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The Correspondence of St. Boniface

[Talbot Introduction][64] The correspondence of St. Boniface as edited by Tangl contains many letters which belong to several other people in his circle, such as Lull, and to various correspondents in England and in Rome. Since some of these are of no particular interest, it has been thought better to concentrate on those letters which are intimately concerned with the progress of his missionary work in Germany and with those facets of his character which emerge most clearly in the execution of his plans. The more homely and affectionate side of his nature appears in his letters to nuns, his preoccupation with the education of his disciples and subjects in his letters to abbots and bishops in England; whilst the difficulties of conversion, of organization, of church reform and many other matters are the subject of his letters to the Popes. Nowhere else in this period do we find so vivid a picture of the discouraging conditions amongst which the missionaries laboured and died. But in spite of the moral degradation of the Frankish clergy whom he strove to reform, in spite also of the poverty, dangers, ostracism and opposition which he met, there is no echo in these letters of discouragement, self-pity or weariness. We see him forging patiently and with complete confidence the instruments by which Europe was to be converted-the establishment of convents and monasteries, the foundation of bishoprics, centres of education and schools, submitting all to the ever-watchful guidance of the Popes, to whose devoted and constant service he had pledged himself at the outset of his missionary career.

Sources: The best edition of the correspondence is that of M. Tangl, Die Briefe des heiligen Bonifatius (1919). Several translations have appeared: The English Correspondence of Saint Boniface, by Edward Kylie (London, 1911); Letters of Saint Boniface to the Popes and Others, by George Washington Robinson, in Papers of the American Society of Church History (1923), second series, vii, pp. 157-86; The Letters of Saint Boniface, by Ephraim Emerton (New York, 1940), in the series, Records of Civilization, Vol 31.

The Life of Boniface by Willibald is also available


  • 1. Boniface Advises Nithard to Continue His Studies (A.D. 716-19)
  • 2. Bishop Daniel of Winchester Gives Wynfrith a Letter of Introduction (718)
  • 3. Pope Gregory III Entrusts Boniface with a Mission to the Heathens (15 May 719)
  • 4. The Abbess Bugga Congratulates Boniface on His Success in Frisia (720)
  • 5. The oath Taken By Boniface (30 November 722)
  • 6. Pope Gregory II Commends Bishop Boniface to the Christians Of Germany (1 December 722)
  • 7 Gregory Invests Boniface with Episcopal Authority (1 December 722)
  • 8 Pope Gregory II Commends Boniface to the Leaders of Thuringia (December 722)
  • 9 Pope Gregory II Commends Boniface to Charles Martel (December 722)
  • 10 Charles Martel Takes Boniface Under His Protection (723)
  • 11. Bishop Daniel of Winchester Advises Boniface on the Method of Converting The Heathen (723-4)
  • 12 Pope Gregory Replies to a Report From Boniface (4 December 723)
  • 13 Pope Gregory II Commends Boniface to the People of Thuringia (December 724)
  • 14 Pope Gregory II Replies to Questions Put by Boniface (22 November 726)
  • 15 Boniface Gives Advice to Abbess Bugga about Her Pilgrimage to Rome (Before 738 (725?))
  • 16 Pope Gregory II Invests Boniface with the Pallium (732)
  • 17 The English Nun Leoba Begs Boniface's Prayers For Her Parents (Soon after 732)
  • 18 Boniface Thanks Abbess Eadburga for Sending Him Books (735-6)
  • 19 Boniface Asks Archbishop Nothelm of Canterbury to Forward A Copy of the Questions Sent to Pope Gregory I by Augustine, Apostle of England
  • 20 Boniface Asks His Former Pupil, Abbot Duddo, to Send Him Certain Manuscripts (735)
  • 21 Boniface Asks Abbess Eadburga to Make Him A Copy of the Epistle of St. Peter in Letters of Gold (735)
  • 22 Boniface Arranges the Affairs of the Abbey of Fritzlar after the Death of Abbot Wigbert (737-8)
  • 23 Boniface Tells His Disciples about His Reception By Gregory III (738)
  • 24 Pope Gregory III Writes to Boniface about the Organization of the Church in Bavaria (29 October 739)
  • 25 Boniface Writes to the English, Asking Prayers for the Conversion of the Saxons (738)
  • 26 Boniface Asks Protection for His Mission In Thuringia From Grifo, Mayor of The Palace (741)
  • 27 Boniface to Pope Zacharias On His Accession to the Papacy (742)
  • 28 Answers of Pope Zacharias to Boniface (April 743)
  • 29 Acts of The Synod of 25 October 745, Condemning Aldebert and Clemens
  • 30 Boniface to Bishop Daniel Describing the Obstacles to His Work (742-6)
  • 31. Pope Zacharias to Boniface Concerning Cases of Rebaptism In Bavaria (July 746)
  • 32 Boniface Writes A Letter of Admonition to King Aethelbald of Mercia (746-7)
  • 33 Boniface to Archbishop Egbert of Yorko about the Letter to Aethelbald and about Books
  • 34 Boniface Asks Abbot Huetbert of Wearmouth to Send Him the Works of Bede (746-7)
  • 35 Boniface to Archbishop Cuthbert of Canterbury Reporting the Establishment of Frankish Synods and the Obstacles to His Work (747)
  • 36 Bonipace Reports to the Pope the Foundation of Fulda (751)
  • 37 Papal Charm for the Monastery of Fulda (November 751)
  • 38. Boniface Begs Egbert to Send Him the Works of Bede (747-51)
  • 39. Boniface Provides for His Associates and the Appointment of Lull as His Successor (752?)
  • 40. Boniface Commends a Messenger to Count Reginbert (732-54)
  • 41. Boniface to Leoba, Abbess of Bischofsheim (735-54)
  • 42. Boniface Commends a Serf (732-54)
  • 43. The Priest Wigbert Writes to the Monks of Glastonbury about His Arrival in Germany (732-54)
  • 44. King Ethelbert Asks for Falcons (748-54)
  • 45 Boniface to King Pippin (753)
  • 46. Boniface Greets the New Pope (752)
  • 47. Boniface on the Dispute with Cologne about Utrecht (753)
  • 48. Bishop Milret of Worcester to Lull on the Death of Boniface


1. Boniface Advises Nithard to Continue His Studies (A.D. 716-19)

To my dear friend and companion, who was drawn to me not by gifts of perishable gold nor by the smooth tongue of flattery but by the similarity of our ideals and the bonds of unfailing love, Wynfrith, a suppliant, sends greetings for eternal welfare in Jesus Christ.

Lowly as I am, noble youth, I beg you not to disregard the words of Solomon the wise: " In all thy works remember thy last end and thou shalt never sin."[Ecclus vii.40] Walk whilst you have the light lest the darkness of death come upon you.[John xii.35] Temporal things pass swiftly away, but the eternal that never fade will soon be upon us. All the treasures of this world, such as gold, silver, precious stones of every hue, succulent and dainty food and costly garments, melt away like shadows, vanish like smoke, dissolve like foam on the sea. The psalmist uttered the truth when he said: "Man's days are like grass: like the flower of the field he flourishes." [Ps cii.15] And again: "My days are like a shadow that declineth and I am withered like grass." [Ps. Ci.12]

Men who wallow in luxury are said in Holy Scripture to pass sleepless nights through anxiety, spinning their fragile webs that catch only dust or a breath of wind, for as the psalmist says: "They gather together treasure and know not for whom they gather it."[Ps xxxviii.7] And at the moment when death, the minion of baneful Pluto, barks at the door, foaming at the mouth and gnashing his teeth, they faint with fear; then, deprived of heavenly consolation, they lose in an instant both their precious souls and the deceitful gains for which they have slaved like misers night and clay. Finally, [66] they are snatched by the claws of fiends and borne off to the gloomy caverns of Erebus, there to suffer everlasting torments.

There is no doubting the truth of this. In all earnestness affection I beg you to consider this matter very carefully. rein to your natural gifts and abilities; do not stifle your literary talents and your keen spiritual understanding with gross pleasures of the flesh. Keep in mind the words of the psalmist: "His delight is in the words of the law of the Lord; in his law he meditates day and night " [Ps. I.2]:I and elsewhere: "O how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day."[Ps cxviii.97] Call to mind also the words of Moses: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night."[Josh i.8] Put aside all harmful obstacles; strive with unflagging zest to pursue your study of the scriptures and thereby acquire that nobility of mind which is divine wisdom. It is more precious than gold, more beautiful than silver, more lustrous than onyx, clearer than crystal, more costly than topaz,[Job xxvii.17,19]4 and, according to the opinion of the Preacher, all things that may be desired are not to be compared with it.[Prov viii.11]

Can there be a more fitting pursuit in youth or a more valuable possession in old age than a knowledge of Holy Writ? In the midst of storms it will preserve you from the dangers of shipwreck and guide you to the shore of an enchanting paradise and the ever-lasting bliss of the angels. Of it the same wise man has remarked. "Wisdom overcometh evil: it stretches from end to end mightily and disposes all things sweetly. Her have I loved from my youth and have become enamoured of her form."[Wisd. Viii.1]

If God allows me to return home, for such is my intention, I promise to remain steadfast at your side, helping you in your study of Sacred Scripture to the best of my ability.

(Tangl, 9)


2 Bishop Daniel of Winchester Gives Wynfrith a Letter of Introduction (718)

Daniel, Bishop of Winchester, was a pupil, like Aldhelm of Malmesbury, of Maelduff and is ranked as one of the most learned, energetic and influential bishops of the period. He assisted Bede in the compilation of his Ecclesiastical History by providing him with material relating to the Church in Wessex, Sussex and the Isle of Wight. In 721 he visited Rome. He resigned his see in 744 through failing sight and retired to Malmesbury, where he died in the following year.

To godly and merciful kings, all dukes, reverend and beloved bishops, priests and holy abbots and to all the spiritual sons of Christ, Daniel, a servant of the servants of God.

Though the commandments of God should be observed by all the faithful with sincerity and devotion, Holy Scripture lays special stress on the obligation of offering hospitality to travellers and shows how pleasing to God is the fulfillment of this duty. As a reward for his kindly hospitality, Abraham was judged worthy of receiving the blessed angels in person and of enjoying their holy converse. Lot also on account of this same service was snatched from the flames of Sodom.

So it will redound to your eternal welfare if you extend to the bearer of this letter, Wynfrith, a holy priest and servant of almighty God, a warm welcome such as God loves and enjoins. In receiving the servants of God you receive Him whom they serve, for he promised: " He who receiveth you, receiveth me."

Do this with heartfelt devotion and you will fulfil the divine command, and by placing your trust in God's promises you will receive an everlasting reward.

May the grace of God protect you from harm.

(Tangl, 11)


3. Pope Gregory III Entrusts Boniface with a Mission to the Heathens (15 May 719)

Gregory was known as "The Younger ", 715-31. It was to him that Abbot Ceolfrid brought the famous Codex Amiatinus, so precious for establishing the text of the Vulgate, and on his encouragement that King Ina, on his visit to Rome, founded the Schola Anglorum, later the nursery of many martyrs during the Reformation period.

Gregory, the servant of the servants of God, to Boniface, a holy priest.

Your holy purpose, as it has been explained to us, and your well-tried faith lead us to make use of your services in spreading the Gospel, which by the grace of God has been committed to our care. Knowing that from your childhood you have been a student of Sacred Scripture and that you now wish to use the talent entrusted to you by God in dedicating yourself to missionary work, we rejoice in your faith and desire to have you as our colleague in this enterprise. Wherefore., since you have humbly submitted to us your plans regarding this mission, like a member of the body deferring to the head, and have shown yourself to be a true member of the body by following the directions given by the head, therefore, in the name of the indivisible Trinity and by the authority of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, whose government we administer in this See by the dispensation of God, we now place your humble and devout work upon a secure basis and decree that you go forth to preach the Word of God to those people who are still bound by the shackles of paganism. You are to teach them the service of the kingdom of God by persuading them to accept the truth in the name of Christ, the Lord our God. You will instil into their minds the teaching of the Old and New Testaments, doing this in a spirit of love and moderation, and with arguments suited to their understanding. Finally, we command you that in admitting within the Church those who have some kind of belief in God you will insist upon using the sacramental discipline prescribed in the official ritual formulary of the Holy Apostolic See. Whatever means you find lacking in the [69] furtherance of your work, you are to report to us as opportunity occurs.

Fare you well.

Given on the Ides of May in the third year of our most august Lord, Leo, by God crowned emperor, in the third year of his consulship, in the second indiction.

(Tangl, 12)


4. The Abbess Bugga Congratulates Boniface on His Success in Frisia (720)

Bugga, or St. Eadburga, was Abbess of Minster in the Isle of Thanet. She was the daughter of King Centwin of the West Saxons. Her predecessor at Minster was St. Mildred, whose incorruptible body she laid to rest in a new church built by her and consecrated by Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury. She was of great assistance to Boniface, especially by her gifts of books. Leoba also learned much from her. She died about 751 and her feast was kept on 27 December.

Be it known to you, my gracious father, that I give thanks without ceasing to Almighty God because, as I learned from your letter, He has shown His mercy to you in many ways and jealously guarded you on your way through strange and distant lands. First, He inspired the Pontiff who sits in the chair of Peter to grant the desire of your heart. Afterwards He humbled at your feet King Radbod, the enemy of the Catholic Church; finally He revealed to you in a dream that you would reap God's harvest and gather many souls into the barn of the heavenly kingdom. I am led to believe that, no matter what our circumstances on earth may be, nothing can separate me from the affectionate care you have always shown. The strength of my love increases the more I perceive for certain that through the support of your prayers I have come into a haven of security and peace. And so again I humbly beg you: deign to offer your earnest intercession to God for my unworthy self, so that through your protection His grace may keep me safe from harm.

Know also that I have been unable to obtain a copy of The Sufferings of the Martyrs which you asked me to send you, but I shall send it to you as soon as I can. And you, my best beloved, [70] comfort me in my weakness by sending me some select passages of Holy Scripture in fulfilment of the promise made in your last letter. I beg you also to offer some holy Masses for the soul of a relative of mine, who was dear to me beyond all others and whose name was N____

By this same messenger I am sending you fifty shillings and an altar cloth, because I was unable to get for you a more precious gift. Small as they are, they are sent with great love.

Farewell in this world, " in love unfeigned

(Tangl, 15)

5. The oath Taken By Boniface (30 November 722)

This oath is based upon one usually taken by the bishops of the sub-urbicarian sees, but here there is no expression of loyalty to the emperor - it has been changed into submission to the Holy See.

In the name of God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

In the sixth year of Leo, by the grace of God crowned emperor, the sixth year of his consulship, the fourth of his son the Emperor Constantine, the sixth indiction.

I, Boniface, by the grace of God bishop, promise to you, blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles, and to your vicar, the blessed Pope Gregory, and to his successors., in the name of the indivisible Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and on thy most sacred body, that I will uphold the faith and purity of holy Catholic teaching and will persevere in the unity of the same faith in which beyond a doubt the whole salvation of a Christian lies. I will not agree to anything which is opposed to the unity of the Universal Church, no matter who may try to persuade me, but in all things I will show, as I have said, complete loyalty to you and to the welfare of your Church on which, in the person of your vicar and his successors, the power to bind and loose has been conferred.

Should it come to my notice that some bishops deviate from the teaching of the Fathers I win have no part or lot with them, but as far as in me lies I will correct them, or, if that is impossible, I will report the matter to the Holy See. And if (which God forbid) [71] I should be led astray into any course of action contrary to this my oath, under whatsoever pretext, may I be found guilty at the last judgment and suffer the punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira, who dared to defraud you by making a false declaration of their goods.

This text of my oath, I, Boniface, a lowly bishop, have written with my own hand and placed over thy sacred body. I have taken this oath, as prescribed, in the presence of God, my Witness and my judge: I pledge myself to keep it.

(Tangl, 16)

6. Pope Gregory II Commends Bishop Boniface to the Christians Of Germany (1 December 722)

Bishop Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to all the very reverend and holy brethren, fellow-bishops, religious priests and deacons, dukes, provosts, counts and all Christian men who fear God.

Knowing that some of the peoples in the parts of Germany that lie on the eastern bank of the Rhine have been led astray by the wiles of the devil and now serve idols under the guise of the Christian religion, and that others have not yet been cleansed by the waters of holy Baptism, but like brute beasts are blind to their Creator, we have taken great care to send the bearer of these letters, our revered brother and fellow-bishop Boniface, into these parts to enlighten them and to preach the word of faith, so that by his preaching he may teach them the way of eternal life, and when he finds those who have been led astray from the path of true faith or been misled by the cunning of the devil he may reprove them, bring them back to the haven of salvation, instruct them in the teachings of this Apostolic See and confirm them in the Catholic faith.

We exhort you, then, for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and the reverence you bear to his apostles, to support him by all the [72] means at your disposal and to receive him in the name of Jesus, Christ, according to what is written of His disciples: "He who receiveth you, receiveth me." See to it that he has all he requires; give him companions to escort him on his journey, provide him with food and drink and anything else he may need, so that with the blessing of God the work of piety and salvation committed' to him may proceed without hindrance, and that you yourselves may receive the reward of your labours and through the conversion of sinners may find treasure laid up for you in heaven.

If, therefore, any man assists and gives succour to this servant of God sent by the Apostolic See for the enlightenment of the heathen, may he enjoy through the prayers of the princes of the Apostles the fellowship of the saints and martyrs of Jesus Christ.

But if (which God forbid) any man should attempt to hinder his efforts and oppose the work of the ministry entrusted to him and his successors, may he be cursed by the judgment of God and condemned to eternal damnation.

Fare ye well.

