(d. 782)

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St Boniface (c. 675—754) archbishop of Mainz, missionary, and martyr

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(d. 782),

abbess of Bischofsheim. Born of a noble Wessex family (her mother was a relative of Boniface), Lioba was educated first at the nunnery of Minster-in-Thanet and then at Wimborne (Dorset), where she became a nun under abbess Tetta. After some years correspondence Boniface asked in 748 and obtained that she should be sent to help him in the evangelization of Germany by establishing convents. About thirty nuns were sent in all; they were settled at Tauberbischofsheim, possibly in Boniface's own previous residence, under Lioba as abbess. The Life by Rudolf of Fulda, written about fifty years after her death and based on the testimony of four companions, paints an attractive portrait. Lioba was both beautiful and accessible, intelligent and patiently kind. Her community was so highly esteemed that abbesses for other houses were taken from it, while Lioba's advice was sought by magnates of both Church and State. Her monasteries followed the Rule of St Benedict: all the nuns had to learn Latin: manual work in scriptorium, kitchen, bakery, brewery, and garden was assiduously practised, but all was subordinate to the public prayer of the Church.

Before his final mission to Frisia in 754 Boniface said goodbye to her, recommended her care both to Lull and to the monks of Fulda, and said that he would like her body to be buried near his. After his death she used to visit Fulda on privileged terms. When she had been abbess for twenty-eight years, she resigned and retired to Schornsheim, but once visited Charlemagne's court at the invitation of his queen Hildegard. Lioba died soon afterwards and was buried near Boniface's tomb at Fulda. Her relics were translated in 819 and again in 838, this time to the church of Mount St Peter. Hrabanus Maurus inserted her name into his martyrology c.836; it also occurs in litanies of the 9th century. Her cult has always been centred in Germany, but seems surprisingly to have been little known in England. Feast: 28 September.

Life by Rudolph of Fulda in AA.SS. Sept. VII (1757), 748–69; Eng. tr. by C. H. Talbot, Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany (1954); M. Tangl, Die Briefe des heiligen Bonifatius und Lullus (M.G.H., 1916); W. Levison, England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (1946); B.L.S., ix. 263–5. See also T. Schieffer, Winfrid-Bonifatius und die christliche Grundlegung Europas (1954), pp. 162–6.

Subjects: Christianity.

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