St Boniface

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Bishop and martyr. St Boniface was born around 680AD to a Saxon farming family near Crediton in Devon. He was baptised as Wynfrith. Educated in monastery schools in the West Country, he became a monk, first at Exeter, then at Nursling, near Southampton. During this time he compiled the first Latin grammar written in English. In 718, he left his homeland, never to return, to take the Gospel to the pagan tribes in Germany.

The results of his mission were long-lasting. His mission extended over Hesse, Bavaria, Westphalia, the Thuringenland, and Wurtenburg. To help in his work he enlisted many men and women from Wessex.

The text of many letters written by St Boniface and others from the time still exist and depict a great and lovable man. He journeyed to Rome three times to report to the Pope. On his second visit he was made bishop and by around 732 he was archbishop. When he was over 70 he set out on a mission to Holland. There his life ended in martyrdom. At a place called Dokkum he was set upon by a group of Frieslanders armed with swords as he sat reading in his tent.

Archbishop Cuthbert of Canterbury wrote at the time: "we in England lovingly reckon Boniface to be among the best and greatest teachers of the faith."

St Boniface is especially honoured in Germany. His tomb at Fulda, where he established a monastery is revered as a sacred place.