(Tangl, 17) 

7 Gregory Invests Boniface with Episcopal Authority (1 December 722)

Gregory, the servant of the servants of God, to the clergy and people [of Thuringia], greeting in the Lord.

Acceding without delay to your praiseworthy desire, we have raised our colleague Boniface to the episcopal dignity. We have commanded him not to ordain a man who has been married twice or one who has married a woman not a virgin, or one who is not fully instructed, or a man suffering from a physical defect, or who is notorious for a crime whether civil or ecclesiastical, or who is known to be subject to some liability. If he finds such persons in office he shall not advance them. Under no circumstance whatsoever should he accept Africans who dare to apply for admission to ecclesiastical orders, because some of them are Manichaeans and others are known to have received Baptism several times. He [73] shall endeavour not to diminish but rather to increase the services and adornments of the churches and whatsoever endowments they possess. He is to divide the revenue and the offerings of the faithful into four parts: one for himself, another to the clergy for their ministrations, a third to the poor and pilgrims, and a fourth for the fabric of the churches, for all of which he must render an account at the judgment seat of God. The ordination of priests and deacons is to take place only at the quarter tenses of April, July and October and at the beginning of Lent. Baptism must be conferred only at Easter and Whitsuntide, except in the case of those who are in danger of death, for otherwise they might perish eternally.

As long as he continues to carry out the injunctions of this our see you are to show him unquestioning obedience, that the body of the Church may be without blame and in perfect peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Almighty God and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.

May God preserve you from all harm, beloved sons.

Given on the kalends of December in the seventh year of the reign of our august Lord, Leo, by the grace of God crowned emperor, in the fourth year of his son Constantine the Great, the sixth indiction.

(Tangl, 18) 

8 Pope Gregory II Commends Boniface to the Leaders of Thuringia (December 722)

Pope Gregory to his distinguished sons Asulf, Godolaus, Wilareus, Gundhar, Alvold and all the faithful of Thuringia who are beloved of God.

The report of your loyalty to Christ and of your steadfast answers to the heathen when they urged you to return to the worship of idols that you would rather die than break faith with Christ once you had accepted Him filled us with great joy. We give thanks to our God and Redeemer, the Giver of all good. [74] We pray that in the strength of His grace you may advance to higher and greater things, whilst you cling with all your might to the beliefs and teaching of the Holy Apostohc See.

We pray also that as far as the work of our holy religion requires, you will seek consolation from this Holy Apostolic See, who is the spiritual mother of all believers, for as you are her sons and joint heirs of a kingdom that has a royal Father it is fitting that you do so.

We bid you to show obedience in all things to our dearest brother Boniface, now consecrated bishop, who is well grounded in all the traditions of this Apostolic See. We send him to you to preach and instruct you in the faith and we urge you to cooperate with him in working out your salvation in the Lord.

(Tangl, 19) 

9 Pope Gregory II Commends Boniface to Charles Martel (December 722)

To the glorious Lord, our son, Duke Charles.

Having learned, beloved son in Christ, that you are a man of deeply religious feeling, we make known to you that our brother Boniface, who now stands before you, a man of sterling faith and character, has been consecrated bishop by us, and after being instructed in the teachings of the Holy Apostolic See, over which by God's grace we preside, is being sent to preach the faith to the peoples of Germany who dwell on the eastern bank of the Rhine, some of whom are still steeped in the efforts of paganism, while many more are plunged in the darkness of ignorance.

For this reason we commend him without more ado to your kindness and goodwill, begging you to help him in all his needs and to grant him your constant protection against any who may stand in his way. Know for certain that any favour bestowed on him is done for God, who on sending His holy Apostles to convert the Gentiles said that any man who received them received Him.

Instructed by us in the teachings of these Apostles, the bishop aforesaid is now on his way to take up the work assigned to him.

(Tangl, 20)


10 Charles Martel Takes Boniface Under His Protection (723)

Charles Martel (688-741) was the natural [i.e. born out of wedlock] son of Pippin of Heristal. He received the appellation Martel (the Hammer) from his victory over the Saracens at Tours, upon the issue of which depended the fate of Christendom.

To the holy lords and apostolic fathers, bishops, dukes, counts, regents, servants, lesser officials and friends, Charles, Mayor of the Palace, hearty greetings.

Let it be known that the apostolic father Bishop Boniface has come into our presence and begged us to take him under our protection. Know then that it has been our pleasure to do this.

Furthermore, we have seen fit to issue and seal with our own hand an order that wheresoever he goes, no matter where it shall be., he shall with our love and protection remain unmolested and undisturbed, on the understanding that he shall maintain justice and receive justice in like manner.

And if any question or eventuality arise which is not covered by our law, he shall remain unmolested and undisturbed until he reach our presence, both he and those who put their trust in him, so that as long as he remains under our protection no man shall oppose or do him harm.

And in order to give greater authority to this our command, we have signed it with our own hand and sealed it below with our ring.

(Tangl, 22) 

11. Bishop Daniel of Winchester Advises Boniface on the Method of Converting The Heathen (723-4)

To Boniface, honoured and beloved leader, Daniel, servant of the people of God.

Great is my joy, brother and colleague in the episcopate, that your good work has received its reward. Supported by your deep [76] faith and great courage, you have embarked upon the conversion of heathens whose hearts have hitherto been stony and barren and with the Gospel as your ploughshare you have laboured tirelessly day after day to transform them into harvest-bearing fields. Well may the words of the prophet be applied to you: "A voice of one crying in the wilderness, etc."

Yet not less deserving of reward are they who give what help they can to such a good and deserving work by relieving the poverty of the labourers, so that they may pursue unhampered the task of preaching and begetting children to Christ. And so, moved by affection and good will, I am taking the liberty of making a few suggestions, in order to show you how, in my opinion, you may overcome with the least possible trouble the resistance of this barbarous people.

Do not begin by arguing with them about the genealogies of their false gods. Accept their statement that they were begotten by other gods through the intercourse of male and female and then you will be able to prove that, as these gods and goddesses did not exist before, and were born like men, they must be men and not gods. When they have been forced to admit that their gods had a beginning, since they were begotten by others, they should be asked whether the world had a beginning or was always in existence. There is no doubt that before the universe was created there was no place in which these created gods could have subsisted or dwelt. And by "universe " I mean not merely heaven and earth which we see with our eyes but the whole extent of space which even the heathens can grasp in their imagination. If they maintain that the universe had no beginning, try to refute their arguments and bring forward convincing proofs; and if they persist in arguing, ask them, Who ruled it? How did the gods bring under their sway a universe that existed before them? Whence or by whom or when was the first god or goddess begotten? Do they believe that gods and goddesses still beget other gods and goddesses? If they do not, when did they cease and why? If they do, the number of gods must be infinite. In such a case, who is the most powerful among these different gods? Surely no mortal man can know. Yet man must take care not to offend this god who is more powerful [77] than the rest. Do they think the gods should be worshipped for the sake of temporal and transitory benefits or for eternal and future reward? If for temporal benefit let them say in what respect the heathens are better off than the Christians. What do the heathen gods gain from the sacrifices if they already possess everything? Or why do the gods leave it to the whim of their subjects to decide what kind of tribute shall be paid? If they need such sacrifices, why do they not choose more suitable ones? If they do not need them, then the people are wrong in thinking that they can placate the gods with such offerings and victims.

These and similar questions, and many others that it would be tedious to mention, should be put to them, not in an offensive and irritating way but calmly and with great moderation. From time to time their superstitions should be compared with our Christian dogmas and touched upon indirectly, so that the heathens, more out of confusion than exasperation, may be ashamed of their absurd opinions and may recognise that their disgusting rites and legends have not escaped our notice.

This conclusion also must be drawn: If the gods are omnipotent, beneficent and just, they must reward their devotees and punish those who despise them. Why then, if they act thus in temporal affairs, do they spare the Christians who cast down their idols and turn away from their worship the inhabitants of practically the entire globe? And whilst the Christians are allowed to possess the countries that are rich in oil and wine and other commodities, why have they left to the heathens the frozen lands of the north, where the gods, banished from the rest of the world, are falsely supposed to dwell?

The heathens are frequently to be reminded of the supremacy of the Christian world and of the fact that they who still cling to outworn beliefs are in a very small minority.

If they boast that the gods have held undisputed sway over these people from the beginning, point out to them that formerly the whole world was given over to the worship of idols until, by the grace of Christ and through the knowledge of one God, its Almighty Creator and Ruler, it was enlightened, vivified and reconciled to God. For what does the baptizing of the children [78] of Christian parents signify if not the purification of each one from the uncleanness of the guilt of heathenism in which the human race was involved?

It has given me great pleasure, brother, for the love I ear, you, to bring these matters to your notice. Afflicted though am with bodily infirmities, I may well say with the psalmist " I know, O Lord, that thy judgment is just and that in truth thou, hast afflicted me." [Ps. Cxviii.75] For this reason, I earnestly entreat Your Reverence and those with you who serve Christ in the spirit, to pray for me that the Lord who made me taste of the wine of compunction may quickly aid me unto mercy, that as He has punished me justly, so He may graciously pardon and mercifully enable me to sing in gratitude the words of the prophet: According to the number of my sorrows, thy consolations have comforted

my soul." [Ps. Xciii.19]

I pray for your welfare in Christ, my very dear colleague, and beg you to remember me. (Tangl, 23) 

12 Pope Gregory Replies to a Report From Boniface (4 December 723)

To his most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Boniface, Gregory, the servant of the servants of God.

Moved by our anxiety for the charge committed to us and by the words of the Gospel, which says, "You must ask the lord to whom the harvest belongs to send labourers out to the harvesting", we sent you just as the Lord sent the Apostles with the command: "Go out all over the world and preach the Gospel: freely you have received, freely give."

We sent you to shed some light on the people of Germany who sit in the shadow of death, so that, like the servant with the single talent, you might make some profit for God. And as we see that through your obedience the ministry of the Word has succeeded [79] and, as we hear, by your preaching great numbers have been converted to the faith, we give thanks to God that He from whom all good proceeds and whose win it is that all men should be led to recognize the truth, should second your efforts and bring this people by His powerful inspiration from darkness to light.

For this reason we believe that a bountiful reward is laid up by Almighty God for us in heaven. If you are steadfast, you will be able to say with the Apostle: " I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have redeemed my pledge." To gain the prize, you must persevere, for God promises it only to those who are steadfast to the end.

Do not be frightened by threats or discouraged by fears. Keep your trust fixed on God and proclaim the word of truth. Provided your will is constant in good works, God win crown it by His help. Therefore, the more people you convert from the errors of their ways (and that this is so we know from your letter), the more we shall rejoice and thank God for the gaining of souls.

As for the bishop who was too lazy to preach the Word of God and now claims a part of your diocese, we have written to our son, Duke Charles, asking him to restrain him, and we believe that he will put a stop to it. For your part, however, continue to preach in season and out of season.

We have written to the people of Thuringia and Germany regarding matters which concern their spiritual welfare, ordering them among other things to erect bishoprics and build churches. For He who desires not the death of the sinner but his conversion win grant an increase in everything.

May God preserve you.

(Tangl, 24) 

13 Pope Gregory II Commends Boniface to the People of Thuringia (December 724)

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, came down from heaven and, true God as He was, became Man, suffered and was crucified for our sakes [80] was buried and the third day rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven. But to His holy Apostles he said: " Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost ", promising eternal life to all those who believed.

Wherefore, desiring that you should rejoice with us for all eternity where there is no end, no suffering nor any bitterness, but only glory for evermore, we have sent you our most holy brother Boniface as your bishop, so that he may baptize you, teach you the faith of Christ and lead you from error to the path of salvation, whereby you may be saved and enjoy everlasting life. Obey him in all things, respect him as your father and submit your hearts to his teaching, because we have sent him to seek, not earthly gain, but the profit of your souls.

Wherefore, love God and receive Baptism in His name, because the Lord our God had prepared what the eye of man hath not seen nor the heart conceived for those who love Him. Put aside your evil ways and do good. Adore not idols nor make bloody sacrifices, because God does not accept them; but in all things carry out and observe the injunctions of our brother Boniface, and then both you and your children will be saved for evermore.

Build him a house, therefore, where he can dwell as your father and bishop; build churches where you can pray: and may God have mercy on your sins and grant you everlasting life.

(Tangl, 25) 

14 Pope Gregory II Replies to Questions Put by Boniface (22 November 726)

Gregory, the servant of the servants of God, to Boniface, our most holy brother and colleague in the episcopate.

Your devout messenger Denual has brought us the welcome news that you are well and that, by the help of God, you are making progress in the work for which you were sent. He also delivered to us letters from you reporting that the field of the Lord which had long lain fallow and was overgrown with the [81] weeds of pagan customs has now been ploughed up and sown with the truth of the Gospel, producing an abundant harvest of souls.

in the same report you included a number of questions concerning the faith and teaching of the Holy Roman and Apostolic Church. This is a commendable practice, for here St. Peter the Apostle held his see and the episcopate had its beginning. And since you seek our advice on matters dealing with ecclesiastical discipline, we will state with all the authority of apostolic tradition what you must hold, though we speak not from our own insufficiency but relying on the grace of Him who opens the mouths of the dumb and makes eloquent the tongues of babes.

Your first question is: Within what degrees can marriage be solemnized? Our answer is that if the parties know themselves to be related by blood they should not marry; but since moderation weighs more with these savage people than strict legal duties, they should be allowed to marry after the fourth degree of consanguinity.

As to what a man shall do if his wife is unable through illness to allow him his marital rights, it would be better if he remained apart and practised continence. But since this is practicable only in the case of men of high ideals, the best course if he is unable to be continent would be for him to marry.[[1]]. Nevertheless, he should continue to support the woman who is sick, unless she has contracted the disease through her own fault.

As regards a priest or bishop who has been accused by the people, if the evidence for the charge against him is not substantiated by reliable witnesses he should protest his innocence on oath before God, from whom nothing is concealed, and retain the rank which is his due. For once a man has been ordained or consecrated he cannot be ordained or consecrated anew.

[1] This legislation is recorded by Gratian, Decreta, pt. ii, ch. 323 q 7. can. 18, but attributed to Gregory III.

In the sacred ceremony of the Mass that rite must be observed which our Lord transmitted to His Disciples, for he took the chalice and gave it to them, saying: " This is the chalice of the New Testament in my blood: do this as often as you shall drink [82] it." Therefore it is not fitting that two or three chalices should be placed on the altar during the celebration of Mass.

As to foods offered in sacrifice to idols, you ask whether a believer is permitted to eat them or not after he has first made a sign of the cross over them. A sufficient answer to this question is provided in the words of St. Paul when he said: " If any man says to you, This has been offered in sacrifice, eat not for the sake of the man who mentioned it and for conscience sake."

You ask further: If a father or mother gives a child during its early years to a monastery to be brought up in monastic discipline, is it lawful for that child, after reaching the age of puberty, to leave the cloister and enter into matrimony? This we strictly forbid, for it is an impious thing to allow children who have been offered to God by their parents to follow their baser instincts for pleasure.

You mention also that some have been baptized by adulterous and unworthy priests without being questioned on their belief in the articles of the Creed. In such cases you must hold fast to the ancient custom of the Church, because whoever is baptized in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost cannot be baptized again. For he has received this grace not in the name of the minister but in the name of the Trinity. Hold fast the teaching of the Apostles, " One Lord, one faith, one baptism ". We require you to impart spiritual instruction to such people with particular earnestness.

As regards small children who have been separated from their parents and do not know whether they have been baptized or not, reason demands that you should baptize them, unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Lepers who belong to the Christian faith should be allowed to partake of the body and blood of the Lord, but they may not attend sacred functions with people in good health. In the case of a contagious disease or plague attacking a church or monastery you ask whether those who have not been infected may escape danger by flight. We declare this to be utterly foolish; no man can escape the hand of God.

At the end of your letter you state that some priests and bishops [83] are so vicious that their fives are a continual reproach to the priesthood and you enquire whether it would be lawful to eat and speak with them provided they are not heretics. We answer that you are to admonish and correct them with our apostolic authority and so bring them back to the purity of ecclesiastical discipline. If they obey, they will save their souls, and you, on your side, will attain your reward. Do not refuse to eat and speak with them at the same table. It often happens that where correction fails to bring men to an acknowledgment of the truth, the constant and gentle persuasion of their table companions leads them back to the paths of goodness. You should follow this same rule in dealing with the nobles who are of assistance to you.

This, my dear brother, is all that need be said with the authority of the Apostolic See. For the rest, we call upon the mercy of (34 which has sent you, under our apostolic authority, to shed the light of truth on those regions of darkness, to crown your work with success so that you may receive the reward of your labours and the forgiveness of our sins.

May God keep you from all harm, most reverend brother.

Given on the tenth of the kalends of December in the tenth year of the reign of our august emperor Leo, in the seventh of his son Constantine the Great, the tenth indiction.

(Tangl, 26) 

15 Boniface Gives Advice to Abbess Bugga about Her Pilgrimage to Rome (Before 738 (725?))

Be it known to you, dear sister, that in regard to the matter on which you have sought my advice I cannot presume, on my own responsibility, either to forbid your pilgrimage or to encourage it. I can only say how the matter appears to me. If for the sake of solitude and divine contemplation you have forsaken the monastic life and the care of your subjects, the servants and handmaidens of God, how can you bring yourself to submit to the orders and whims of men of this world and the labour and anxiety [84] they entail? It appears to me that if, through the interference of seculars, you cannot find freedom and peace of mind in your native land, you should try (provided you have the will and the power to do so) to find freedom for contemplation by making a pilgrimage abroad. This is what our sister Wilthburga did. She has told me by letter that she has found at the shrine of St. Peter the kind of quiet life which she had long sought for in vain. Since I had written to her about your intentions, she sent me word that you would do better to wait until the attacks and the threats of the Saracens against Rome had died down and until she herself could send you an invitation. To me also this seems the better plan. Make all necessary preparations for the journey, wait for word from her and afterwards do what God's grace shall inspire you to do.

