The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Issue 9 (Oct 2006)

Oswald, King and Saint: His Britain and Beyond   |   Issue Editor: Michelle Ziegler

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

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Michel Aaij  
Auburn University Montgomery

Discussed in this review:

Felten, Franz J., ed. 2004. Bonifatius—Apostel der Deutschen: Mission und Christianisierung vom 8. bis 20. Jahrhundert [Boniface—Apostle of the Germans: Mission and Christianization from the 8th to the 20th century]. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner. ISBN 351508519X. 159 pages.

Hamberger, Wolfgang and Ietel J. Vida. 2004. Der Bonifatiusweg: Die Wurzeln Europas Entdecken [The Boniface Route: Discovering the Roots of Europe]. Köln: Dumont. ISBN 3770163265. 191 pages. Many maps and illustrations.

Jelsma, Auke. 2003. Het Leven als Leerschool: Preken van Bonifatius [The School of Life: Boniface's Sermons]. Laren: Esplanade. ISBN 9080835013. 95 pages.

§1.  READER BEWARE: By now you may be tired of reading about Boniface books in this column, and I sympathize with you, but the 1250th anniversary of his martyrdom is a gift that keeps on giving. Please bear with me. Since 2003 we have seen:

§2.  What is it that keeps secular and protestant Western Europe so interested in Boniface? That question cannot be answered in this column, but the books I have picked to discuss will, I hope, show how widespread this interest is.

§3.  The scope of Bonifacian research is evident in the collection edited by Franz Felten, Bonifatius—Apostel der Deutschen, the proceedings of a series of lectures in Mainz, where Boniface was bishop from 746 on. Contributions address Boniface's life and work, Charlemagne's 'mission' to the Saxons, the conversion of Latin America, the contribution of St. Lioba, the (German) culture of commemoration esp. of Boniface until the nineteenth century, and Boniface celebrations in Mainz—a true cornucopia.

§4.  Lutz von Padberg, professor of medieval history at the University of Paderborn, provides a biographical essay of high quality ("Bonifatius—Missionar und Reformer"), whose thesis will not surprise anyone familiar with von Padberg's other biographical studies of the saint: Boniface was a stubborn man, not a great visionary, but very determined, and while he thought of himself most often as a failure (never converted the Saxons, was not appointed bishop of Cologne, was unable to break the hold of the Frankish gentry on the church, etc.), his legacy proves otherwise. If one is looking for a short biography, this essay is highly recommended.

§5.  The contribution by Ulrich Nonn, professor of medieval and early modern history at the university of Koblenz, discusses Germany immediately after Boniface. His "Zwangsmission mit Feuer und Schwert? Zur Sachsenmission Karls der Großen" provides an overview of Charlemagne's mission to the Saxons, the people Boniface so badly wanted to convert. Nonn's essay is an attempt to clarify the Christianization of the Saxons, and especially the role of Charlemagne—was he the Apostle of the Saxons, as he was called by contemporary Frankish historians, or was he the Sachsenschlächter, the Butcher of the Saxons, as others (not just Nazi-historians) have maintained? Nonn gives a useful (brief) history of Charlemagne's different engagements during the 772-804 Saxon wars, with a very handy map that indicates which battles were fought when, where mass baptisms took place, etc. (Unfortunately, the grey scale on the map is not so clear that I can distinguish mass baptisms from war from diplomatic meetings from Reichsversammlungen.) He points out that the Christian conversion of the Saxons didn't become an integral part of the attempt at their subjection until 774/775, and that after every battle until 782 the Franks attempted to make peace with the tribes they defeated, until Widukind's return from Denmark. In 782, this relative appeasement changes, and Nonn tries to put into perspective the legend of the killing of 4,500 Saxons in the massacre at Verden in 782. First, Frankish law only allowed for one punishment for high treason: death, and treason is what these Saxons were guilty of; second, the number is most likely an exaggeration, given that the Frankish army at most consisted of 10,000 soldiers and could hardly have executed that many prisoners, Nonn says, so long before the invention of the guillotine. Citation and explication of the Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae then suggests that these draconian laws are a logical consequence of the blending of matters of state with matters of religion—if one deserves capital punishment for betraying the King, then it stands to reason one should die after having betrayed the King of Kings.

