The life of Saint Boniface
Saint Boniface (c. 672 – June 5, 754) was one of the most important Anglo-Saxon missionaries and Church reformers in the Germanic parts of the Frankish Empire.
He was born c. 672 as Winfrit or Wynfrith in the South of England. At the age of thirty he became a priest. In 716 he set out on his first missionary expedition to the regions of the Frisians. In 719 Pope Gregory II appointed him officially as missionary bishop of Germania and he is renamed ‘Boniface’. He worked hard to organize and reform the practices of the Church in Germania, became archbishop of Mainz and he was involved in the foundation of the Benedictine abbey of Fulda.
In 754 Boniface organized for the third time a mission trip to the Frisian countries in the company of a large number of monks and soldiers. There, he and fifty-two of his companions were killed near Dokkum by the Frisians on June 5, 754. His remains were transferred to Fulda via Utrecht and Mainz. There they rest in a sarcophagus which became a site of pilgrimage.
Shortly after his death Dokkum became a center of Boniface cult. The cult and pilgrimage tradition has over the centuries gone through both periods of decay, caused by the Protestant Reformation, as well as revival. Revival started in the second half of the nineteenth century, the period of the Catholic Revival in the Netherlands. Nowadays the worship of Boniface is spread over different places in Dokkum, visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
His name day is June 5, his dying day.
© photos: Bea and Dick Hoeks-De Laat, 2007