In regard to copying out the passages of Scripture for which you asked me, please excuse my remissness, for I have been so much occupied in preaching and travelling about that I could not find the time to complete it. But when I have finished it I win send it to you.

I thank you for the presents and the vestments which you have sent and pray God that He will reward you with eternal life among his angels and archangels on high. I beg of you, therefore, my dear sister, nay more, my very dear mother and mistress, to pray for me, because for my sins I am wearied with many trials and vexed both in mind and body. Rest assured that our long-standing friendship shall never fail. Farewell in Christ.

(Tangl, 27) 

16 Pope Gregory II Invests Boniface with the Pallium (732)

Gregory, the servant of the servants of God, to our most reverend and holy brother Bishop Boniface, sent by this apostolic Church of God for the enlightenment of the German people who live in the shadow of death, steeped in error.

[85] It was a source of great satisfaction to us to learn from a repeated reading of your letter that by the grace of God many heathens have turned away from error and embraced the truth. And because we are taught in the parable that he to whom five talents was given gained also another five, we, and the whole Church with us, congratulate you on your success. Hence we have sent the sacred pallium to you as a gift, desiring with the authority of the Apostolic See that you accept it and wear it; and it is our wish that you be recognized as one of the archbishops divinely appointed. How you are to use it you will learn from the instructions of the Apostolic See, namely: you must wear it only during the celebration of Mass and when in the course of your episcopal duty you consecrate a bishop.

But since, as you say, you are unable to deal with all the matters involved in imparting the means of salvation to the multitudes of those who, by the grace of God, have been converted in those parts, we command you in virtue of our apostolic authority to consecrate bishops wherever the faithful have increased. This you must do in accordance with the sacred canons, choosing men of tried worth so that the dignity of the episcopate may not fall into disrepute.

As regards the priest whom you say came to us and was absolved from his nefarious crimes, we would like you to know that he made no confession to us, nor did he receive absolution so that he could pursue his lustful desires. If you find that he has fallen into error again we command you by the authority of the Holy See to correct and discipline him in accordance with the sacred canons, as also any other person you should meet like him. For when he came here he said, " I am a priest ", and he asked for letters of recommendation to our son Charles. We gave him no other favour. If his conduct is blameworthy we desire you to shun him, together with the rest.

Those whom you say were baptized by pagans and the case is proved should be baptized again in the name of the Trinity.

You say, among other things, that some eat wild horses and many eat tame horses. By no means allow this to happen in future, but suppress it in every possible way with the help of [86] Christ and impose a suitable penance upon offenders. It is a filthy and abominable custom.

You ask for advice on the lawfulness of making offerings for the dead. The teaching of the Church is this-that every man should make offerings for those who died as true Christians and that the priest should make a commemoration of them [at Mass]. And although all are liable to fall into sin, it is fitting that the priest should make a commemoration and intercede for them. But he is not allowed to do so for those who die in a state of sin even if they were Christians.

It is our command that those who doubt whether they were baptized or not should be baptized again, as also those who were baptized by a priest who sacrifices to Jupiter and partakes of sacrificial offerings. We decree that each one must keep a record of his consanguinity to the seventh degree.

If you are able, forbid those whose wives have died to enter into second marriages.

We declare that no one who has slain his father, mother., brother or sister can receive the Holy Eucharist except at the point of death. He must abstain from eating meat and drinking wine as long as he lives. He must fast on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and thus with tears wash away the crime he has committed.

Among other difficulties which you face in those parts, you say that some of the faithful sell their slaves to be sacrificed by the heathen. This, above all, we urge you to forbid, for it is a crime against nature. Therefore, on those who have perpetrated such a crime you must impose a penance similar to that for culpable homicide.

As often as you consecrate a bishop, let two or three other bishops join with you so that what you do may be pleasing to God, may be done with their assistance and sanctioned by their presence.

These matters, dearest brother, we wish you carefully to observe. Pursue the work of salvation on which you have so piously embarked so that you may receive from our Lord God the eternal reward of your labours.

[87] The privilege for which you asked is sent together with this letter. We pray God that under Ifis protection you may achieve complete success in turning the heathens from the errors of their ways. May God protect you from harm, most reverend brother.

(Tangl, 28) 

17 The English Nun Leoba Begs Boniface's Prayers For Her Parents (Soon after 732)

The nun mentioned here appears later in this volume: see her biography by Rudolf of Fulda. Her mistress Eadburga was the Abbess of Minster in Thanet, as mentioned earlier.

To the most reverend Boniface, dearly beloved in Christ and related to me by kinship, the lowest servant of those who bear the sweet yoke of Christ, wishes for eternal welfare.

I beseech you in your kindliness to be mindful of the past friendship which you formed with my father Dynne long ago in the west country. It is now eight years since he passed from this world, so I beg you not to fail to pray for his soul. I ask you also to remember my mother Aebbe, who, as you are wen aware, is related to you by ties of kinship. She is still alive but suffers from ill health and for many years now has been afflicted with infirmity. I am my parent's only child, and, though I am not worthy of so great a privilege, I would like to regard you as my brother, for there is no other man in my family in whom I can put my trust as I can in you. I venture to send you this little gift not because it is worthy of your attention but because I wish to remind you of my lowly self, so that, in spite of the distance that separates us, you may not forget me but rather be knit more closely to me in the bond of true affection. This boon particularly I beg of you, beloved brother, that by the help of your prayers I may be shielded from all temptation. Would you also, if you please, correct the homely style of this my letter and send me as a model a few words of your own, for I deeply long to hear them.

The little verses written below have been composed according [88] to the rules of prosody. I made them, not because I imagine myself to have great ability, but because I wished to exercise my budding talents. I hope you will help me with them. I learned how to do it from my mistress Eadburga, who continues with increasing, perseverance in her study of the Scriptures.

Farewell; pray for me; may you enjoy a long life here and a happier life to come.

Arbiter omnipotens, solus qui cuncta creavit,
In regno patris semper qui lumine fulget,
Qua iugiter flagrans sic regnet gloria Christi
Inlesum servet semper te iure perenni."

(Tangl, 29) 

18 Boniface Thanks Abbess Eadburga for Sending Him Books (735-6)

To his dear sister, Abbess Eadburga, long united to him by spiritual ties, Boniface, a servant of the servants of God, greetings in Christ without end.

May the Eternal Rewarder of good works give joy on high among the choirs of angels to my dearest sister, who has brought light and consolation to an exile in Germany by sending him gifts of spiritual books. For no man can shed light on these gloomy lurking-places of the German people and take heed of the snares that beset his path unless he have the Word of God as a lamp to guide his feet and a light to shine on his way.

Of your charity I earnestly beg you to pray for me, because as a penalty for my sins I am tossed about by the storms of this dangerous sea, begging God, who is high above us but stoops to regard the lowly, to give me words to speak my mind boldly that the Word of the Lord may run its triumphant course and the Gospel of Christ may be glorified among the heathen.

(Tangl, 30)


19 Boniface Asks Archbishop Nothelm of Canterbury to Forward A Copy of the Questions Sent to Pope Gregory I by Augustine, Apostle of England (735)

Nothelm was first archpriest of St. Paul's, London, and consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury in 735, receiving the pallium from Gregory III in the following year. He was a friend of Albinus, Abbot of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, and conveyed information from him to Bede about the ecclesiastical history of Kent. He died in October 739. Some writings have been attributed to him, but they are spurious.

To his beloved master, Archbishop Nothelm, invested with the insignia of the high priesthood, Boniface, a humble servant of the servants of God, sincere greetings of eternal love in Christ.

I earnestly beg you to remember me in your holy prayers and so bring peace to my mind, tossed as it is by the anxieties of this mission in Germany. Unite me to you in a bond of brotherhood such as was granted to me by your predecessor, Archbishop Bertwald, of revered memory, at the time I left my native country. May my brethren and the companions of my wanderings be counted worthy also to be united to you in the bond of the spirit, in the ties of love, in the faith of Christ and the sweetness of charity.

I pray you in the same way to obtain for me a copy of the letter containing, it is said, the questions of Augustine, first archbishop and apostle of the English, and the replies made to them by Pope Gregory I. In this letter it is stated among other things that marriages between Christians related in the third degree are lawful. Will you have a careful search made to discover whether or not this document has been proved to be an authentic work of St. Gregory? For the registrars say that it is not to be found in the archives of the Church at Rome among the other papers of the said Pope.

Further, I would like your advice as regards a sin which I have unwittingly committed by allowing a certain man to marry. It happened in this way. The man, like many others, had stood as goffather to the child of another man and then on the father's [90] death married the mother. The people in Rome say that this is a sin, even a mortal sin, and state that in such cases a divorce is necessary. They maintain that under the Christian emperors such a marriage was punishable by death or exile for life. If you find that this is considered so great a sin in the decrees of the Fathers and in the canons or even in Holy Scripture, tell me so, because I would like to understand and learn the authorities for such an opinion. I cannot understand how spiritual relationship in marriage can be so great a sin, when we know that through Baptism we all become sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in the Church.

Would you also let me know in what year the first missionaries sent by St. Gregory came to England?

(Tangl, 33) 

20 Boniface Asks His Former Pupil, Abbot Duddo, to Send Him Certain Manuscripts (735)

Duddo is known only through a rather suspect charter. He was probably abbot of a monastery in the west of England.

To his beloved son Abbot Duddo, Boniface also called Wynfrith, servant of the servants of God, heartfelt and loving greetings in Christ.

I hope, my dear son, that you recall the saying of a certain wise min, " keep thy old friend", and forget not in old age the early friendship we formed in youth and have kept up tiff now. Remember your father, now failing in strength and going the way of all flesh.

Though I was but poorly equipped as a teacher, yet I tried to be the most devoted of them all, as you yourself well know. Be mindful of my devotion and take pity on an old man worn out by troubles in this German land. Support me by your prayers to God, and help me by supplying me with the Sacred Writings and the inspired works of the Fathers. It is well known that books are most helpful to those who read the Holy Scriptures, so I beg you [91] to procure for me as an aid to sacred learning part of the commentary on the Apostle Paul which I need. I have commentaries on two Epistles-that to the Romans and the First to the Corinthians. If you have anything in your monastic library which you think would be useful to me and of which I may not be aware, or of which I have no copy, pray let me know about it; help me as a loving son might an ignorant father, and send me also any notes of your own.

Let us also agree mutually to render such service to each other. In accordance with what my son, the priest Eoban,[[1]] the bearer of my letters, may tell you about the marriage of a woman to the godfather of her children, kindly search the records to find out by what authority this is held to be a capital crime at Rome. If you find in ecclesiastical writings any discussion of this sin, please let me know at once.

[1] Eoban is probably to be identified with the Bishop Eoban of Utrecht, who later suffered martyrdom with Boniface at Dokkum.

Health and prosperity in Christ.

(Tangl, 34) 

21 Boniface Asks Abbess Eadburga to Make Him A Copy of the Epistle of St. Peter in Letters of Gold (735)

To the most reverend and beloved sister, Abbess Eadburga, Boniface, least of the servants of God, loving greetings.

I pray Almighty God, the Rewarder of all good works, that when you reach the heavenly mansions and the everlasting tents He will repay you for all the generosity you have shown to me. For, many times, by your useful gifts of books and vestments, you have consoled and relieved me in my distress. And so I beg you to continue the good work you have begun by copying out for me in letters of gold the epistles of my lord, St. Peter, that a reverence and love of the Holy Scriptures may be impressed on the minds of the heathens to whom I preach, and that I may ever have before my gaze the words of him who guided me along this path.

[92]The materials [gold] needed for the copy I am sending by the priest Eoban.

Deal, then, my dear sister, with this my request as you have so generously dealt with them in the past, so that here on earth your deeds may shine in letters of gold to the glory of our Father who is in heaven.

For your well-being in Christ and for your continual progress in virtue I offer my prayers.

(Tangl, 35) 

22 Boniface Arranges the Affairs of the Abbey of Fritzlar after the Death of Abbot Wigbert (737-8)

The Life of St. Wigbert was written by Servatus Lupus, Abbot of Ferrières. He came from Dorset and was made Abbot of Fritzlar by Boniface, who also gave him the Abbey of Orhdruf because of his reputation for discipline. He died at Fulda. Megingoz afterwards became Bishop of Wurtzburg; Sturm was the founder and first Abbot of Fulda. Nothing certain is known of the remaining monks mentioned in this letter.

To my beloved sons, Tatwin, Wigbert, priests, and to Bernard, Hiedde, Hunfrid and Sturm, Boniface, a servant of the servants of God, greetings in the Lord for evermore.

With fatherly love I entreat you, my friends, now that our father, Wigbert is dead, to preserve the rule of your monastic life with even greater strictness. Let the priest Wigbert and the deacon Megingoz expound the Rule to you; let them observe the canonical Hours and the Offices of the Church, administer correction, instruct the children and preach the Word of God to the brethren. Let Hiedde be prior and keep the servants in order, and let him have the assistance of Hunfrid if necessary. Sturm should take charge of the kitchen. Let Bernard do the manual labour and build us small houses to dwell in as they are needed. And on all matters seek the advice of Abbot Tatwin as occasion arises, and follow out his suggestions.

Let each one of you, according to his strength and character, try to preserve his chastity and to assist the others in the common, fife. So may you abide in brotherly love until, God willing, I [93] return to you once more. Then, together, we shall all praise God and give thanks to Him for all His benefits. Farewell in Christ.

(Tangl, 40) 

23 Boniface Tells His Disciples about His Reception By Gregory III (738)

This letter was written to inform his disciples that Boniface's request to the Pope to allow him to resign and go elsewhere had not been accepted.

To our beloved sons Geppan, Eoban, Tatwin, Wigbert and to all our brethren and sisters, Boniface, a servant of the servants of God, loving greetings in Christ.

We should like you to know and give thanks to God that when we safely reached the threshold of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, the Apostolic Pontiff welcomed us with joy and gave a satisfactory reply to the matters for which we came. He counselled and commanded us to return once more to you and to persevere in the work we have undertaken.

At the moment we are waiting for the opening of a council of bishops, but we do not know when the Apostolic Pontiff will order it to sit. As soon as it is over, we shall hasten back to you, if God so wills and our health is spared. In this knowledge wait our coming with fraternal love and in the unity of faith, bearing one another's burdens. So doing, you will fulfil the law of Christ and renew your joy.

Fare ye well and pray for us.

(Tangl, 41) 

24 Pope Gregory III Writes to Boniface about the Organization of the Church in Bavaria (29 October 739)

To our most reverend and holy brother Boniface, Gregory, servant of the servants of God.

[94] A sentence of the teacher of all nations, the celebrated Apostle St. Paul, tells us that everything helps to secure the good of those who love God. Therefore when we learned from your report that God in His mercy had loosed a great number of the German people from the toils of paganism and had brought as many as a hundred thousand souls into the Church through your efforts and those of Prince Charles, we raised our hands in prayer and thanked God, the Giver of all good, for having opened the gates of mercy and love to make known to the West the path of salvation. Glory be to Him for ever.

You tell us that you have made a journey into Bavaria and found the people there living in a manner contrary to the ordinances of the Church, and that, because they have no bishops except Vivilo, whom we consecrated some time ago, you have, with the approval of Odilo, Duke of Bavaria, and the nobles of the province, consecrated three other bishops. You say also that you have divided the province into four districts, so that each bishop may have his own diocese. In carrying out our commands and in performing the task that was enjoined upon you you have acted wisely and well.

Continue, reverend brother, to teach them the holy, Catholic and apostolic traditions of the See of Rome, so that the ignorant may be enlightened and may follow the path that leads to eternal bliss.

As to the priests whom you have found there, if the bishops who ordained them are not known to you and a doubt remains whether they were true bishops or not, let them be ordained by a bishop and fulfil their sacred charge, provided they are Catholics of blameless life, trained to the service of God, wen versed in the teachings of the Church and fitted to hold office.

Those who were baptized with a formula expressed in a heathen tongue, provided their Baptism was performed in the name of the Trinity should be confirmed with sacred chrism and the laying-on-of-hands.

Bishop Vivilo was consecrated by us. If, however, he has deviated from orthodox teaching in any point, correct and instruct him according to the traditions of the Church of Rome, as you have learned them from us.

[95] We command you to attend the council which is to be held on the banks of the Danube and, vested with Apostolic authority, to act as our representative. As far as God shall grant you strength, continue to preach the word of salvation, so that the Christian faith may increase and multiply in the name of the Lord.

You have no permission, brother, to remain in one district once your work there has been completed. Strengthen the minds of your brethren and the faithful who are scattered throughout the West and continue to preach wherever God grants you opportunity to save souls. When the need arises consecrate bishops according to canon law in your capacity as our representative, and instruct them to observe apostolic and Catholic doctrine. In this way you will assure yourself of a great reward and win over to Almighty God a perfect people. Do not shrink, beloved brother, from difficult and protracted journeys in the service of the Christian faith, for it is written that small is the gate and narrow the road that leads on to life.

Continue, then, brother, the exemplary work you have begun, so that in the day of Christ you may be entitled to say in the presence of the saints at the day of judgment: " Here stand I and these children the Lord has given me. I have not lost any of them whom thou has entrusted to me." And again: "It was five talents thou gavest me, see how I have made profit of five talents besides."Then you will deservedly hear the voice of God saying: " Well done, my good and faithful servant: since thou hast been faithful over little things, I have great things to commit to thy charge: come and share the joy of thy Lord."

