June 5: Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz, Missionary to Germany, and Martyr, 754

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St. Boniface Baptising and Martyrdom in 754 from the 11th c. Sacramentary of Fulda

About this commemoration

Boniface is justly called one of the “Makers of Europe.” He was born at Crediton in Devonshire, England, about 675, and received the English name of Winfred. He was educated at Exeter, and later at Nursling, near Winchester, where he was professed a monk and ordained to the presbyterate.

Inspired by the examples of Willibrord and others, Winfred decided to become a missionary, and made his first Journey to Frisia (Netherlands) in 716—a venture with little success. In 719 he started out again; but this time he first went to Rome to seek papal approval. Pope Gregory the Second commissioned him to work in Germany, and gave him the name of Boniface.

For the rest of his days, Boniface devoted himself to reforming, planting, and organizing churches, monasteries, and dioceses in Hesse, Thuringia, and Bavaria. Many helpers and supplies came to him from friends in England. In 722 the Pope ordained him a bishop, ten years later made him an archbishop, and in 743 gave him a fixed see at Mainz.

The Frankish rulers also supported his work. At their invitation, he presided over reforming councils of the Frankish Church; and in 752, with the consent of Pope Zacharias, he anointed Pepin (Pippin) as King of the Franks. Thus, the way was prepared for Charlemagne, son of Pepin, and the revival of a unified Christian dominion in western Europe.

In 753 Boniface resigned his see, to spend his last years again as a missionary in Frisia. On June 5, 754, while awaiting a group of converts for confirmation, he and his companions were murdered by a band of pagans, near Dokkum. His body was buried at Fulda, a monastery he had founded in 744, near Mainz.


I  Almighty God, who didst call thy faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labor and suffering didst raise up a people for thine own possession: Pour forth thy Holy Spirit upon thy Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many thy holy Name may be glorified and thy kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II  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.

Psalm 115:1-8


Micah 4:1–2

Acts 20:17–28

Luke 24:44–53

Preface of Apostles

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

14 thoughts on “June 5: Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz, Missionary to Germany, and Martyr, 754

  1. This commemoration is already included in the Calendar. The Hebrew Scripture reading is new.

  2. New Hebrew reading: This seems an appropriate reading for him.

    Bio: He needs a ‘Why he is important’ statement.
    He was’justly called’ a ‘Maker(s) of Europe.’ What does that mean? By whom?

      • About the “makers of Europe” line — I don’t think the reader can make much of it in its present location at the head of the article. It started me off with nothing more than a “Huh?” If it’s worth keeping, it would mean more after his contributions have been mentioned — maybe at the end of the article (with suitable adaptations in wording ) or as the closing the penultimate paragraph. Other than that one point I felt the narrative flowed nicely and presented his life and ministry in quite a positive (even inspiring) light. Thank you!

  3. So many of these brief biographies seem written for an exclusive audience — those with an advanced theological and liturgical education at an arrogantly self-righteous, holier-than-thou seminary, which may eliminate even some of the accredited Episcopal Seminaries.

    I believe that the audience is and should be the average lay person, with a typical, secular, general education. Accordingly the use of terms such as “presbyterate” and “see” will have no meaning for most of them. I once listened as a college-educated senior warden read one of these biographies as a meditation before a vestry meeting. She unwittingly changed “ordained a presbyter “to “ordained a Presbyterian” and shrugged her shoulders to acknowledge that it made no sense to her why a Catholic Bishop first had to be ordained in another denomination that did not exist at the time he lived.

    I also believe that all (not just some) references to ancient places, nationalities, ethnic groups and the like should also be identified by their current names, perhaps in parentheses.

    • The problem is the serious decline of any sort of understanding of history in “typical, secular, general education. ” One of the reasons why we send clergy to Seminary is so they can bring their education to the laity. While that seems to be a frowned upon, or resented, idea, I think it still informs this discussion.

  4. “… you raised up a people for your own possession.”
    In the collect, this phrase sounds acquisitive — “collect the whole set” — as if God is an avid collector, rather than expressing the idea that God is our eternal hope and destiny, our source of life, blessing and fulfillment.

    Would it be more inspiring to state here something that expresses God’s eternal purpose and God’d benevolent will for his people, rather than simply declaring “who” those people belong to? (I realize that much more than “property rights” are implied by saying “you raised up a people for your own possession,” but explicitly, in its literal denotation, it’s a statement of ownership and property. Saying it that way strikes me as missing the opportunity for a richer expression of the importance of Boniface’s life and work, and of God’s work of redemption through Boniface’s faith and ministry.

    • But, God is an avid collector. Doesn’t the Good Shepherd go hunting the lost one because the set is incomplete?

  5. If the change of name is worth mentioning, it’s worth explaining. My guess is that it’s because ‘Winfred’ just means ‘son of Fred’ or something not particularly relevant to the faith, while ‘Boniface’ means ‘doer of good’. But without an explanation, I found it a bit distracting. I’d miss the priest’s reading of the next paragraoh because I’d be thinking ‘who does this Gregory think he is, changing people’s names? Whatever next?’

  6. Quite a solid commemoration.

    One question as to euphony: since — for better or worse — these bios tend to become homillettes, might it be possible to slightly rework the parenthetical in the second paragraph to “Frisia, a northern province of the Netherlands”. It’s always a little awkward to read parentheticals out loud…

    Any reason not to push to Micah 4:1-5? It’s all quite lovely and that’s more of a sense break in the chapter.

  7. Boniface’s role as “maker of Europe” seems to be mostly the product of late 20th century West German and Roman Catholic wishful thinking. the Germans promoted him as a sort of a super-Bismarck, and the Catholics as an anti-Luther. It’s hard to make the jump from the facts of his life — holy and productive though it was — to Konrad Adenhaur’s “What we have in common in Europe comes from the same source [Boniface].” Significantly, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) makes no such claims.
    It seems to have been the habit of the Bishops of Rome of the period to rechristen missionary bishops, at least the Anglo-Saxon ones. Wilibrord was renamed “Clement” by Sergius I, but we still use his original Anglo-Saxon moniker. I suspect that the renamings were to give them proper saints’ names, as both were already monks when they were renamed.
    If we can’t give her her own date, Boniface’s bio should at least mention his intended tomb-mate Leoba (800-870). Her missionary activities, as well as those of her nuns, among the Frankish and German womenfolk were at least as significant as Boniface’s work with the men. Despite (or perhaps because of) Leoba and her sisters’ success, more than one thousand years would pass after her death before the Roman Church sent out another female missionary.

  8. Boniface is a significant missionary figure, There is no reason not to keep him as in LFF. The OT reading may only be two verses, but what it saya in worth hearing.

  9. Delete the reference to his being Archbishop of Mainz in the subtitle.
    This fact appears in the text of the bio.

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