§6.  Nonn's final paragraphs relate the founding of the various dioceses in Saxon lands and the spread of the cult of the saints; his essay closes with a citation from a sermon by 9th century Altfrid of Hildesheim, who celebrates that no Christians were martyred in the conversion of Saxonia. Closing with Altfrid's covering over of extensive bloodshed, even if that bloodshed was not as extensive as some historians have claimed, leaves Nonn's position unclear: was it forced conversion with fire and sword? were Charlemagne's laws too draconian? were his measures too extreme? Nonn, who sometimes suggests an apology of Charlemagne, ends up being non-committal, and that is a small blemish on this otherwise highly informative essay.

§7.  If Nonn's interesting contribution is somewhat tangential to Boniface, the next essay, "Conquista und Mission: Die Christianisierung Lateinamerikas," by Johannes Meier, an expert on Christianity in Latin America and professor of medieval and modern church history in the theological department at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, is really unrelated. While the account of the conversion of Latin America is interesting in its own right, and while Meier carefully sketches the complex dynamics between the Dominicans and the Hieronymites in the business of conversion, as well as the conflicts between the religious orders on the one hand and the Spanish state and the settlers on the other, there is no connection made whatsoever to Boniface's and his contemporaries' business of converting peoples ethnically and linguistically close to them. Such parallels could have been drawn, using for instance the struggle between Boniface's almost puritan Anglo-Saxon mission and the (in his view) corrupt Frankish church, or the political and strategic interests of Pepin and Charlemagne and their efforts to convert the Germanic tribes—this essay is something of a missed opportunity.

§8.  The next essay, however, is no missed opportunity: Gisela Muschiol's "Königshof, Kloster und Mission—die Welt der Lioba und ihre geistlichen Schwestern" is a short but excellent view of St. Lioba's life and a rereading of some episodes of Rudolf's Vita Leobae in the light of increasingly strict regulations in the church right after Boniface's death. Muschiol, a professor of medieval and modern church history in Bonn, has published extensively on liturgy, monastic life, and gender, and begins with a question rarely addressed by scholars of Boniface: if, according to Rudolf, the martyr wanted to share his grave with Lioba, his kinswoman and friend, then why did Lioba end up on the Petersberg outside of Fulda? In a very deft analysis of Rudolf's vita, and after an account of Lioba's life regarded from the perspectives of her monastic upbringing and career as well as her connections with the mission, with the royal court, and with Boniface, Muschiol answers that Lioba, a woman not known for her orthodoxy, who lived and worked in a time before strict gender separation within the church, must be straigthened out by her successors.

§9.  Thus, fifty years after her death, it is with great reluctance that Rudolf relates some well-known events in Lioba's life (well-known because, as he says, some who knew Lioba are still around), such as the dream in which Lioba pulls an unending red thread from her mouth, read as a vision of her future preaching. This and other accounts in the vita, Muschiol claims, are trustworthy because they were unlikely to have found favor with Rudolf; their inclusion, therefore, guarantees their accuracy. Rudolf's explicit attempt to correct contemporary misinterpretations suggests her unorthodoxy. When, thirty years after Boniface's martyrdom, Lioba herself dies, her body is placed in the Fulda church but not in the same grave. The martyr's own wish is not granted; a monk and a nun in the same grave would have raised too many eyebrows, Muschiol contends. Then, in the new church, built by Eigil, Lioba's grave is moved from its original location, an altar consecrated by Boniface himself at the north wall of the church, to the southern entrance, again contradicting Boniface's desire; finally, in 838 Rabanus Maurus has the remains translated to the Petersberg (and not to any place of public honor, but to the crypt), in an effort to sever even that contentious tie between the two. Muschiol does not fail to point out the irony that when Rabanus was forced to step down as abbot of the Fulda monastery he had to seek shelter on the Petersberg. It is worthwhile noting that Muschiol's bibliography contains many English titles: British and American colleagues are now widely read in Germany and their work is being put to good use. A well-argued and cleverly structured plea for a reinterpretation of a strong, intelligent woman who was valued even by a traditionalist such as Boniface, Muschiol's essay is one of the strongest in the book.