May God preserve you, most reverend brother.

Given on the fourth day of the kalends of November, in the twenty-third year of our loving and august lord Leo, by the grace of God emperor, in the twenty-third year of his consulship and the twentieth year of the Emperor Constantine, in the eighth indiction.

(Tangl, 45)


25 Boniface Writes to the English, Asking Prayers for the Conversion of the Saxons (738)

To all his most reverend colleagues in the episcopate, to the venerable priests, deacons, canons, clerics, abbots and abbesses of communities, to the lowly monks who obey for Christ's sake, to the consecrated and devout virgins and all professed nuns of Christ, indeed to all those Catholics of the English race who fear God, Boniface, a native of the same race, legate of the Universal Church in Germany and servant of the Apostolic See, formerly called Wynfrith, but now, through no deserts of his own, archbishop: greetings in the humble communion and sincere love of Christ.

With humble prayer, we beseech you, brethren, of your charity to remember our lowly selves in your prayers, that we may escape the cunning snares of the devil and the buffetings of evil men, that the word of the Lord may prosper and be glorified. We beg you to be instant in prayer that God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, may convert the hearts of the pagan Saxons to the faith, may make them repent of the devilish errors in which they are entangled and unite them to the children of Mother Church. Have pity on them, because their repeated cry is: " We are of one and the same blood and bone." Remember that we go the way of all flesh and in hell no man praises the Lord nor can death honour Him.

Be it known that in this undertaking I have the agreement and support and blessing of two Pontiffs of the Roman See. Act, then, on this prayer of mine, that your reward among the angels of heaven may be manifest and enlarged.

May the Almighty Creator keep your unity and common bond of love in force for evermore.

(Tangl, 46)


26 Boniface Asks Protection for His Mission In Thuringia From Grifo, Mayor of The Palace (741)

Grffo was step-brother to Pippin the Short and Carloman, being the son of Charles Martel and the Bavarian Sonnichilde. When this letter was written Charles Martel had just died and the struggles between the brothers for power had not yet begun. Grifo was eventually eliminated and Pippin and Carloman gained complete control.

Boniface, servant of the servants of God, greetings in Christ to Grifo, son of Charles.

I beg and entreat Your Highness in the name of God the Father Almighty, of Jesus Christ, His Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by the Trinity and Unity of God, that in the event of your coming to power you will help the clerics, priests, monks, nuns and all the servants of God in Thuringia, and that you will protect the Christians from the hostility of the heathens so that they may not be destroyed by them. Thus you will reap an everlasting reward at the judgment seat of Christ. Be assured that you are constantly in our prayers to God: this, your father desired during his lifetime as did also your mother. We pray God, the Saviour of the world, to guide your steps through life, so that your soul may be saved and you may abide in the grace of God for evermore.

Meanwhile, my son, recall the words of the psalmist: "Man's life is like the grass, he blooms and dies like a flower in the fields." And the Apostle: "The whole world about us was in the power of evil." And Truth Himself says in the Gospel: "How is a man the better for gaining the whole world if he loses himself?. "And again in the Gospel, speaking of the glory of the just: "Then, at last, the just will shine out, clear as the sun, in their Father's kingdom." And Paul, the Apostle, said about the bliss of eternal life: "Things no eye has seen, nor ear heard, no human heart conceived, is the welcome God has prepared for those who love Him.

So conduct yourself my son, that your reward may shine ever more brightly in the high vault of heaven.

[98] Our wish is that it may be well with you till the end of your days in Christ.

(Tangl, 48) 

27 Boniface to Pope Zacharias On His Accession to the Papacy (742)

Pope Zacharias (741-52) was of Greek extraction. He seems to have been less understanding of Boniface's difficulties than the previous Popes, though to him must be ascribed the confirmation of the synods and much else that Boniface undertook. It was through his efforts that the Synod of Cloveshoe in England, 747, was held.

To our beloved lord Zacharias, who bears the insignia of the supreme pontificate, Boniface, a servant of the servants of God.

We confess, Father and Lord, that after we had learned through messengers that your predecessor Gregory, of holy memory, had departed this life, nothing gave us greater comfort and happiness than the knowledge that God had appointed Your Holiness to enforce the canonical decrees and govern the Apostolic See. Kneeling at your feet, we earnestly beg that, as we have been devoted servants and humble disciples to your predecessors in the See of Peter, we may likewise be counted obedient servants, under canon law, of Your Holiness.

It is our firm resolution to preserve the Catholic faith and the unity of the Church of Rome, and I shall continue to urge as many hearers and disciples as God shall grant me on this mission to render obedience to the Apostolic See.

We must also inform you, Holy Father, that owing to the conversion of the German people we have consecrated three bishops and divided the province into three dioceses. We humbly desire you to confirm and establish as bishoprics, both by your authority and in writing, the three towns or cities in which they were consecrated. We have established one episcopal see in Wurzburg, another in Buraburg and a third in Erfurt, formerly a city of barbarous heathens. These three places we urgently beg you to uphold and confirm by a charter embodying the authority of the Holy See, so that, God willing, there may be in Germany three [99] episcopal sees founded and established by St. Peter's word and the Apostolic See's command, which neither present nor future generations will presume to change in defiance of the authority of the Apostolic See.

Be it known to you also, Holy Father, that Carloman, Emperor of the Franks, summoned me to his presence and desired me to convoke a synod in that part of the Frankish kingdom which is under his jurisdiction. He promised me that he would reform and re-establish ecclesiastical discipline.- which for the past sixty or seventy years has been completely disregarded and despised. If he is truly willing, under divine inspiration, to put his plan into execution, I should like to have the advice and the instructions of the Apostolic See. According to their elders, the Franks have not held a council for more than eighty years; they have had no archbishop nor have they established or restored in any place the canon law of the Church. The episcopal sees, which are in the cities, have been given, for the most part, into the possession of avaricious laymen or exploited by adulterous and unworthy clerics for worldly uses. If I am to undertake this task at your bidding and on the invitation of the Emperor I must have at once, with the appropriate ecclesiastical sanctions, both the command and the decision of the Apostolic See.

Should I discover among these men certain deacons, as they are called, who have spent their lives since childhood in debauchery, adultery and every kind of uncleanness " who have received the diaconate with this reputation, and who even now, when they have four or five or even more concubines in their beds at night, are brazen enough to call themselves deacons and read out the Gospel: who enter the priesthood, continue in the same career of vice and declare that they have the right to exercise the priestly functions of making intercession for the people and offering Mass, and who, to make matters worse, are promoted, despite their reputations, to higher offices and are eventually nominated and consecrated bishops, may I in such cases have a written and authoritative statement regarding the procedure to be followed, so that they may be convicted as criminals and condemned by apostolic authority? Among them are bishops who deny the charges of [100] fornication and adultery but who, nevertheless, are shiftless drunkards, addicted to the chase, who march armed into battle and shed with their own hands the blood of Christians and heathens alike. Since I am recognised as the servant and legate of the Apostolic See, my decisions here and your decisions in Rome ought to be in complete agreement when I send messengers to receive your judgment.

In another matter, also, I must crave your advice and permission. Your predecessor of holy memory bade me, in your presence and hearing, to appoint a certain priest as my successor to rule this diocese after my death. If this be the will of God, I concur. But now I have my doubts whether it is feasible, for in the meantime a brother of that priest has murdered the duke's uncle, and at the moment I see no possibility of settling the quarrel.

I beg you, therefore, to give me your authority to act on the advice of my colleagues regarding the choice of a successor, so that in common we may do what is most advantageous for God, the Church and the safeguard of the faith. May I have your permission to act in this matter as God shall inspire me, for without defying the wishes of the duke the former choice seems impossible.

I have further to seek your advice, Holy Father, in connection with a perplexing and scandalous report that has lately reached our ears. It has greatly disturbed us and filled the bishops of the Church with shame. A certain layman of high rank came to us and asserted that Gregory, of blessed memory, Pontiff of the Apostolic See, had granted him permission to marry his uncle's widow. This woman had previously married her own cousin and deserted him during his lifetime. She is known to be related in the third degree to the man who wishes to marry her and who now declares that the necessary permission has been granted. Furthermore, before her first marriage she had made a solemn vow of chastity and, after taking the veil, threw it aside.

For this marriage the man states that he has permission from the Holy See. This we cannot accept as true. For, at a Synod of the Church beyond the sea, where I was born and bred, namely, [101] the Synod of London, convoked by the disciples of St. Gregory, the archbishops, Augustine, Laurence, Justus and Mellitus, such a marriage was declared on the authority of Holy Scripture to be a heinous crime, an incestuous and execrable union and a damnable sm. For this reason, I beg you, Holy Father, to state the truth of the matter, so that it may not give rise to scandals, dissensions and new errors among the clergy and the faithful.

Because the sensual and ignorant Allemanians, Bavarians and Franks see that some of these abuses which we condemn are rife in Rome, they think that the priests there allow them, and on that account they reproach us and take bad example. They say that in Rome, near the church of St. Peter, they have seen throngs of people parading the streets at the beginning of January of each year, shouting and singing songs in pagan fashion, loading tables with food and drink from morning tin night, and that during that time no man is willing to lend his neighbour fire or tools or anything useful from his own house. They recount also that they have seen women wearing pagan amulets and bracelets on their arms and legs and offering them for sale. All such abuses witnessed by sensual and ignorant people bring reproach upon us here and frustrate our work of preaching and teaching. Of such matters the Apostle says reprovingly: " You have begun to observe special days and months, special seasons and years. I am anxious over you: has all the labour I have spent on you been useless? "

And St. Augustine says: " The man who puts his faith in such nonsense as incantations, fortune-tellers, soothsayers, amulets or prophecies of any sort, even though he fasts and prays and runs continually to church, giving alms and doing all kinds of penances, gains nothing as long as he clings to such sacrilegious practices."

If Your Holiness would put an end to these heathen customs in Rome it would redound to your credit besides promoting the success of our teaching of the faith.

Frankish bishops and priests, whose reputation as adulterers and fornicators was notorious, whose children, born during their episcopate or priesthood, are living witnesses to their guilt, now declare on their return from Rome that the Roman Pontiff has granted them full permission to exercise their offices in the Church. [102] Our answer to them is that we have never heard of the Apostolic See giving judgment contrary to the canonical decrees.

All these matters, beloved master, we bring to in order that we may give these men an authoritative r we, under your guidance and instruction, overcome an these ravening wolves and prevent the sheep from being astray.

Finally, we are sending you some small gifts, a warm rug and little silver and gold. Though they are too trifling to be offered to Your Holiness, they come as a token of our affection and our devoted obedience.

May God protect Your Holiness and may you enjoy health and long life in Christ.

(Tangl, 50) 

28 Answers of Pope Zacharias to Boniface (April 743)

Zacharias, servant of the servants of God, to his very reverend' and holy brother and fellow bishop Boniface.

When we received your letter, most holy brother, which was brought to us by your priest Denehard, and heard that you were in good health (as we hope you may always be), we gave thanks to Almighty God who has deigned to crown your labours with success. Our heart is always filled with great joy on the receipt, of your letters, because we find in them reports about the salvation; of souls and the conversion of new peoples through your preaching to our Holy Mother, the Church.

Your latest letter tells us that you have established three bishops in three separate places to govern the people whom God, through your intervention, has brought into his fold. You ask that these episcopal sees may be confirmed by our authority. You should, however, first consider and carefully examine whether this is advisable and whether the places and the number of inhabitants warrant the establishment of bishoprics. You will recall, beloved, that the sacred canons decree that bishops should not be attached [103] to villages and small cities lest the dignity of the episcopate be lessened.

However, in response to your earnest appeal we hasten to grant your request. By our apostolic authority we ordain that bishoprics be fixed there and that a worthy succession of bishops shall govern the people and instruct them in the faith: there shall be one in the fortress called Wurzburg, a second in the town of Buraburg and a third in the place called Erfurt. Let no one dare to violate in the future what we have laid down and confirmed by the authority of the blessed Apostle Peter.

You tell us that our son Carloman [[1]] summoned you to meet him and to arrange for a synod to be held in that part of the Frankish kingdom which is under his rule because of the complete collapse of church discipline in that province, a matter which we deeply regret. For a long time no council has been held there, and as a result many who call themselves priests hardly know what the priesthood is. When Carloman has put his promises into effect and you take your place by his side at the council, if you see bishops, priests or deacons living in adultery or having more than one wife in flagrant contradiction to the decrees and laws of the Fathers, or shedding the blood of Christians and pagans or acting in any other way contrary to ecclesiastical law, you must suspend them, on apostolic authority, from their priestly duties: for such individuals stand condemned by their own conduct as false priests and arc worse than those layfolk who give rein to their lusts, foster infamous unions and commit murder. On what grounds do they consider themselves to be priests? And how do they interpret God's word: "Let my priests marry once "? Or the words of the Apostle: " Faithful to one wife "? And this is valid only before receiving the priesthood, for afterwards they arc forbidden to marry. How do they think they can perform priestly duties when they are obviously steeped in such crimes as are unthinkable even in laymen? Are they not afraid to handle the sacred mysteries? How can they have the effrontery to offer prayers for the sins of the people, when the sacred canons [104] prescribe that not even a simple cleric who has not been ordained may contract a second marriage? These men, on the contrary, are guilty of sins worse than those of laymen not only because, being priests, they refuse to give up one wife, but because they take several wives when they know quite well that their state precludes even the taking of one.

[1] Carloman was one of the sons of Charles Martel. Brought up at Saint Denys, he was more religious than his brother Pippin the Short and was of great assistance to Boniface. He eventually abdicated and entered the monastic life.

But they attach no importance to this and proceed to call down on themselves the wrath of God by committing the still greater, crime of murder: and so it comes about those whom they should baptize and cleanse from their sins and whom they should save: from hell by the administration of the sacraments are slain by their sacrilegious hands. How can any reasonable man regard them as priests if they neither restrain their lust nor keep their hands free from blood? Who can believe that their sacrifices are pleasing to God when the prophet says: "Bloodthirsty and treacherous men the Lord holds in abhorrence "?

As I have said previously, we command you to suspend them from the performance of priestly duties and the handling of the sacred mysteries. If you find that they have acted contrary to the laws of the Church in any other matters, consult the canons and decrees of the Fathers and make your decisions accordingly.

You say that you are entitled to name your successor and to choose a bishop to take your place during your lifetime: this we cannot allow under any consideration. It is in open contradiction to the law of the Church and the opinions of the Fathers. But we will allow you to have an assistant to help you to preach the Gospel of Christ, according to the Apostle's words: "Those who have served well in the diaconate will secure for themselves a sure footing and great boldness in proclaiming the faith." It would obviously be quite wrong for us to appoint a substitute for you during your lifetime. We command you to offer up continual prayer as long as God grants you life to find you a successor pleasing to Him, able to govern the people whom you have brought to His grace and capable of leading them along the path of life. Even if we wanted to satisfy your desire, we could not do so, for we are all frail and mortal, not knowing what the coming day may bring and unable to foretell who may die first. However, if God [105] allows him to outlive you and you find that he is suitable and you persevere in your intention, then as soon as you become aware that your death is not far off you may designate your successor in the presence of others and send him to me to be consecrated. But this is a privilege which we grant to you out of our affection: we cannot allow it to be conferred on any other person.

As regards the man who wishes to marry his uncle's widow, it appears that the woman was previously married to her own cousin after having taken the veil, and the story has been put about that our predecessor, of blessed memory, gave him permission to contract this scandalous marriage with her. God forbid that our predecessor should have allowed such a thing. The Holy See never countenances anything in open violation of the teaching of the Fathers and the laws of the Church. Continue to warn, exhort and urge them to break off so detestable a marriage, lest they perish eternally. Recall to their minds that they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and that they must not wittingly hand themselves over to the power of the devil in this incestuous marriage. Let them dedicate themselves to Christ and the Holy Ghost in whose name they have been snatched from the claws of that ancient foe. Impress upon them, most holy brother, the words of Scripture: " To bring back erring feet into the right path means saving a soul from death, means throwing a veil over a multitude of sins."

As regards the New Year celebrations, auguries, amulets, incantations and other practices, which you say are observed in pagan fashion at the church of St. Peter, the Apostle, or in the city of Rome, we consider them to be sinful and pernicious not only for us but for all Christians, according to God's word in the Scriptures: " Jacob needs no soothsayer, Israel no divination: time will reveal the marvellous things God does to them." We consider also that auguries and divinations should be avoided, for we have been taught that such practices were repudiated by the Fathers. Because these evils were cropping up again, we strove to abolish them from the very outset of our pontificate, when by divine favour we were elected to fill the place of the Apostle. We desire you to instruct your people on the same lines and so lead them to eternal life. All such practices were [106] conscientiously and thoroughly suppressed by our predecessor and teacher, Gregory of sacred memory, together with many others, which, on the instigation of the devil, were beginning to make their appearance in the fold of Christ.

In fulfilment of your request, we are sending separate letters of confirmation to each of your three bishops and we ask you to deliver them with your own hand.

We have sent letters also to our son Carloman urging him to' carry out his promises at the earliest possible opportunity and to give you his support.

These, beloved brother, are our answers to the enquiries you made previously, given as God has inspired us for the suppression of all the scandals and deceits of the devil. If other disorders arise among your people, do your best to counteract them, framing your decisions on the laws of the Church. We have no right to teach anything except the traditions of the Fathers, but if some new situation arises through the wiles of the devil and no solution is suggested in the provisions of the Church canons do not hesitate to refer the matter to us, so that with God's help we may quickly give you an answer and attend to the wellbeing of your newly converted people.

Be assured that you have a special place in our affections and that it would give us great pleasure to have you always by our side as a minister of God in charge of the churches of Christ.

