had fallen out of contact with the regular hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. During his third visit to Rome in 737–38, he was made papal legate for Germany.

After Boniface’s third trip to Rome, Charles Martel erected four dioceses in Bavaria (Salzburg, Regensburg, Freising, and Passau) and gave them to Boniface as archbishop and metropolitan over all Germany east of the Rhine. In 745, he was granted Mainz as metropolitan see. In 742, one of his disciples, Sturm (also known as Sturmi, or Sturmius), founded the abbey of Fulda not far from Boniface’s earlier missionary outpost at Fritzlar. Although Sturm was the founding abbot of Fulda, Boniface was very involved in the foundation. The initial grant for the abbey was signed by Carloman, the son of Charles Martel, and a supporter of Boniface’s reform efforts in the Frankish church. The saint himself explained to his old friend, Daniel of Winchester, that without the protection of Charles Martel he could “neither administer his church, defend his clergy, nor prevent idolatry.”

According to German historian Gunther Wolf, the high point of Boniface’s career was the Concilium Germanicum, organized by Carloman in an unknown location in April 743. Although Boniface was not able to safeguard the church from property seizures by the local nobility, he did achieve one goal, the adoption of stricter guidelines for the Frankish clergy, which often hailed directly from the nobility. After Carloman’s resignation in 747 he maintained a sometimes turbulent relationship with the king of the Franks, Pepin; the claim that he would have crowned Pepin at Soissons in 751 is now generally discredited.

Boniface balanced this support and attempted to maintain some independence, however, by attaining the support of the papacy and of the Agilolfing rulers of Bavaria. In Frankish, Hessian, and Thuringian territory, he established the dioceses of Würzburg, and Erfurt. By appointing his own followers as bishops, he was able to retain some independence from the Carolingians, who most likely were content to give him leeway as long as Christianity was imposed on the Saxons and other Germanic tribes.

Last mission to Frisia

According to the vitae, Boniface had never relinquished his hope of converting the Frisians, and in 754 he set out with a retinue for Frisia. He baptized a great number and summoned a general meeting for confirmation at a place not far from Dokkum, between Franeker and Groningen. Instead of his converts, however, a group of armed robbers appeared who slew the aged archbishop. The vitae mention that Boniface persuaded his (armed) comrades to lay down their arms: “Cease fighting. Lay down your arms, for we are told in Scripture not to render evil for good but to overcome evil by good.”

Having killed Boniface and his company, the Frisian bandits ransacked their possessions but found that the company’s luggage did not contain the riches they had hoped for: “they broke open the chests containing the books and found, to their dismay, that they held manuscripts instead of gold vessels, pages of sacred texts instead of silver plates.”[25] They attempted to destroy these books, the earliest vita already says, and this account underlies the status of the Ragyndrudis Codex, now held as a Bonifacian relic in Fulda, and supposedly one of three books found on the field by the Christians who inspected it afterward. Of those three books, the Ragyndrudis Codex shows incisions that could have been made by sword or axe; its story appears confirmed in the Utrecht hagiography, the Vita altera, which reports that an eye-witness saw that the saint at the moment of death held up a gospel as spiritual protection. The story was later repeated by Otloh’s vita; at that time, the Ragyndrudis Codex seems to have been firmly connected to the martyrdom.

Boniface’s remains were moved from the Frisian countryside to Utrecht, and then to Mainz, where sources contradict each other regarding the behavior of Lullus, Boniface’s successor as archbishop of Mainz. According to Willibald’s vita Lullus allowed the body to be moved to Fulda, while the (later) Vita Sturmi, a hagiography of Sturm by Eigil of Fulda, Lullus attempted to block the move and keep the body in Mainz.

His remains were eventually buried in the abbey church of Fulda after resting for some time in Utrecht, and they are entombed within a shrine beneath the high altar of Fulda Cathedral, previously the abbey church.

Source: Wikipedia