§10.  Bringing us closer to Boniface and the reason for the series of lectures in the first place, Winfried Müller's "Jubiläen und Heiligengedenken: Von den mittelalterlichen Ursprüngen bis zum Heiligenkult des 19. Jahrhunderts" traces the origins of anniversaries (in Germany) from Boniface VIII's Jubilee in 1300 to the commemorations for St. Boniface in 1855. Competing with the Catholic tradition of Jubilees, now held every 25 years, Müller sees the first anniversaries of a different kind in the German universities of the 16th and 17th centuries, often with a component of Protestant independence, growing into a culture of Protestant religious anniversaries in the 17th and 18th centuries. This Protestant culture is countered by Catholic commemorations separate from the Jubilees, most meaningfully the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Jesuit order, celebrated in 1640. Less religious anniversaries follow, such as the 200th anniversary of the invention of the printing press; still, even this anniversary has a religious component, since the Reformation would have been hard to imagine without the printing press. In the 18th and 19th centuries, anniversaries of all kinds are often celebrations of rising nationalism and the increasing importance of bourgeois culture, culminating in the cult of personality that explodes in the 1800s. For instance, Müller notes that earlier anniversaries of the printing press did not exclusively celebrate Gutenberg, whereas the 1800s nominate and celebrate Gutenberg as its sole inventor. This personalization is, according to Müller, the expression of Protestant-bourgeois desire for heroic figures.

§11.  As for Boniface, we must see his rise as Apostle of the Germans as—at least partly—a reaction to Protestant celebrations of Luther. The political component of Boniface anniversaries comes to the fore in the 1841 anniversary of the saint's founding of the Bavarian, Hessian, and Thuringian dioceses: held in the right year but in the wrong place (in Catholic Salzburg rather than Protestant Erfurt), the anniversary was an occasion for Bavarian king Ludwig I to promote himself as a central figure of German Catholicism, a self-promotion that would find final expression when his Boniface cathedral in Munich was finished in 1850. At the same time, Müller points out, Boniface became a national figure, not just a Catholic hero: the erection of a monument in 1811, in Protestant Gotha, celebrates the first German church founded by Boniface, and in 1854 at that same place the Gustav-Adolf-Verein (founded 1832), the Protestant counterpart of the Catholic Bonifatiusverein likewise dedicated to the support of diaspora-churches, holds its own anniversary, sounding a remarkably conciliatory note of respect for the Catholic saint in a Germany engulfed in confessional strife and soon to be torn apart during the Kulturkampf. Müller's essay takes, for my taste, a few too many pages to really get to the heart of the matter, but in the last half a dozen pages provides valuable insight into the interplay of confessional and patriotic strands in 19th century Germany.

§12.  The last essay takes a closer look at Boniface celebrations in Mainz, as an explicit continuation of Müller's essay. Hermann-Josef Braun's "Die Bonifatius-Jubiläen im Bistum Mainz" is almost a microhistory of three important anniversaries in Mainz, in 1855, 1905, and 1954. Central in the first anniversary is Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler, the organizer of the festivities in Mainz (14-21 June), held the week after the commemoration in Fulda (5-12 June). Against the growing appeal of liberal democrats, Ketteler and others argue strongly that Germany has forgotten where it came from, that the Reformation has led the German people astray and that a return to the spirit of Boniface is necessary, even while, to the dismay of many Protestants, Boniface's orientation towards Rome was celebrated unapologetically. An important aspect of this anniversary is the growing influence of the common man, giving rise to a much more popular religiosity, of which the extent of the festivities is evidence. The 1905 anniversary is a lost anniversary, in Braun's words, since celebrations in Mainz (always in the shadow of Fulda at least for the early days of June) were held behind almost closed doors, in sharp contrast to the extensive and public festivities fifty years earlier. What was evident, after the Kulturkampf, the recollection of which must have been very alive for many, was an almost militant ultramontanism, which—according to my own studies—was much less overt in more public celebrations of the anniversary in Fulda and in the academic press.