Finally, beloved brother, take strength in God. Persevere manfully in the work to which God'. in His mercy, has called you; for the great reward which God has promised to all those who love Him awaits you. And sinners though we are, we will never cease to implore Him to bring to perfection the generosity He has inspired in you. May blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, assist you in everything which you do in obedience to Him to the best of your desire.

May God keep you safe, most reverend and holy father.

Given on the kalends of April in the 24th year of our pious and august lord Constantine, by God crowned Emperor, in the second year of his consulship, in the eleventh indiction.

(Tangl, 51)


29 Acts of The Synod of 25 October 745, Condemning Aldebert and Clemens

In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In the twenty-sixth year of the reign of our august lord, the Emperor Constantine, in the fifth year of his consulship, the 25th of October, the fourteenth indiction, the holy and blessed Pope Zacharias presided over a council held in the Lateran Basilica, at which the following bishops and venerable priests were present: Epiphanius of Selva Candida, Benedict of Mentana, Venantius of Palestrina, Gregory of Porto, Nicetas of Gabii, Theodore of Ostia, Gratiosus of Velletri, the archpriest John, Gregory, Stephen, Dominic, Theodore, Anastasius, George, Sergius, Jordan, Leo, another Leo, Gregory, Stephen, Eustathius, Procopius and Theophanius.

After the holy Gospels had been placed in the middle of the assembly, Gregory, the regional notary and nomenclator, announced in the presence of the deacons and the whole body of the clergy: The devout priest Denehard, who has been sent to Your Apostolic Holiness by Boniface, the Bishop of the province of Germany, is waiting behind the veil and begs for admittance. What is your command? The order was given: Let him come in.

When he came in, Zacharias, the blessed Pope of the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church of the city of Rome, said: You brought us a document some days ago from our revered and holy brother, the Archbishop Boniface. In that document he gave his opinion regarding the best course to follow. Why, then, have you asked a second time to be present at our meeting?

Then Denehard, the priest, replied: My Lord, when Bishop Boniface, your devoted servant and my master, convoked the synod in the Frankish province in accordance with your injunction, he discovered there two false priests, heretics and schismatics, named Aldebert and Clement. After he had deprived them of their episcopal dignity he obtained the approval of the Frankish princes to put them into custody. They are not performing their penance in accordance with the sentence passed upon them but, on the [108] contrary, they are still leading the people astray. For this reason I have been despatched with this letter from my master and offer it to Your Apostolic Holiness that it may be read out this sacred council.

The reply was: Let the letter be taken up and read in presence.

Then Theophanius, the regional notary and treasurer, took letter and read it aloud as follows:

"To the Supreme Father and Apostolic Pontiff, who holds the power and authority of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Boniface, the lowest servant of the servants of God, warm greetings in the love of Christ.

Ever since I dedicated myself, nearly thirty years ago, to the service of the Apostolic See, which I did at the instance and with the approval of Pope Gregory II, it has been my custom to relate to the Supreme Pontiff all my joys and sorrows so that in joy we might unite together to praise God and in sorrow I might be comforted by his counsel. Let it be so now. I come as a suppliant to Your Holiness, for the Scripture says: 'Ask thy Father and he will instruct thee, thy elders and they will tell thee.'

"I wish you to know, Holy Father, that after you had ordered me, unworthy as I am, to preside at the episcopal council synod and of the Franks, an arrangement in which they concurred, I had to suffer many insults and much persecution particularly from false bishops, adulterous priests and deacons and vicious clerics. My greatest difficulties arose from the opposition of two well-known heretics, blasphemers against God and the Catholic faith. One is called Aldebert, a Gaul by birth, the other an Irishman called Clement. In the form that their heresy takes they differ from each other, but they are. Alike in their degree of error.

"Since I am weak, I beg Your Apostolic Holiness to protect me against them by your authority and to lead back the Franks and Gauls to the right path by a written statement, so that they may no longer accept the fables, false miracles and prophecies [109]of the precursors of Antichrist but turn once more to sober truth. If after reading my account of their doctrines you consider it justified, order them to be thrust into prison. Let no one communicate with them for fear of becoming contaminated with their errors and perish in so doing, but make them live apart and hand them over to Satan for the overthrow of their corrupt nature, so that their spirits may find salvation in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. If they will not listen to the Church, let them be counted as publicans and heathens, until they learn not to blaspheme and to rend the tunic of Christ. On their account I suffer persecution, enmity and the reproaches of many people, whilst the work of the Church is hindered in its faith and teaching.

"Of Aldebert they say that I have deprived them of a saintly apostle and robbed them of a patron and intercessor, a doer of good deeds and a worker of miracles. But hear first the story of his life and judge for yourself whether or not he is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

"Quite early in life he deceived many people by saying that an angel in the guise of a man had brought him from the other end of the world relics of extraordinary but rather suspect holiness, and that through their efficacy he could obtain from God whatever he desired. By such pretence he was able by degrees, as St. Paul says, to make his way into house after house, captivating weak women whose consciences were burdened by sin and swayed by shifting passions. He also deceived great numbers of simple folk who thought that he was a man of truly apostolic character because he had wrought signs and wonders. He bribed ill-instructed bishops to consecrate him, in defiance of canon law and, finally, with unbridled arrogance, put himself on the level of the Apostles. He insolently refused to consecrate churches to the honour of the Apostles and martyrs and used to ask people what they expected to gain by going on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles. Later, he dedicated small chapels to himself - or, to speak more truthfully, desecrated them. In the fields or near springs or wherever he had a mind he erected crosses and small chapels [110] and ordered prayers to be recited there. As a result, throngs of people absented themselves from the established churches, flouted the injunctions of the bishops and held their services in those places, saying: 'The merits of St. Aldebert will help us.'

"He distributed his hair and fingernails for veneration and had them carried round in procession with the relics of St. Peter the Apostle. Finally, he committed what I consider to be the greatest crime and blasphemy against God. Whenever anyone came to him and fell at his feet desiring confession he would say: 'I know all your sins: your secret deeds are open to my gaze. There is no need to confess, since your past sins are forgiven. Go home in peace: you are absolved.'

"In his dress, his bearing, his behaviour., in fact, in all the details described by Holy Scripture, he imitated the hypocrites.

"The other heretic, whose name is Clement, is opposed to the Church, denies and refuses to acknowledge the sacred canons and rejects the teaching of the holy Fathers St. Jerome, St. Augustine and St. Gregory. He despises all synodal decrees and declares on his own authority that, even though he has had two children born to him during his episcopate, he can still exercise the functions of a Christian bishop. He accepts the Old Testament ruling that a man can if he wishes, marry his brother's widow and considers that the same doctrine is applicable to Christians. Contrary to the teaching of the Fathers, he affirms that Christ descended into hell to deliver all those, believers and unbelievers, servants of Christ as well as worshippers of idols, who were confined there. On the question of predestination he holds a number of damnable opinions which are contrary to Catholic belief.

"For these reasons I beg you to write to Duke Carloman about this heretic and have him put into prison so that he may be prevented from disseminating his doctrines more widely. Otherwise, one diseased sheep will infect the whole flock.

" I hope Your Holiness will enjoy good health, continued prosperity and long life."

[111] When this was read out, Pope Zacharias said: " You have heard, my dear brethren, what has been stated in this letter concerning the heretics who proclaim to the people that they are apostles. This they do to their own condemnation." The holy bishops and the venerable priests replied: " We have heard, indeed. They are not apostles, they are the slaves of the devil and the precursors of Antichrist. For what Apostle ever distributed his hair or fingernails to the people as relics as did this sacrilegious and pestilent Aldebert? Your Holiness must punish these crimes, both in the case of Aldebert and in that of Clement, who shows contempt for the sacred canons and rejects the teachings of the Fathers, St. Ambrose, Augustine and the others. They should receive a sentence commensurate with their crimes."

Zacharias, the Pope, said: " It is rather too late today, but at the next session, when we have heard the account of his life, the prayer he composed for himself and the rest of his malpractices, we may, by the help of God, come to a unanimous decision on the best course to be followed in this matter."

The Second Session

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the twenty-sixth year of the reign of our august lord, the Emperor Constantine the Great, in the fifth year of his consulship, the 25th of October, the fourteenth indiction, the holy and blessed Pope Zacharias presided over a council held in the Lateran Basilica of Theodore at which the following bishops and venerable priests were present: Epiphanius of Selva Candidal Benedict of Mentana, Venantius of Palestrina, Gregory of Porto, Nicetas of Gabii, Theodore of Ostia, Gratiosus of Velletri, the archpriest John, Gregory, Stephen, Dominic, Theodore, Anastasius, George, Sergius, Jordan, Leo, another Leo, Gregory, Stephen, Eustathius, Procopius and


After the holy Gospels had been placed in the middle of the assembly, Gregory, the regional notary, announced: " In accordance with the instructions given by Your Holiness in the last session, Denehard, the priest, awaits behind the veil for [112] admittance. What is your command?" The order was given: let him come in."


When he came in, Zacharias, the holy and blessed Pope, said: "Bring forward the life-story of the infamous man Aldebert, together with his writings which you had in your hands at the last session, and cause them to be read out before the present gathering." Then Theophanius, the regional notary and treasurer, took them and read aloud the following opening sentences:

"In the name of Jesus Christ. Here begins the life of the holy and blessed servant of God, Bishop Aldebert, born by the will of God. He was sprung from simple parents and was crowned by the grace of God. For Whilst he was in his mother's womb the grace of God came upon him, and before his birth his mother saw, as in a vision, a calf issuing from her right side. This calf symbolized the grace which he had received from an angel before he came forth from the womb."

When the book had been read through to the end Zacharias, the Pope, asked: " What reply do you make to these blasphemies? "

Epiphanius, the holy Bishop of Selva Candida answered: Apostolic Father, you were indeed acting under divine inspiration when you commanded our holy brother Archbishop Boniface and the Frankish princes to convoke an episcopal council in those provinces after so long an interval in order that these schisms and blasphemies should no longer be concealed from your Apostolic Holiness."

Zacharias, the holy and blessed Pope, said: " If Denehard, the priest, has anything further to bring to our notice which should be read out let him produce it."

Denehard, the priest, answered: " I have a letter here which he made use of in his teaching, saying that it was written by Jesus and came down from heaven."

Then Theophanius, the regional notary and treasurer, took it up and read out the following words:

"In the name of God. Here begins the letter of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, which fell from heaven in Jerusalem [113] and was discovered by the archangel Michael near the gate of Ephraim. This very copy of the letter came into the hands of a priest named Icore, who read it and sent it to a priest named Talasius in the city of Jeremias. Talasius passed it on to another priest Leoban, who was living in a town of Arabia. Leoban sent the letter to the city of Westphalia, where it was received by a priest Macrius. He sent the letter to Mont St. Michel. In the end, through the intervention of an angel, the letter reached Rome, even the tombs of the Apostles, where the keys of the kingdom of heaven are. And the twelve dignitaries who are in the city of Rome fasted, watched and prayed for three days and three nights," etc.

Zacharias, the saintly and blessed Pope, said: "There is no doubt, beloved brethren, that this fellow Aldebert is out of his senses. Anyone who could pin his faith to such a letter must he childish, lacking in intelligence and like an hysterical woman. But to prevent him. from deceiving simple-minded folks we must not delay to discuss the case against him and to pronounce sentence."

Then the holy bishops and venerable priests replied: We know that Your Holiness receives illumination from God and that all your utterances proceed from the Holy Ghost. Therefore, as you shall see fit., let judgment be pronounced against them both."

Zacharias, the Pope, said: " The matter must be considered in common with Your Reverences and not merely according to my own judgment. If it please God, sentence shall be promulgated at the next session on the basis of the documents laid before us, founded on the claims of justice and the inspiration of God."

Third Session

In the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In the twenty-sixth year of the reign of our august lord and emperor, Constantine the Great, in the fift year of his consulship, the 25th of October, the fourteenth indiction, the holy and blessed Pope [114] Zacharias presided over a council assembled in the Lateran Patriarchate, in the basilica which is named after Theodore, at which the following bishops and priests were present: Epiphanius of Selva Candida, Benedict of Mentana, Venantius of Palestrina, Gregory of Porto, Nicetas of Gabii, Theodore of Ostia, Gratiosus of Velletri, the archpriest John, Gregory, Stephen, another Stephen, Dominic, Theodore, Anastasius, George, Sergius, Jordon, Leo, another Leo, Gregory, Stephen, Eustathius, Procopius and Theophanius.

When the Holy Gospels had been placed in the middle of the assembly, Gregory, the regional notary and nomenclator, announced in the presence of the deacons and the clergy: " In accordance with the command given by Your Holiness in the last session that Denehard, the priest, should appear before you today, he is waiting outside the door. What is your command? " The order was given: cc him enter."

When he had come in, Zacharias, the Pope, said: " Have you any other writings belonging to those renegades which you ought to hand over to be read? " Denehard, the priest, replied: " Yes, my Lord. I have a prayer which Aldebert tried to compose for his own use. Here it is in my hand. Pray, take it."

And Theophanius, taking it, read it aloud, beginning with the following words:

"O Lord, Omnipotent God, Father of Christ, the Son of God., and our Lord Jesus Christ, alpha et omega, who sittest on the seventh throne above the cherubim and seraphim, immense love and wonderful sweetness is with Thee. O Father of the holy angels, who hast created heaven and earth, the sea and all the things that are in them, I invoke Thee, I cry out and summon thee to my aid, wretch that I am. Thou hast deigned to say: Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, that will I give. To Thee I pray, to Thee aloud I cry, to the Lord Christ I commend my soul."

And as he was reading from beginning to end, he came to the passage where it said: "I pray and entreat and besecch you, angel [115] Uriel, Raguel, Tubuel, Michael, Adinus, Tubuas, Sabaoc, Sirniel. .. ."

When he had read this sacrilegious prayer to the end, Zacharias, the Pope, said: " What is your comment upon this, dear brethren? 11 The holy bishops and venerable priests replied: " What else can we do except consign these writings, which have been read out to us, to the flames and to strike their authors with anathema? The names of the eight angels whom Aldebert invokes in his prayer are., with the exception of Michael, not angels but demons whom he has called to his aid. As we know from the teaching of the Apostolic See and divine authority, there are only three angels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. He has introduced demons under the guise of angels."

Zacharias, the Pope, replied: " Wisely have Your Reverences decided that his writings should be burned. But in order that they may serve for his condemnation and his everlasting confusion, it may be useful to preserve them in our archives. Now that the discussion is at an end, we will proceed to pass sentence upon the two delinquents mentioned earlier."

The whole assembly decreed: "As regards Aldebert, whose deeds and abominable writings have been read out to us, who thought fit to call himself an apostle and gave his hair and nails to the people as relics, leading them astray into various errors, who summoned demons to his aid under the guise of angels, let him be deprived of his episcopal office, do penance for his sins and cease to seduce the people any longer. If he persists in his errors and continues to deceive the faithful, let him be anathema and condemned by the eternal judgment of God, he and any other who agrees with him., or accepts his teaching or associates with him. In the same way let Clement, who in his foolhardiness rejected the decrees of the Fathers, accepted the Old Testament regulations in so far as he allowed a man to marry his brother's widow, and furthermore affirmed that our Lord Jesus Christ descended into hell to deliver all the godly and the ungodly, let hint., we say, be stripped of his episcopal office, excommunicated and condemned by the everlasting judgment of God. This applies also to anyone who agrees with his sacrilegious teaching."


ZACHARIAs, Bishop of the Holy Church of God and of the apostolic city of Rome.
EPIPHANIUS, Bishop of Selva Candida.
BENEDICT, Bishop of Mentana.
VENANTISU, Bishop of PaLestrina.
GREGORY, Bishop of Porto.
NICETAS, Bishop of Gabii.
THEODORE, Bishop of Ostia.
GRATIOSUS, Bishop of Velletri.
JOHN, Archpriest of Santa Susanna. etc.

(Tangl, 59)



30 Boniface to Bishop Daniel Describing the Obstacles to His Work (742-6)

To Bishop Daniel, beloved in the Lord, Boniface, a servant of the servants of God, affectionate greetings in Christ.

It is the usual custom for men who are in trouble and anxiety to seek the consolation and advice of those on whose wisdom and affection they can rely. And so it is with me. Relying on your friendship and your experience, I come to lay before you all my difficulties and vexations of mind and beg you to support me with your comfort and advice. To quote the Apostle, all is conflict without and anxiety within; but in my case there are also conflicts within and anxiety without. This is caused in particular by false priests and hypocrites who set God at defiance, thereby rushing to their own damnation and leading the faithful astray by their scandals and errors. They say, in the words of the prophet, Peace, peace, but there is no peace. They strive to sow cockle among the wheat, to choke with weeds or pervert into a poisonous 1 weed the Word of God, which we received from the Catholic and Apostolic Church and which, to the best of our ability, we endeavour to disseminate. But what we plant they make no attempt to water in order that it may grow; in order, rather, that [117] it may wither away they use every effort to root it out by proposing to the faithful new sects and new falsehoods.

Some of them refrain from eating food which God created for our sustenance; others live on milk and honey whilst rejecting bread and other food; some, and these do most harm to the people, say that murderers and adulterers can be accepted for the priesthood even if they persist in their crimes. The people, as the Apostle says, grow tired of sound doctrine and provide themselves with a succession of new teachers as the whim takes them.

In our visits to the Frankish court to obtain assistance and protection, it is not possible, as required by canon law, wholly to avoid the company of such men. We are careful, however, not to communicate with them in the sacred body and blood of the Lord during the celebration of Mass. We also avoid taking their advice or asking their consent, for to such men, mixing with heathens and the common people, our toils and struggles are quite incomprehensible. When a priest, a deacon, a cleric or a monk, or any of the faithful, leaves the bosom of the Church, then he joins the heathens in abusing the members of the Church, and this raises terrible obstacles to the spread of the Gospel.

