St Boniface IV


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(15 Sept. 608–8 May 615)

Born in what is now the province of L'Aquila, son of a doctor, he is first mentioned in 591 as a deacon and treasurer to Gregory I. The ten-month vacancy before his consecration was caused by the need to await the imperial mandate from Constantinople. A disciple and imitator of Gregory, as his epitaph emphasizes, he turned his house in Rome into a monastery on becoming pope and encouraged monks and monasticism. His reign was disturbed by famine, plague, and natural disasters, but he enjoyed good relations with Emperors Phocas (602–10) and Heraclius (610–41). Phocas granted his request to turn (13 May 609) the Roman Pantheon into a church dedicated to the BVM and all the martyrs (the first such conversion of a pagan temple), and he filled it with relics from the catacombs. In 610 he held a synod to regulate life and discipline in monasteries, and among those present was Mellitus (d. 624), first bishop of London. The pope and he conferred about the needs of the English church, and Mellitus returned home armed with the synod's decrees and letters for Archbishop Lawrence of Canterbury, King Ethelbert of Kent, and the English people generally. In 613 Boniface received a letter, deferential but full of impassioned reproaches, from the Irish monk Columban (543–615), now at Bobbio (in the Apennines), who, at the instigation of the Arian Lombard king Agilulf and his Catholic wife Theodolinda, besought him to repudiate his predecessors' condemnation of the Three Chapters and convene a council to demonstrate his own orthodoxy. No rejoinder from Boniface has survived. On his death he was buried in St Peter's; his cult can be traced only to the reign of Boniface VIII. Feast 8 May.

Further Reading

JW i. 220–22MGEp 3: 163 f., 170–77LP i. 317 f. (Davis 1: 64)J. Rivière, ‘St Columban et le jugement du pape heretique’, RevSR3 (1923), 277–82Caspar ii. 517–22DACL x. 2062–8, xiii. 1063–7 (H. Leclercq)DHGE ix. 898 f. (G. Bardy)Levillain i. 186–7 (J. Durliat)NCE ii. 499–500 (P. J. Mullins)DBI xii. 137–40 (P. Bertolini)Seppelt ii. 44–6JR 53, 177, 256, 262–5

Subjects: Christianity.

Reference entries