§13.  Finally, the 1954 anniversary was celebrated widely in Fulda as well as in Mainz. Fulda was kind enough to loan Mainz the saint's arm, which was transported in a Ford loaned by the Ford factory in Cologne following the road the saint's remains had taken from Mainz to Fulda in 754; by 1954, this road led through many overwhelmingly Protestant areas where since the war Catholic refugees had settled. This note of diaspora is one of the main themes in Mainz, and there is no mention in Braun's account of the pan-European nature of Boniface commemorations in Fulda a few weeks before. I cannot judge if Braun had no occasion or space to mention any such references related to Mainz; Braun's account may be complete, since Mainz, which had suffered heavily from bombardments during World War II and was a hub for refugees from all over, surely had great practical concerns which found expression in the various services and speeches. Interestingly enough, a strongly ecumenical note is sounded in Mainz; while a proposal from Protestants to celebrate jointly had come too late in the organizational stage, the proposal itself was a first. Braun's thesis, that anniversaries always commemorate a person or event given a specific set of historical circumstances and exigencies, is successfully maintained in this useful article.

§14.  In conclusion, Bonifatius—Apostel der Deutschen is, on the whole, a very interesting book with at least three or four very strong and insightful essays, which each in their own way shed light on the importance of Boniface to Germany. I find it noteworthy that, in contrast to the many publications from the 1954 anniversary, there is nothing in this collection that points to his importance for Europe as a whole, and this in itself is proof of Müller and Braun's thesis. This is not to say that there is no use for Boniface in Europe anymore, because there is, as the next book in this column will show, but that many more concerns—violence, history, and the role of gender, to name but three—have entered scholars' fields of interest, and find reflection in the historiography of Boniface.

§15.  And now for something completely different: Der Bonifatiusweg is a book produced with financial support from a Fulda energy company (ÜWAG), and written by a group of Boniface lovers from Fulda. Two of them, bicycle enthusiasts Konrad Schnorr and Franz Heimann, clocked a few thousand miles following Boniface's journeys through Europe, from Crediton to Salzburg, and their journey has found expression in this richly illustrated guide.1

§16.  The book's subtitle, Die Wurzeln Europas entdecken, "Discover the roots of Europe," is the project's legitimization. From the blurb on the inside of the cover to the very last page, Europeanness permeates the entire book. For ÜWAG, the corporate interest in Europe may be clear, now that energy is traded freely throughout Europe and every local market has become a global market. For the various cities and towns described in the book, this interest is obvious also: fewer borders, presumably, means more tourists, and as parishes and dioceses discovered centuries ago already when the first pilgrim took up the journey to the Holy Land, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. We get, then, a plethora of pictoresque photographs, small but of very good quality, and a wealth of travel information in the back, with addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses (but not websites) of the various tourism agencies of the towns visited. However, a quick scan of the three Dutch entries reveal a few important typos and the strange and obviously incorrect insertion of a Danish tourism agency. Besides, instead of the tourism information office in Rotterdam, a marketing department for the city is listed. Then there is the glaring omission of the VVV Lauwersland, the tourism information office in Dokkum (for the record: This does not bode well, and I seriously distrust the overall accuracy and usefulness of this section.

§17.  For those of us who can't afford to fly across the pond, rent bicycles, and discover these roots, the main text of the book provides some useful information; this being a tourist guide, though, one shouldn't expect too much in the way of historical accuracy or completeness. All discord is covered over, and a glorious union between Boniface, the papacy, and the Frankish ruling class is proposed. Since Boniface is to be the first builder of Europe, one should not be surprised to find the authors reviving the old myth that Boniface himself consecrated Pepin, as a first step toward European unity. Equally unsurprising is the hagiographical spirit that permeates the book. For instance, Carloman's Concilium in Les Estinnes of 743 is hailed as a success thanks to Boniface's diplomatic skills, but the synod was a success probably because Boniface had handpicked the participants to drive through his attempt at church reform, like he did at the 742 Concilium Germanicum—not just diplomacy, then, but also politicking, which this book seems to see as two very different things.