On all these matters we seek your help. We ask you particularly to intercede with God that we may fulfil our duties and our ministry without detriment to our soul. We beg you with most earnest prayer to intercede for us that God, the loving Consoler of those in distress, may deign to keep our souls amidst such trials unharmed and free from sin.

As regards my contacts with the priests already mentioned, I am anxious to have and to follow your considered advice. Without the patronage of the Frankish prince I can neither govern the faithful of the Church nor protect the priests, clerics, monks and nuns of God, nor can I forbid the practice of heathen rites and the worship of idols in Germany without his orders and the fear he inspires. When I come into his presence to secure his support for measures of this kind I cannot, as canon law requires, avoid personal contact with such men. All I can do is to avoid condoning their conduct. I am afraid of contracting sin by associating with them, for I remember that at the time of my consecration I took [118] an oath over the body of St. Peter at Pope Gregory's command, promising that if I was unsuccessful in bringing them back to the right path I would avoid their company. On the other hand, if, in avoiding them, I fail to approach the Frankish prince, I fear that my missionary work amongst the people win greatly suffer.

Pray, resolve my doubts and hesitations by your advice, judgment and precept. For my own part, I feel that if I dissociate myself from them, especially in cases where their manner of life is not in conformity with the canons of the Church, and if I refrain from seeking their advice, from agreeing with their views and from taking part with them in the services of the Church, I shall have done enough.

There is one other comfort for my missionary labours that I should like to ask from you. May I be so bold as to beg of you to send me the Book of the Prophets which Winbert, of revered memory, my former abbot and teacher, left behind when he departed this life? It contains the text of the six prophets bound together in one volume, all written out in full with clear letters. Should God inspire you to do this for me, no greater comfort could be given me in my old age, nor could any greater reward be earned by yourself. A Book of the Prophets, such as I need, cannot be procured in this country, and with my failing sight it is impossible for me to read small, abbreviated script. I am asking for this particular book because all the letters in it are written out clearly and separately.

In the meantime I am sending you by the priest Forthere a letter and a small gift as a token of affection, a towel, not of pure silk but mixed with rough goat's hair, for drying your feet. . . .

News was brought to me recently by a priest who came to Germany from your parts that you had lost your sight. You, my Lord, are more aware than I am who it is who said: " Where he loves, he bestows correction." And St. Paul says: " When I am weakest, then I am strongest of all "; and: " My strength is increased in infirmity." The author of the psalms adds: " Many are the trials of the innocent ", etc.You, my father, have eyes like those of Didimus, of whom Antony is related to have said that his eyes saw God and His angels and the blessed joys of the heavenly [119] Jerusalem. On this account, and because I know your wisdom and your patience, I believe that God has permitted you to be afflicted in this way so that your virtue and merit may increase and that you may gaze with the eyes of the spirit on those things which God loves and commands, whilst seeing less of the things God hates and forbids. What are our bodily eyes in this time of trial but the windows of sin through which we observe sins and sinners, or, worse still, behold and desire them and so fall into sin?

Farewell, my lord, and pray for me in Christ.

(Tangl, 63)



31. Pope Zacharias to Boniface Concerning Cases of Rebaptism In Bavaria (July 746)

Zacharias, servant of the servants of God, to his very reverend and holy brother and fellow-bishop, Boniface.

We have heard from Virgilius[[1]] and Sedonius, men of religious life in Bavaria, that you have ordered them to confer Baptism for a second time on certain Christians. This report has caused us some anxiety and, if the facts are true, has greatly surprised us. They told us that there was a certain priest in that province who knew no Latin at all, and who at the ceremony of Baptism, through ignorance of Latin grammar, made the mistake of saying:"Baptizo te in nomine patria. et filia et spiritus Sancti", and for this reason you considered a second Baptism to be necessary. But, very reverend brother, if the minister intended no error or heresy, but simply through ignorance made a slip in Latin, we cannot agree to a repetition of the baptismal rite. For, as you are well aware, even a person who has been baptized by a heretic in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, does not need to be baptized over again, but is merely absolved by the laying on of hands. If, then, the case is really such as the report makes out, you must no longer [120] issue instructions to this effect. You must endeavour to conform to the teaching and preaching of the Fathers of the Church.

[1] Probably the Irish Bishop of Salzburg (745-84), whose cosmological theories about the existence of another world, with sun and moon, below the earth, caused much controversy.

May God keep you safe, most reverend brother.

Given on the kalends of July in the twenty-sixth year of our pious and august emperor, Lord Constantine, crowned by God,

the fourth year of his consulship, the fourteenth indiction.

(Tangl, 68)



32 Boniface Writes A Letter of Admonition to King Aethelbald of Mercia (746-7)

To my most dear lord Aethelbald, King of the English, beloved in Christ above all other kings, Boniface, the archbishop, Legate in Germany of the Roman Church, with Wera, Burchard, Werberht, Abel, Willibald, Hwita and Leofwine, his fellow-bishops,[[1]] lasting and loving greetings in Christ.

[1] These seven bishops, all Anglo-Saxons, were Boniface's coadjutors. There are good reasons for thinking that Wera was Bishop of Utrecht between 741 and 753. Burchard was Bishop of Wurzburg, Willibald was Bishop of Eichstatft (whose travels are described later in this volume), Abel was Archbishop of Rheims and Hwita is usually supposed to be the Bishop of Buraburg; to the others, Werberht, Leofwine, it is not possible to ascribe sees, but it is unlikely that Leofwine is to be identified with Lebuin, whose biography occurs later in this book.

We confess before God and His holy angels that whenever reliable messengers have brought us news of your prosperity, your faith and good deeds in the sight of God and men, we have been glad and given thanks to God in our prayers. We have also prayed and entreated the Saviour of the world to keep you for many years to come firm in faith, constant in good works and just in your government of a Christian people. But whenever it has come to our ears that you have suffered a setback either in the state of your realm, the outcome of war or, what is more dangerous, in the salvation of your soul, then we have been cast down with grief and sadness, because we share in your joys and suffer with you in your troubles.

We have heard that you are generous in the giving of alms. On this we congratulate you, because they who give alms to the least [121] of their needy brethren will hear on the day of judgment, as the Gospel says, a favourable sentence from the Lord: "As long as ye did it to one of these, my least brethren, ye. did it to me. Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world."

We have heard, also, that you vigorously suppress robbery and crime, perjury and plundering, and that you are known to be a protector of the widows and the poor: hence peace is established in your kingdom. For this we rejoice and praise God, because Christ, who is our peace and truth, has said: " Blessed are the peaceable, for they shall be called the children of God."

But with these good tidings one grave accusation against your otherwise good conduct, and one which we would prefer to think was false, has reached our hearing and caused us sorrow. We have learned from several sources that you have never taken a lawful wife. Marriage was instituted by the Lord our God from the beginning of the world and has been ordained and reaTumed in his preaching by the Apostle Paul, saying: "Beware of fornication. Let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband." For if you wished to act in this manner for the sake of practising chastity and continence and had refrained from taking a wife out of fear and love of God, and then had truly fulfilled your purpose, we should have been glad, because it is a laudable and not a reprehensible course to take. But if, as many say (which God forbid), you have not taken a lawful wife nor professed chastity for God's sake but have been driven by lust into the sins of fornication and adultery and have lost your good name before God and men, then we are deeply grieved.

And what is much worse, those who told us add that you have committed these sins, to your greater shame, in various monasteries with holy nuns and virgins vowed to God. Let us put the matter this way. If a slave is guilty of a heinous crime against his master, if he commits adultery with his lord's wife, how much greater is the crime of the man who besmirches with his lust the spouse of Christ, Creator of heaven and earth? Saint Paul says: "Do you not know that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?" And in another place: "Do you not know that you are the temple [122] of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which you are." And again, he counts fornicators and adulterers, together with idolators, among the number of sinners, saying: "Know ye not that sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God. Be not deceived: neither fornicators nor idolators nor adulterers nor the effeminate, nor thieves nor drunkards nor revilers, nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God."

Among the Greeks and Romans a candidate for Holy Orders is closely questioned before his ordination about this sin, implying that anyone found guilty of it has committed a blasphemy against God, and if found guilty of having had intercourse with a nun veiled and consecrated to God he is debarred from entering the ranks of the clergy. For this reason one should carefully consider how grievous a sin this is in the eyes of the Eternal Judge. He who is guilty of it is classed as an idolator, and even though he has been reconciled to God by penance he is banished from the service of the altar. Our bodies, consecrated to God through the offering of our vows and the words of the priest, are said by the Holy Ghost to be the temple of God. Those, then, who violate them are to be regarded, according to the Apostle, as the sons of perdition. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, warned the lustful against the sin of fornication, saying: "The time past suffices,"[Pet iv.3-5] etc. And then: "A harlot's pay is but the price of a meal; the adulteress costs dearer, her price is a man's whole life." [Prov. Vi.26] Small blame to the thief when he steals to fill his hungry belly, and if he be caught, why, he can pay sevenfold or yield up all that he has; the adulterer, in the hunger of his heart, must risk losing life itself. [Prov vi.30-31]

It would be tedious to enumerate how many teachers have denounced the dread poison of this sin and forbidden it with terrible threats. Fornication is more grave and repellent than almost any other sin and may truly be called the snare of death, an abyss of hell and a whirlpool of perdition.

Wherefore, if you are still living in a state of sin, we beseech and entreat Your Grace through Christ, the Son of God, and through His coming, to amend your life by penance and cleanse [123] it by purification. Bear in mind how vile a thing it is to change the image of God which has been created in you into the likeness of the devil through lust. Remember that you have been set as a king and ruler over many, not for your own deserts but through the overwhelming goodness of God, and that now by your lust you are making yourself the slave of the devil. The Apostle says: "Whatsoever sin a man commits, of that he becomes a slave." Not only by Christians, but even by pagans is this sin reckoned a shame and a disgrace. For even pagans, who know not the true God, observe in this matter, as if by instinct, the essence of the law and the ordinance of God, inasmuch as they respect the bonds of matrimony and punish fornicators and adulterers. In Old Saxony, if a virgin defiles her father's house by adultery or if a married woman breaks the marriage tie and commits adultery, they sometimes compel her to hang herself by her own hand, and then over the pyre on which she has been burned and cremated they hang the seducer. Sometimes a band of women get together and flog her through the villages, beating her with rods, and, stripping her to the waist, they cut and pierce her whole body with knives and send her from house to house bloody and torn. Always new scourgers, zealous for the purity of marriage, are found to join in until they leave her dead, or half dead, that others may fear adultery and wantonness. The Wends, who are a most degraded and depraved race, have such a high regard for the bonds of matrimony that when the husband is dead the wife refuses to live. A wife is considered deserving of praise if she dies by her own hand and is burned with her husband on the same funeral pyre.

If, then, the heathen who, as the Apostle says, know not God and have not the law carry out by instinct the injunctions of the law and show the works of the law written on their hearts, it is time now that you who are called a Christian and a worshipper of the true God should, if you have been defiled with lust in your youth, wallowed in the mire of adultery or drowned in the sea of lust as in the abyss of hell, call to mind your Lord, should escape from the snares of the devil and cleanse your soul from its foul iniquities. Now is the time for you to fear your Creator and to desist from defiling yourself by committing such crimes. Now is [124] the time to spare the many people who, through following the example of a vicious prince, perish and fall into the pit of death. For it is certain that we shall be rewarded or punished by the eternal judge according to the number of people we have led to heaven by our good example or swept into hell by our evil courses.

If the English race, as people in the provinces say and as the French, Italians and even the heathens insultingly proclaim, are despising lawful marriage and living in open adultery like the people of Sodom, then we must expect that from such intercourse with harlots, a people degenerate, degraded and mad with lust will be begotten. In the end the whole race, turning to base and ignoble ways, will cease to be strong in war, steadfast in faith, honoured by men or pleasing in the sight of God. So has it befallen other peoples of Spain, Provence and Burgundy. They turned away from God and yielded to lust until Almighty God allowed the penalties of such crimes to destroy them, first by letting them lose the knowledge of God and then by loosing the attacks of the Saracens upon them.

It should be noted that in this crime another and much greater crime is involved, because when these harlots, whether nuns or not, bring forth their children conceived in sin they generally kill them and so, instead of enlarging the Church by bringing in adoptive sons of Christ, they fill graves with corpses and hell with unhappy souls.

We have also been informed that you have violated the privileges of churches and monasteries and filched away their revenues. If this is true, it must be regarded as a grievous sin on the testimony of the Holy Ghost, which says: "Shall he who robs father or mother make light of it? He is next door to a murderer."It cannot be doubted that God, who created us, is our Father and the Church who regenerated us spiritually is our Mother. Therefore he who robs or plunders the money of Christ and the Church will be regarded as a murderer in the sight of the just Judge. Of him a certain wise man said: " He who steals from his neighbour is a robber; he who robs the Church of her possessions is guilty of sacrilege."

It is said that your governors and earls use greater violence and [125] oppression towards monks and priests than any other Christian kings have ever done before. Ever since St. Gregory sent missionaries to convert the English people to the Catholic faith the privileges of the Church remained inviolate and sacrosanct until the days of Ceolred, King of Mercia and Osred, King of Deira and Bernicia. At the evil suggestion of the devil these two kings showed, by their accursed example, how these two deadly sins could be committed publicly against the commands of the Gospel and the teachings of our Saviour. They persisted in their crimes, namely, in the violation and seduction of nuns and the destruction of monasteries, until they were condemned by the just judgment of God and cast down from their royal state, overtaken by sudden and terrible death, deprived of eternal light and plunged into the depths of hell. For while Ceolred, Your Highness's predecessor, as those who were present testify, sat feasting amidst his nobles, an evil spirit which had seduced him into defying the law of God suddenly struck him with madness, so that still in his sins, without repentance or confession, raving mad, gibbering with demons and cursing the priests of God, he departed from this life and went certainly to the torments of hell. Osred, also, maddened and spurred on by his lust, outraged consecrated virgins in their convents until a shameful and ignominious death deprived him of his glorious kingdom, his young wife and his impure soul.

Wherefore, beloved son, beware of the pit into winch you have seen others fall before you. Beware the darts of the old foe with which you have seen your relatives fail wounded. Be on your guard against him who lays the snares that have entrapped your friends and companions, and by which you have seen them lose this life and the life to come. Follow not the example of such to your ruin. Such are they who, according to Holy Writ, have oppressed the good and taken away their works. On the day of judgment they will say: "Far, it seems, did our thoughts wander from the true path; never did any ray of justice enlighten them, never the true sun shone."

The riches of this world are of no avail on the day of judgment if a man comes to the end of his life stiff making evil use of them, for after the death of the body he shall fail into eternal punishment [126] of the soul. Take these warnings to heart, my dear son; I pray you yield to the prudent Words of God's law and reform your life. Turn away from your vices, make an effort to acquire holy virtues. So shall you prosper in this world and receive eternal reward in the world to come.

May Almighty God so turn your life to better things that you may be worthy of the grace of our Lord Himself for evermore.

(Tangl, 73)



33 Boniface to Archbishop Egbert of Yorko about the Letter to Aethelbald and about Books

Egbert was cousin of Ceolwulf, king of Northumbria. With his brother Ecgred he went to Rome and was ordained deacon there. He was appointed to the See of York probably in 732. Bede wrote to him a letter of advice about the life, doctrine and administration of a bishop, urging him to fulfil the scheme of Pope Gregory the Great for the erection of dioceses. He received the pallium from Gregory III in Rome in 735 and thus became the second Archbishop of York . The famous school, from which later Alcuin was to come, was founded by him. He died in 766 and was buried in a porch or chapel of the cathedral.


To his dear and reverend brother, Archbishop Egbert, Boniface, a servant of the servants of God, Legate of the Apostolic See in Germany, sincere greetings of spiritual brotherhood in Christ.

When I received your gifts and books I gave thanks to God for having found me such a friend in my journeys in these distant parts, one who helps me with material things and supports me spiritually with his prayers and the divine consolation of his friendship. From the depths of my heart I beg you to receive me, and those who work with me, into your fellowship, and to give me your advice and help in matters relating to ecclesiastical laws and decrees. Be assured that I am not trifling, but asking in all seriousness, without pride, arrogance or self-complacency. For when the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church sent me, an unworthy and lowly preacher, to the misguided pagan peoples of Germany, it laid an obligation upon me to use the authority of the Roman Pontiff and to strive with all my strength to recall to the way of salvation all those who were in error, or perverting the [127] church laws by evil practices or led away from the Catholic faith.

In fulfilment of this obligation, and supported by the counsel and consent of the bishops who are working with me, I sent a letter of admonition and reproof to Aethelbald, King of Mercia. This letter was, by my orders, to be shown to you, so that you could correct what was ill-expressed or emphasize and confirm by your authority what was well said. Also, if you were aware that the same evils objected in the letter against the lung were rife amongst your own people you could check them immediately and root them out before they bore fruit and became like Sodom and Gomorrah, and their wine became the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps. It is an evil unheard-of in times past, and, as my colleagues here who are versed in Scripture say, three or four times worse than the corruption of Sodom, when a Christian people, flouting the custom of the whole world, nay more, the command of God, turns against lawful marriage and abandons itself to incest, lust, adultery and the seduction of veiled and consecrated women.

Have copied and sent to me, I pray you, some of the treatises of Bede, whom, we are told, God endowed with spiritual understanding and allowed to shine in your midst. We also would Eke to enjoy the light that God bestowed on you.

