(d. 789) missionary and bishop of Bremen

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

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(d. 789),

bishop of Bremen. A Northumbrian, educated at York, and a friend of Alcuin, Willehad, like many of his countrymen before him, devoted his life to the spread of the Christian faith in western Europe. He landed in Frisia c.766 and started preaching at Dokkum, where Boniface was killed in 754. From there he passed on to Overyssel and Humsterland, where he narrowly escaped death, and then to the neighbourhood of Utrecht, where he consolidated the work of Willibrord. In 780 he was sent by Charlemagne to evangelize the recently conquered Saxons, but a revolt by their king Widukind in 782 was the signal for the massacre or expulsion of the missionaries. Willehad went to Rome to consult Pope Adrian. While Charlemagne ruthlessly suppressed the revolt of the Saxons, Willehad copied manuscripts at Echternach. When peace was restored, he returned to his apostolate, was consecrated bishop in 787, and chose Bremen as his see. Here he built a cathedral of wood and dedicated it to St Peter in 789, but died a few days later. Feast: 8 November.

AA.SS. Nov. III (1910), 835–51; L. Halphen, Études critiques sur I'histoire de Charlemagne (1921); W. Levison, England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (1946).

Subjects: Christianity.

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