Saint Boniface

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Saint Boniface (Latin: Bonifacius) (c. 672 – 5 June 754), the Apostle of the Germans, born Winfrid, Wynfrith, or Wynfryth in the kingdom of Wessex, probably at Crediton (now in Devon, England), was a missionary who propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He is the patron saint of Germany and the first archbishop of Mainz. He was martyred in Frisia in 754. 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. Through his efforts to reorganize and regulate the church of the Franks he helped shape Western Christianity, and many of the dioceses he proposed remain until today. After his martyrdom he was quickly hailed as a saint in Fulda and other areas in Germany, and in England. His cult is still notably strong today. Boniface is celebrated (and criticized) as a missionary, he is regarded as a unifier of Europe, and he is seen (mainly by Catholics) as a German national figure.

Contents

Early life and first mission to Frisia

The earliest Bonifacian vita does not mention his place of birth but says that at an early age he attended a monastery ruled by abbot Wulfhard in escancastre,[1] or Examchester,[2] 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.[3] Later tradition places his birth at Crediton, but the earliest mention of Crediton in connection to Boniface is from the early fourteenth century,[4] in John Grandisson's Legenda Sanctorum: The Proper Lessons for Saints' Days according to the use of Exeter.[5]

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