Meanwhile, I am sending to you as a token of affection a copy of the letters of St. Gregory, which I have received from the Roman archives, and which, so far as I know, have not yet reached Britain. If you wish, I will send more, for I have many from the same source.

I am sending also a cloak, and a towel to dry the feet of the brethren after you have washed them.

I pray that your Grace may enjoy good health and make progress in virtue.

(Tangl, 75)



34 Boniface Asks Abbot Huetbert of Wearmouth to Send Him the Works of Bede (746-7)

Huetbert was brought up at Jarrow from childhood and later pursued his studies in Rome during the time of Pope Sergius (687-701). He became Abbot of the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow about 716.

To his very dear and revered brother Abbot Huetbert, and to all the brethren of his holy community, Boniface, a humble servant of the servants of God, sends greeting of brotherly love in Christ.

We earnestly beseech you, kind brother, to assist us with your holy prayers in our labours among the rude and savage people of Germany, where we are sowing the seed of the Gospel. Pray that we may not be scorched by the fiery furnace of the Babylonians, but rather that the seed strewn in the furrows may germinate and grow an abundant harvest. For, in the words of the Apostle, "neither he that planteth nor he that watereth is of any account, but only God who giveth the increase".

Meanwhile, I beg you to be so kind as to copy and send me the treatises of the monk Bede, that profound student of the Scriptures, who, as we have heard, lately shone in your midst like a light of the, Church.

If it would not give you too much trouble, pray send me also a cloak-it would be of great comfort to me in my journeys.

As a token of my deep affection for you I am sending you a coverlet, as they call them here, made of goat's hair. I beg you to accept it, trifling though it is, as a reminder of me.

May the Blessed Trinity, one God, guard you and prosper you in health and every holy virtue in this life, and glorify and reward YOU in future blessedness among the shining cohorts of the angels.

(Tangl, 76)



35 Boniface to Archbishop Cuthbert of Canterbury Reporting the Establishment of Frankish Synods and the Obstacles to His Work (747)

Cuthbert of Canterbury, said to have been of noble lineage, first appears as Abbot of Liminge in Kent. In 736 he was consecrated Bishop of Hereford and translated to Canterbury four years later. He went to Rome for the pallium and received it from Gregory III some time before 29 November 741. He presided at the Council of Cloveshoe, where every priest was ordered to learn and explain to the people in their own tongue the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Offices of Mass and Baptism. He sent the proceedings of this council to Boniface by his deacon Cynebert and thus encouraged him to follow his example.

To his brother and fellow-bishop, Cuthbert [of Canterbury], raised to the dignity of the archiepiscopate, and united to him by the bond of spiritual kinship, Boniface, Legate for Germany and the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome, sends greetings of intimate love in Christ.

It is written in the book of Solomon: "Happy is the man who has found a friend with whom he can speak as with himself." [Ecclus xxv.12] We have received by the hand of your son, the deacon Cynebert, together with your generous gifts, a delightful and affectionate letter. You have also sent me by him verbally a welcome discourse concerning our fraternal relations. I hope that as long as life shall last this exchange of spiritual counsel may go on, if God wills, from whom alone " all holy desires, all good counsel, and all just works do proceed". May you and I be bound together in the golden bonds of heavenly love which cannot be broken, you better and more fully because God has endowed you with greater gifts of knowledge and power, I striving to be instructed as your devoted vassal, " faithful in many things ".

The work of our ministry is in one and the same cause: an equal supervision over Churches and people is entrusted to us, whether in teaching or in reproving or in admonition or in protecting all classes of clergy and laity. Wherefore I humbly request that if at [130] any time God shall inspire you or your synods with wholesome counsel you will not hesitate to share it with me. And I likewise, if God will impart to me in my weakness anything useful or profitable to you, will do the same by you. Our responsibility towards Churches and peoples is greater than that of other bishops on account of the pallium entrusted to us and accepted by us, while they have the care of their own dioceses only. And hence, dear friend (not that you, who are so wise, need to hear or read the decisions of us simple folk), we feel that on account of your holy and humble good will towards us you would like to be informed about the decisions we have taken here and so submit them to you for correction and improvement.

We decided in our synod that we will maintain the Catholic faith and unity and our subjection to the Roman Church as long as we live: that we will be loyal subjects of St. Peter and his vicar; that we will hold a synod every year; that our metropolitan bishops shall ask for their palliums from that see; and that in all things we shall obey the orders of St. Peter according to the canons, so that we may be numbered among the flock entrusted to his care. To these declarations we have all agreed and subscribed, and we have forwarded them to the shrine of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles. The Roman clergy and Pontiff have gratefully accepted them. We have decided that every year the canonical decrees, the laws of the Church, the rule of regular life, shall be read and renewed at the synod. We have decreed that the metropolitan, having received his pallium, shall exhort the other bishops and admonish them and make enquiry as to who among them is watchful over the people's welfare and who is negligent. We have forbidden the clergy to hunt, to go about in the woods with dogs and to keep falcons or hawks.

We have ordered every priest annually during Lent to render to his bishop an account of his ministry, the state of the Catholic faith, Baptism and every detail of his administration. We have decreed that every bishop shall make an annual visitation of his diocese confirming and instructing the people, seeking out and forbidding pagan rites, divination, fortune-telling, soothsaying, charms, incantations and all Gentile vileness. We have forbidden [131] the servants of God to wear showy or martial dress or to carry arms.

We have decreed that it shall be the special duty of the metropolitan to enquire into the conduct of the bishops under him and their care for the people. He shall require them, on their return from the synod, each to hold a meeting in his own diocese with his priests and abbots and urge them to carry out the synodal decrees. And every bishop finding himself unable to reform or correct some fault in his own diocese shall lay the case openly in the synod before the archbishop for correction, just as the Roman Church at my ordination bound me by oath that if I found priests or people wandering from the law of God and could not correct them I would always faithfully report the case to the Apostolic See and the vicar of St. Peter for settlement. Thus, if I am not mistaken, should every bishop do to his metropolitan and to the Roman Pontiff if the case cannot be settled among themselves. So shall they be guiltless of the blood of lost souls.

Furthermore, dear brother, our labour is the same but our responsibility greater than that of other priests. The ancient canons prescribe, as everyone knows, that the metropolitan is to have charge of a whole province, and I fear that we have, so to speak, undertaken to steer a ship through the waves of an angry sea and can neither control it nor without sin abandon it, for as a certain wise man says:"[[1]] If it is dangerous to be negligent in steering a ship in the midst of the sea, how much more perilous to abandon it to the storm with the waves running high; and even so, the Church which makes its way through the ocean of this world like a great ship, buffeted in this life by diverse waves of temptation, is yet not to be abandoned but controlled."

[1] Julianus Pomerius, De Vita Contemplativa, P.L. 59, Col. 431.

As examples we have the early Fathers, Clement and Cornelius and many others in Rome, Cyprian in Carthage, Athanasius in Alexandria, who under pagan emperors guided the ship of Christ, nay his dearest spouse the Church, teaching, defending, labouring and suffering even to the shedding of blood. Of myself I can surely say, in the words of the Song of Songs: " The sons of my mother have fought against me. They made me keeper of the [132] vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept ". According to Nahum, the prophet, the vineyard is the house of Israel: but at the present time it is the Catholic Church.

By command of the Roman Pontiff and with the sanction of the princes of the Franks and Gauls, I have undertaken to bring together and address a synod in the hope of renewing the law of Christ. In that Church I have dug the ground round about, I have enriched it with manure, but I have not guarded it. While I waited for it to bear grapes it brought forth wild grapes, and according to another prophet: "The labour of the slave shall fail and the fields yield no harvest."[Hab. Iii.17] But, alas, my labour seems like the barking of a dog that sees thieves and robbers break in and plunder his master's house, but, because he has none to help him in his defence, can only whine and complain.

But now, finding myself in this position and asking your wholesome advice as to what seems right and prudent, I suggest that it is time to speak freely. I say like the Apostle Paul in the Acts of the Apostles[Acts xx.2-8]: " I testify unto you this day that I am pure from the blood of all men ", etc. He says: "I have walked among you preaching the kingdom of God that I might keep myself guiltless of the destruction of all." The Apostle calls the priest " bishop ", and the prophet calls him " watchman", the Saviour of the world calls him " shepherd of the Church ". All agree that the teacher and guide who conceals the sins of the people in silence becomes thereby guilty of the blood of lost souls.

For this reason a dread necessity compels us to present ourselves as an example to the faithful according to the word of the Apostle; that is, if I am not mistaken, the teacher is to live so well that his deeds shall not contradict his words, and that while he himself may Eve prudently, he shall not be silently condemned for the sins of others. He is set over the Church to this end that he may set not only an example of right living to others but through his dutiful preaching may bring every man's sins before his eyes and show him what punishment awaits the hard of heart and what reward the obedient. For, according to the word of God to Ezechiel, when a man is entrusted with the preaching of the Gospel, [133] even though he live a holy life, nevertheless if he is afraid or ashamed to rebuke those who live wickedly, he shall perish together with all those who perish by his silence. And what shall it profit him to escape the penalty of his own sins if he is to be punished for those of others.[[1]]

[1] I have omitted here a long passage from Scripture on the responsibilities of bishops. (Ed.).

Finally, I will not conceal from Your Grace that all the servants of God here who are especially versed in Scripture and strong in the fear of God are agreed that it would be well and favourable for the honour and purity of your Church and a sure protection against vice if your synod and your princes would forbid matrons and nuns to make their frequent journeys back and forth to Rome. A great part of them perish and few keep their virtue. There arc many towns in Lombardy and Gaul where there is not a courtesan or a harlot but is of English stock. It is a scandal and a disgrace to your whole Church.

As to the point that any layman, be he emperor or king, official or courtier, relying upon secular force, may wrest a monastery from the power of a bishop, abbot or an abbess and begin to rule there in place of the abbot, have monks under him and hold property bought by the blood of Christ, the ancient Fathers called such a man a robber, sacrilegious, a murderer of the poor, a satanic wolf entering the sheepfold of Christ, to be condemned with the extreme anathema before the judgment seat of God. Remember the words of St. Paul, the Apostle, about such men, when he said to Timothy: " Charge them that are rich in this present world that they be not high-minded nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God who giveth all things." If such men receive not the correction of the Church they are heathens and publicans and the Church of God refuses all communion to them alive or dead. Against such men let us sound the trumpet of God that we may not be condemned for our silence.

Strive with all your might against foolish superstitions in dress, a thing hateful to God. These ornaments, as they call them, but which others call foulness, with their wide embroidered purple stripes, are sent by Antichrist to herald his coming. Through his [134] craftiness he introduces into monasteries his own servants, fornication and lust, sinful friendships of youths in purple garments, distaste for study and prayer, and the ruin of souls. Such attire shows the wickedness of their souls, giving proof of arrogance and pride, luxury, vanity, of which Wisdom says: " Pride and arrogance and the evil way of the froward mouth I hate."

It is said also that the vice of drunkenness is far too common in your parishes and that some bishops not only do not prohibit it but themselves drink to the point of intoxication, and by offenng large drinks to others force them into drunkenness. There can be no doubt that this is a grave offence in any servant of God, for the canons of the Church Fathers order a drunken bishop or priest to reform or be degraded. And the Truth Itself says: " Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness."[Luke xx1.34] And St. Paul[Eph v.18] and the prophet Isaiah.3[Is. V.22] This is an evil peculiar to the heathen and to our race, for neither the Franks nor the Gauls, nor the Lombards, nor the Romans, nor the Greeks practise it. Let us, if possible, put a check upon it by synodal action and the commands of Scripture. At all events by avoiding it ourselves and prohibiting it we shall declare our souls free from the blood of the damned.

As to the forced labour of monks upon royal buildings and other works, a thing unheard of anywhere except in England, let not the priests of God keep silence or consent thereto. It is an evil unknown in times gone by.

May God's hand preserve you safe, reverend and beloved brother, against all adversity to make intercession for us.

(Tangl, 78)


36 Bonipace Reports to the Pope the Foundation of Fulda (751)

To the most reverend and beloved lord and master to be revered in fear and honour, Zacharias, invested with the privilege of the apostolic office and raised to the dignity of the Apostolic See, [135] Boniface, your humble and most unworthy servant, but your devoted legate in Germany, sends greetings of unfailing love.

I beseech Your Gracious Highness with earnest prayer to receive with kindness and favour a priest of mine, Lull, and bearer of my letter. He brings certain confidential messages for your gracious hearing only, partly by word of mouth, partly in writing. He will also make certain enquiries of importance to me and bring me for the comfort of my old age your answers and fatherly advice given with all the authority of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. When you have heard and considered all these matters, if they meet with your approval, I shall strive with God's help to enlarge upon them, but if, as I fear, they may not altogether please you, I shall follow your apostolic precept and either crave your indulgence or do penance as is fitting.

When your predecessor once removed, Gregory II, of revered memory, consecrated me bishop, unworthy as I was, and sent me to preach the word of faith to the Germans, he bound me by oath to support by word and deed all those bishops and priests who were canonically elected and of blameless life. This by divine grace I have tried to do. False priests, however, and hypocrites misleading the people, I was either to convert to the way of salvation or to reject and refrain from associating with them. This I have in part accomplished, but in part have not been able to maintain. In spirit I have kept my oath, because I have not agreed with them nor taken part in their counsels; but in the letter I could not avoid contact with them because when I went to the Frankish court on urgent ecclesiastical matters there were men there whom I would rather not have met.

The Pontiff also told me to make reports to the Apostolic See on the life and customs of the races I visited. And this I hope that I have done. But on the matter which I made known to you about the archbishops making their pleas for pallia from Rome, as the Franks promised they would, I crave the indulgence of the Apostolic See, because they are slow to carry out their promises. They are still discussing the matter and putting it off, and it is uncertain what they intend to do. But had it been left to me, the promise would have been kept. [136] There is a wooded place in the midst of a vast wilderness situated among the peoples to whom I am preaching.[[1]] There I have placed a group of monks living under the rule of St. Benedict who are building a monastery. They are men of ascetic habits, who abstain from meat and wine and spirits, keeping no servants, but are content with the labour of their own hands. This place I have acquired by honourable effort through the help of pious and God-fearing men, especially of Carloman, formerly King of the Franks, and have dedicated it in honour of the Holy Saviour.

[1] A fuller account of the foundation of the Abbey of Fulda will be found in the Life of St. Sturm, its first abbot.

Here I propose with your kind permission to rest my aged and worn body for a little time and after my death to be buried here. The four peoples to whom we have preached the Word of God by the grace of God dwell., as all know, round about this place, and as long as I Eve and retain my faculties I can with your support be useful to them. It is my desire, sustained by your prayers and led by God's grace, to continue my close relations with you and to remain in your service among the German people to whom I was sent, and to follow your directions as it is written:[Ecclus iii.2] "Hear the judgment of your father, 0 my children, and so act that you may be saved. He that giveth glory to his father shall have length of days. In deed and word honour thy father that a blessing may come to thee from him, for a blessing of the father establisheth the houses of children."

(Tangl, 86)


37. Papal Charter for the Monastery of Fulda (November 751)

Pope Zacharias to Bishop Boniface and through him to the abbots of the monastery built by him, in succession for ever.

Since reasonable requests ought always to be granted, it is right that the devotion of the founder of a house of prayer should not be denied the grant of privileges. Wherefore, since you have asked for the monastery, which you have built in a place called [137] Bochonia. on the bank of the river Fulda, to be honoured by a privilege from the Apostolic See, so that being under the jurisdiction of our holy Church, of which, by God's Will, we are servants, it may be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of any other Church, we grant your pious wish and by our authority fulfil your request.

Therefore, by this our authority, we forbid any priest of any Church except that of the Apostolic See to exercise any rights whatsoever over the said monastery. No one shall presume, except on the invitation of the abbot, even to celebrate Mass there, and the monastery shall remain for ever in the enjoyment of the rights implied in the apostolic privilege.

By this our decree we absolutely forbid all prelates of whatsoever Church they may be, of any rank or power, under penalty of excommunication, ever to dare to violate in any way the privilege granted by us to the said monastery..


(Tangl, 89)



38. Boniface Begs Egbert to Send Him the Works of Bede (747-51)

To his friend in loving embrace, to his brother in the bonds of the Spirit, to Archbishop Egbert, invested with the insignia of the highest office, many greetings and unfailing love in Christ, from Bonifice, a lowly bishop, legate in Germany of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The gifts and books you have sent us have been received with a joyful and grateful heart. With hands upraised to heaven we beseech the Supreme Majesty to repay you with an ample reward amongst the angels in heaven. But now we beg Your Holiness with earnest prayer that in your kindness and affection you would deign to pray for us in our struggles and trials. The great burden that weighs upon us compels us to seek the help of good men, as it is written: " The earnest prayer of the just man availeth much." The brevity of this letter, however, prevents us from telling you all the ills we suffer both within and without.

[138] Fo the present, we beg you from the bottom of our hearts to comfort us in our sorrow, as you have done before, by sending us a spark from that light of the Church which the Holy Spirit has kindled in your land; in other words, be so kind as to send us some of the works which Bede, the inspired priest and student of Sacred Scripture, has composed - in particular, if it can be done, his book of homilies for the year (because it would be a very handy and useful manual for us in our preaching), and the Proverbs of Solomon. We hear that he has written commentaries on this book.

In the meantime, we are greatly in need of your advice and counsel. When I find a priest who in the past has fallen into sin and has been restored to his office by the Franks after due penance, and now lives in a district where there are no other priests and continues to administer Baptism and celebrate Mass for a population which, though Christian, is prone to error, what should I do? If I relieve him of his post, acting on the established canons, then owing to the scarcity of priests, children will die without the sacred water of rebirth until I can find some better man to replace him.

