Walking with the Saints

Boniface (Archbishop of Mainz, Missionary to Germany, and Martyr, 675 to 754 )

Preface of Apostles

The Collect

Almighty God, you called your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labor and suffering you raised up a people for your own possession: Pour out your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many your holy Name may be glorified and your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Boniface is known as one of the “Makers of Europe.”  His courage helped spread the Gospel at the time national churches were forming.  His fearless example helped build and develop the growing Christian Church.

Boniface was born about 675 and was murdered on June 5, 754.  It is said this outrageous event happened when Boniface was attacked while he was waiting for a group of converts for confirmation instruction.

St. Boniface was born in what is now known as the county of Devonshire. Boniface  is also known by the English names “Winfred” and “Winifred.”  Boniface was a leading figure in the Anglo-Saxon mission to the Germanic parts of the Frankish Empire during the 8th century.

 Boniface studied in English monasteries before he traveled to Europe. He converted pagan people living in what is present-day Germany and the Netherlands. In his role as a bishop and archbishop, he accomplished extensive church reforms.

Boniface’s martyrdom is illustrated in a well-known picture, in which he is wearing bishop’s robes and using a Bible to protect himself while the blade of a knife goes through it.  At the time of his death, he held a fixed see at Mainz.  He is buried at a monastery he founded.

Boniface was very influential in the growth of the church in North-west Europe.  Boniface served as a professed monk, priest, bishop, and ultimately as an archbishop. Much of his life was spent traveling, planting, and growing missions.  An example of this occurred Boniface anointed Pepin, father of Charlemagne.

Boniface organized some of the foundation of the Catholic Church in Germany. He was made archbishop of Mainz by Pope Gregory III. Although Boniface was not able to safeguard the church from property seizures being done by the local nobility, he did achieve the adoption of stricter guidelines for the Frankish clergy.

Many people’s favorite “fact” about Boniface is that he has been given “credit” for the invention of the Christmas tree. His official biography, however, does not include this. It is mentioned on a BBC-Devon website, in an account of a number of educational books, including St. Boniface and the Little Fir Tree. 

There are fifteen preserved sermons in existence that are traditionally associated with Boniface. The probability that they actually contain his writing is not widely accepted, however.

After Boniface’s martyrdom, he was hailed as a saint in Fulda and other areas in Germania and in England. He continues to be venerated today. He is celebrated (and sometimes criticized for his work as a missionary; he is regarded as one of the unifiers of Europe.