1902 Encyclopedia > St Boniface

St Boniface
English missionary in Germany
(c. 675 - 754)

ST BONIFACE, the Apostle of Germany, whose real name was Winfrid, was born at Crediton in Devonshire, in 680. He was of good family, and it was somewhat against his father's wishes that he devoted himself at an early age to the monastic life. He received his theological train-ing in the convents of Exeter and Nutcell, and at the age of thirty became a priest. In 715 he set out on a missionary expedition to Friesland, but his efforts were frustrated by the war then being carried on between Charles Martel and Badbod, king of the Frisians. Despite the wishes of his brethren, who desired to make him their abbot, he again set out in 718, visited Rome, and was commissioned by Gregory II. to preach to the pagans of Germany. For five years he laboured in Thuringia, Hessia, and Friesland, and then returned to Rome to report his success. He again set out for Germany, and, armed with full powers from the Pope, baptized thousands of the heathen, and brought back to the Church of Rome many Christians who had in a measure separated themselves from the fold. After another visit to Rome in 738 he proceeded to Bavaria, and founded there the bishoprics of Salzburg, Begensburg (Batisbon), Freisingen, and Passau. He then resumed his labours in Germany, where he erected the districts of Wiirzburg, Erfurt, and Burburg into bishoprics. He also organized provincial synods in the Frankish Church, and obtained great influence over the king, Pepin, whom he crowned at Soissons. Boniface had been created a bishop by Gregory II., and after the deposition of the bishop of Mainz in 745, that bishopric was converted into a metropolis and conferred upon him, much against his own inclinations. He had never relinquished his hope of converting the Frisians, and in 755 he set out with a small retinue for Friesland. 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, there appeared a mob of armed pagans, who fell upon the aged archbishop and slew him. His remains were finally deposited in the famous abbey of Fulda, founded by himself.

The epistles of Boniface have been published by Senarms, 1605, and by Wurdtwein, 1790 ; his works by Giles, 2 vols., 1842. On his life and labours see Löffler, Bonifacius, 1812 ; Seiter, Bonifacius, 1845 ; Rettberg, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, i.; Meander, Church History, Bonn's transl., vol. v.

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