Judge therefore between me and the living people. Is it better, or at least a lesser evil, to allow such a man to perform his sacred functions at the altar, or to leave the bulk of the people to die as pagans, seeing that they have no way of securing a better minister? Where there is no lack of priests, and I find one who has fallen into that same sin and, after doing penance, has been reinstated in his former rank, so that the whole body of priests and people have confidence in his good character, should I remove him? If at this stage he were to be degraded his secret sin would be revealed, the people would be shocked, many souls would be lost through scandal, and there would be great hatred of priests and distrust of the ministers of the Church, so that they would all be despised as faithless and unbelieving.

For this reason we have boldly ventured to tolerate the man under discussion and allow him to remain in the sacred ministry, thinking the danger from the offence of one man a lesser evil than the loss of the souls of almost the entire people. On this whole [139] subject I earnestly desire to have your holy advice in writing. Tell l me how far I must exercise forbearance in order to avoid scandal, and how much I must repress.

Finally, we are sending you by the bearer of this letter two small casks of wine, asking you in token of our mutual affection to use it for a merry day with the brethren. We beg you so to treat our requests that your reward may shine forth in the heavens.

(Tangl, 91)



39. Boniface Provides for His Associates and the Appointment of Lull as His Successor (752?)

Boniface, servant of the servants of God and bishop by the grace of Christ, to his beloved fellow - ecclesiastic Fulrad, priest,[1] affectionate greetings without end in Christ.

[1] Fulrad was the Abbot of Saint-Denys and chaplain to the king. He had much influence, and his intervention was more likely to move the king than a direct appeal from Boniface, who, as a foreigner, was not persona grata in court circles.

I know not how to return such thanks as you deserve for the spiritual friendship which, for Christ's sake, you have so often shown me in my vials; but I pray Almighty God to reward you for ever in heaven and in the joy of the angels- I beg you now to carry through to the end the good work you have begun so well: salute our glorious and gracious King Pippin from me and convey to him my deepest gratitude for all the kindness he has shown me. Report to him what my friends and I feel regarding the future.

It seems to me, considering my ill-health, that this mortal life of mine and the daily course of my activities must soon come to an end. Therefore I pray His Royal Highness, in the name of Christ, the Son of God, to indicate whilst I am still alive what future provision he is willing to make for my disciples. They are nearly all foreigners. Some are priests spending their lives in lonely places in the service of the Church and the people. Some are monks in cloisters or children learning to read. Others are men [140] of mature age who have been my companions and helpers for many years. My chief anxiety about all of them is that after my death they may have to disperse and be scattered abroad like sheep without a shepherd, unless they have the support and patronage of Your Highness. I am afraid also lest those people who are near the pagan border may lose their faith in Christ.

For this reason I earnestly beg Your Gracious Highness to have my son, the auxiliary bishop Lull,[[1]] appointed in my place as preacher and teacher to the priests and people, that is if it so please God and Your Grace. I hope, God willing, that in him the priests may find a master, the monks a teacher according to the spirit of the Rule, and the Christian people a faithful teacher and Pastor.

[1] Lull governed the bishopric of Mainz from 754 to 785.

I have a particular reason in making this request, because my priests living near the border of the heathens lead a very bare existence. They can get enough to eat, but they cannot procure clothing without help and support from elsewhere. Until now the assistance to maintain themselves in those districts for the service of the people has come from me.

If the grace of God shall move you to grant my requests, kindly send me word, either by these present messengers or in writing, so that in the secure knowledge of your care for them I may the more happily live or die.

(Tangl, 93)



40. Boniface Commends a Messenger to Count Reginbert (732-54)

To his dear son, Count Reginbert, Boniface, servant of the servants of God, greetings in the Lord for evermore.

May I beg a favour from Your Highness? Please allow this messenger, who is on his way to Rome with some letters of mine dealing with Church affairs, a safe conduct through your territory, so that he may pray at the shrines and bring back replies to me. [141] Help him when he is in need as you have helped my previous messengers., for so they have told me on their return.

Pray comply with this request, that your reward with God may be greatly increased.

Farewell in Christ.

(Tangl, 95)



41. Boniface To Leoba, Abbess of Bischofsheim (735-54)

To the reverend handmaid in Christ, Leoba, held ever in sincere affection, Bonifice, a servant of the servants of God, sends heartfelt greetings in Christ.

Be it known to you, dear sister, that our brother and fellow priest Torhthat has reported to us that in response to his request you are willing to permit a certain maiden to receive instruction for a time if we give our consent.

Be assured, therefore, that whatever you may see fit to do in this matter for the increase of her merits shall have our consent and approval. Farewell in Christ.

(Tangl, 96)


42. Boniface Commends a Serf (732-54)

Boniface, servant of the servants of God, to the priest Denehard, greeting in Christ.

I commend to you, dear friend, this serf Athalere, begging you to aid him in case of need as if he were a free man and to pledge yourself to his friends for him as such and not as a serf. Since he is proposing to take a wife, I am thus eager to commend him that he may have no fears on account of his servile condition. Farewell in Christ.

(Tangl, 99)



43. The Priest Wigbert Writes to the Monks of Glastonbury about His Arrival in Germany (732-54)

There are several persons with the name Wigbert who appear in connection with Boniface. It is unlikely that this writer is to be identified with Wigbert, the Abbot of Fritzlar, who died in 738.

…I would like you to know that as soon as Archbishop Boniface heard of our arrival he had the kindness to journey a long distance to meet us and gave us a warm welcome. Believe me, our work here is not useless but will redound to your gain. For Almighty God in His great mercy and through your merits has crowned our labours with success, though there are many difficulties and dangers and we are constantly beset by hunger, thirst, cold and the hostility of the heathens. I beg you, therefore, to pray for us, that we may be given words to speak our mind boldly in making known the Gospel revelation, so that the results of our work may be permanent.

Farewell in the Lord. Give our greetings to the brethren in the neighbourhood, first to Abbot Ingold [[2]] and then to our own community. Give the news of our successful journey to Mother Tetta[[3]] and her nuns. Repay our constant prayers, I beg you all, and may the mercy of God keep you ever praying on our behalf.

[2] Ingold or Ingeld was abbot of a monastery not far from Glastonbury. In another letter the community of an abbot called Aldhun with two abbesses Cuenburg and Coenburga addresses Abbot Coengils, Ingeld and Wichbert, a priest. Coengils was Abbot of Glastonbury, Cuenberga was Abbess of Wimborne and sister to Ingeld: but nothing more can be said about him.

[3] Tetta was sister of the King of Wessex and Abbess of Wimborne. Under her St. Leoba and St. Agatha received instruction: see the Life of Leoba.

(Tangl, 101)



44. King Ethelbert Asks for Falcons (748-54)

To the most holy archbishop Wynfrith, called Boniface, and worthily invested with the pontifical insignia, Ethelbert, King of Kent, sends greeting in the Lord of lords.

[143] Some years ago the venerable abbess Bugga [St. Eadburga, Abbess of Minster in the Isle of Thanet.] after a visit to the holy places of Rome for the purpose of offering prayer, returned thence to her native land and to the convent of holy women which she had formerly governed wisely under the law of the Church. At her invitation I had a conference with her, in which among other matters of importance she reminded me that while you were both in Rome and eagerly engaged in visiting the shrines of the Apostles you had given her permission to speak in familiar terms with Your Grace about her affairs. She told me further that because of our blood relationship she had asked and elicited from you a promise that you would give me, though I was absent and personally unknown to you, the same wise counsel and help of your prayers as she had received in your presence. When she told me that you had made this promise I cannot easily express the joy and comfort it gave me.

By the bearer of this letter I am sending Your Grace with my devoted affection a few gifts: a silver drinking-cup lined with gold, weighing three and a half pounds, and two woollen cloaks. I am not sending these gifts in the hope of receiving any earthly gift in return, but rather on bended knee begging from you what is far more necessary, namely, that in these days of manifold and sudden perils and in this world of scandals you would deign to help me with your prayers. And with this same purpose may Your Grace have in mind to urge others by command or persuasion to do the same, not only as long as I live, but after my death, should you survive me.

Having thus briefly mentioned these matters, there is one other favour I have to ask, which, from what I hear, will not be difficult for you to grant, namely, to send me a pair of falcons, quick and spirited enough to attack crows without hesitation and bring them back to earth after catching them. We ask you to procure these birds and send them to us, since there are few hawks of this kind over here in Kent, which produce good offspring, quick-witted, mettlesome and capable of being tamed, trained and taught for the purpose I have mentioned. [144] Finally, I pray you to reply to my letter and be so kind as to let me kiiow whether the things I am sending have duly arrived.

May divine grace give Your Grace long life to pray for us.

(Tangl, 105)



45 Boniface to King Pippin (753)

Pippin the Short, son of Charles Martel. After the retirement of his brother Carloman from public life and his entrance into a monastery Pippin was in sole control of the Frankish kingdom. He was anointed king by Boniface probably in 752, the first-known instance in the West of such a ceremony.

To the most noble lord Pippin, King of the Franks, Bishop Boniface sends greetings.

I give sincere thanks to Your Gracious Highness and pray our Lord Jesus Christ to grant you everlasting bliss in the kingdom of heaven because you have deigned to listen to my prayers and to give me comfort in my frail old age. And now, noble son, let me say that I believe, by the grace of God, that I can once more enter into your service. I ask you, therefore, to let me know whether I may attend the assembly to carry out your wishes.

A certain servant of my Church, named Ansfrid, who is an accomplished liar, ran away by stealth from me and now returns to me bearing an order from you demanding that I should do him justice. I am sending him back to you together with the letter and my messenger: you will then see how much he has fied to you. I beg you in your own interest to defend me against sucli liars and to give no ear to their falsehoods.

(Tangl, 107)



46. Boniface Greets the New Pope (752)

On the death of Pope Zacharias a certain Stephen was elected (23 March 752) but died three days later before his consecration could take place. Early writers did not include him in the fist of Popes and this has caused confusion in the numbering of the Popes Stephen. Tbe Pope who is addressed here is Stephen III, consecrated 26 March or 3 April 752, died 26 April 757.

To the most noble lord Pope Stephen, exalted and beloved above all pontiffs, endowed with the privilege of the apostolate, Boniface, a humble bishop and disciple of the Roman Church, sends affectionate greeting of love in Christ.

I pray for Your Holiness from the depths of my heart that I may be worthy to claim and possess that intimate union with the Apostolic See under your gentle sway and to remain your faithfid and devoted servant and disciple in the same way as I have already served the Apostolic See under three of your predecessors, the two Gregones and Zacharias, of venerable memory, who always helped me and strengthened me with their letters of exhortation and with their authority. I pray Your Grace so to act that I may still. more efficiently carry out and fulfil your fatherly intentions. For if I have accomplished anything of value in this Roman mission, in which I have been engaged now these six-and-thirty years, I desire to increase and fulfil it. Or if it be found that I have said or done anything wrong or unwise I pledge myself to correct it humbly and willingly and at once according to the judgment of the Roman Church.

Meanwhile I beg my gracious lord not to be offended by my tardiness in sending letters and a personal message to you. This delay was owing to my great preoccupation with the restoration of the churches burned by the heathen within our parishes and cloisters. They have pillaged and burned more than thirty churches. It was this, not careless negligence, which delayed my letters and address to Your Paternity.




47. Boniface on the Dispute with Cologne about Utrecht (753)

To his venerable and beloved apostolic lord and Pope Stephen, Boniface, a humble legate or messenger in Germany of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, sends greetings of love in Christ.

In the time of Sergius [687-701], Pontiff of the Apostolic See, there came to the shrine of the Apostles a Saxon priest of great holiness and self-denial, by name Willibrord, called also Clement. The aforementioned Pope consecrated him bishop and sent him to preach to the heathen Frisians by the shores of the western sea. For fifty years he preached to the Frisian people, converted a great part of them to the faith of Christ, destroyed their temples, and holy places, and built churches, establishing an episcopal see with a church in honour of the Holy Saviour in a fortified place called Utrecht. In that see and in the church which he had built he continued, preaching up to his feeble old age. He also appointed an auxiliary bishop as his substitute to carry on his ministry and at the close of his long life entered into the peace of God.

Then Carloman, King of the Franks, entrusted the see to me to appoint a bishop and consecrate him. This I did.

But now the Bishop of Cologne claims the see of Bishop Clement consecrated by Pope Sergius, for himself, and declares that it belongs to him on account of the ruins of a certain little church destroyed by the heathen. This Willibrord discovered razed to the ground within the fortress of Utrecht, rebuilt it from the foundations with his own labour, and consecrated it in honour of St. Martin. He insists that the Castle of Utrecht, together with the ruined church, was given by Dagobert, formerly King of the Franks, to the diocese of Cologne on condition that the Bishop of Cologne should convert the Frisians to the Christian faith and be their pastor. But this he did not do. He did not preach to the Frisians nor convert them to Christianity. The Frisian people remained pagans until Sergius, Pontiff of the Roman See., sent [147] Willibrord as bishop and teacher to them. He it was who converted them to the faith of Christ.

Now the Bishop of Cologne wishes to annex this see of the missionary Willibrord so that there shall be no episcopal see under the Roman Pontiff for the Frisian mission. I answered him according to my conviction that the order of the Apostolic See,

the consecration by Pope Sergius, and the mission of Willibrord ought to be far stronger reasons for the establishment of an episcopal see under the Roman Pontiff for the Frisian mission, a great part. of them being still pagans, than the broken foundations of a little ruined church which had been trampled on by Pagans and abandoned by the neglect of the bishops. He, however, does not agree with this.

May it please Your Paternity to give judgment for me. If my answer to the Bishop of Cologne is right and acceptable to you, confirm it by your authority so that the authority of Sergius, and the see itself may be permanently established. It would be a great help to us if you would be willing to send me from the archives Of your Church a copy of the instructions [written] by Sergius to Bishop Willibrord, who was consecrated by him, so that by the authority of Your Holiness I may be able to convince and Ovecome my opponents. If, however, some wiser course presents itself to Your Holiness, please send me your advice so that I may act accordingly.

(Tangl, 109) 

48. Bishop Milret of Worcester to Lull on the Death of Boniface

Milret was probably coadjutor to Bishop Wilfrith, who ruled over what is now Worcester and Gloucester. In 754 or 755 he visited Boniface and Lull in Germany and had not long returned home when he heard of the news of Boniface's martyrdom. He died in 775.

To the kindly and beloved master in Christ, Bishop Lull, Milret, a servant of those who serve God.

After I had been obliged to leave your company and the presence of the holy father Boniface and returned by the aid of [148] your prayers to my native land through c divers accidents and many adventures, hardly a year had passed when the sad news was brought to us that our blessed father had passed from the prison of the flesh to the world above. We may well call this sad tidings. And yet when we have been permitted to send before us such an advocate to heaven we have every confidence that we are supported by God's help and by his holy intercession. Though we lament with bitter tears the comfort we have lost in this life, yet he who is now consecrated a martyr to Christ by F the shedding of his blood, the glory and crown of all those whom this country has sent forth, soothes and relieves our saddened hearts by his blessed life, by the fulfilment of his noble work and hiss glorious end. We mourn our fate, hungering in this vale of tears, in this life filled with temptations. He, his pilgrimage accomplished with mighty effort, attained to a glorious death as martyr of Christ and now sits in glory in the heavenly Jerusalem to be, as I believe, a faithfullg intercessor for our sins, if God's grace together with Christ and the holy citizens of heaven permit. So much I write of our loving father. I beg you earnestly to send me an account of his venerable life and his glorious end.

One other thing occurs to me to say, seeing that we are close friends. I humbly beg of you, as if I were kneeling at your feet, to cherish in your heart not only as a passing memory but permanently that fraternal love which our r common father Boniface, of blessed memory, impressed upon us with his words in the love of Christ, uniting us in his gracious utterances. I am sure that it will, beyond all doubt, profit both you and me if we strive to carry out the precepts of so eminent a teacher.

Do not hesitate, loving master, to instruct me, the least deserving of your brethren, in brotherly love; fortify me by your precepts and assist me with your prayers. I pledge myself to follow faithfully and willingly all your directions in all things as far as I am able, and I promise, as God is my witness, to maintain that firm friendship as long as the spirit governs these limbs and the breath of life dwells in these mortal members. I pray with all my strength that with Christ's help the Scripture - may be fulfilled: "They had all things in common."

[149] What I have briefly set down I am sending to you verbally and more fully by the bearers of this letter, should Almighty God prosper their journey.

I have sent you some trifling gifts which I beg you to accept in the same affectionate spirit in which they are given.

May Christ protect you in your loving intercession for my sons.

The book I cannot send, because Bishop Cuthbert [of Canterbury] has not yet returned it.

God be with us.

(Tangl, 112)


C. H. Talbot, The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany, Being the Lives of SS. Willibrord, Boniface, Leoba and Lebuin together with the Hodoepericon of St. Willibald and a selection from the correspondence of St. Boniface, (London and New York: Sheed and Ward, 1954)

Page numbers are from the Talbot edition.

The copyright status of this text has been checked carefully. The situation is complicated, but in sum is as follows. The book was published in 1954 by Sheed & Ward, apparently simultaneously, in both London and New York. The American-printed edition simply gave 'New York' as place of publication, the British-printed edition gave 'London and New York'. Copyright was not renewed in 1982 or 1983, as required by US Law. The recent GATT treaty (1995?) restored copyright to foreign publications which had entered US public domain simply because copyright had not be renewed in accordance with US law. This GATT provision does not seem to apply to this text because it was published simultaneously in the US and Britain by a publisher operating in both countries (a situation specifically addressed in the GATT regulations). Thus, while still under copyright protection in much of the world, the text remains in the US public domain.

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© Paul Halsall, October 24, 2000

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