§18.  The passionate effort to see Boniface as a precursor to the politicians who forged European unity dates from right after the Second World War; especially during the 1954 commemorations of the 1200th anniversary of his martyrdom one could hear this all over Europe—even in England. For German chancelor Konrad Adenauer, one of the official speakers at the commemorations in Fulda in 1954, this was not a problem: as a Catholic, Adenauer could readily see Boniface and his evangelization efforts as unifying Europe. But the recent disagreements in Europe over the European constitution suggest that this cultural unification isn't so easy anymore once the unifying religion (even if that is Christianity in general, not just Catholicism) is taken out of the equation. Even in Germany itself this is problematic, given how important German discussion about the Turkish candidacy for the European Union was in the recent German elections. Der Bonifatiusweg cannot occupy itself too much with such philosophical and political issues, and thus mention of Boniface's effort and current European unification efforts must be handled without going into too much detail. The opening pages, though, give a very particular perspective on such unity: it is a unity of trade, emblematized by the photograph of the new Euro bills on p. 7, as if the grand sum of Boniface's work is the elimination of the different currencies that impeded easy business transactions.

§19.  I apologize if I sound a little grumpy. Though I started out really liking this book and what it proposed, a tour along some of Europe's most beautiful places using one of the ultimate early medieval travelers as a guide, I find myself a bit dismayed by the all-too-easy appeals to a unity whose philosophical underpinnings are so radically different from what its supposed founder had in mind, and barring any real attempt at a cultural definition of that unity, it quickly becomes a matter of money and convenience. I am reminded of the criticism of the proposed European constitution we heard from commentators in the United States as well as in Europe—that the constitution was a technocratic document about business and insurance, without a soul. Now, there may not be much 'soul' in Boniface's remaining writings, but the extent of his travels (the authors have left out his three trips to Rome) certainly speaks of passion, a passion I find missing from current discussions on Europe's future. Der Bonifatiusweg wasn't written to address these issues, of course, but does go to show how easily a naive ideology of a united Europe has slipped into public discourse—and I call it ideology because few people actually seem to know what they mean when they invoke past or present European unity. I'll leave this book alone, recommending it as a moderately interesting book that may give travelers a suggestion or two.2

§20.  The last book is the only Dutch one in the batch, and it is one of a fair-sized number of Dutch books published recently, besides a couple in Frisian, if only to indicate that Boniface is still being studied. That Willibrord's vita, for instance, would be translated into Frisian seems very significant to me, especially since the impetus seems to have come from a Frisian-language literary journal with no obvious stake in the saint's glorification besides expiation—and that is usually not a literary pursuit.3 Besides perhaps Akky van der Veer's biography for children,4 Jelsma's book is of the most obvious interest to non-historians and non-Frisians, and a translation of the sermons has been wanting: the last one, in German, dates from 1859.5

§21.  Jelsma, a Protestant historian whose recent Boniface biography I reviewed earlier on these pages, can't hide his mixed feelings toward the saint—he must condemn Boniface's very strict adherence to Catholic doctrine, yet can't help but sympathize with the hardest working man in the conversion business. The first issue he must address is how certain we are that the sermons are Boniface's—it seems the only evidence we have is that one of the manuscripts that contains them also contains Boniface's grammar. Doubts about this authenticity only arise in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, according to Jelsma, who refers to German Boniface scholar Reinhold Rau, but for reasons he does not explain very well. To summarize, Jelsma says that Rau, in his edition and translation of Bonifacian texts, says that from the Protestant camp at the end of the nineteenth century doubts arose that Boniface wrote the sermons. This is correct, but when Jelsma summarizes Rau's observation as "only insolent Protestants would doubt their authenticity" and then calls it a weak argument he is hardly being fair to Rau, who simply relates the facts: Protestant scholars did doubt their authenticity, and not always on strong philological grounds.6

§22.  But regardless of this lack of insight in the German confessional disputes of the late nineteenth century, Jelsma has a point: if the authenticity of the sermons is no longer disputed (according to Rau, whose edition and translation of Bonifatiana is the most widely used among continental scholars), why are they so unavailable? There is no modern edition of them, since Rau chooses for reasons unknown not to include them in his 1968 edition that translates the correspondence, the Willibald vita, and other documents; most modern scholars do not use or even mention them. In that sense, Jelsma usefully fills a gap on the Bonifacian bookshelf.

§23.  The translations themselves are, as far as I can judge, more than adequate. Fascinating reading they are not, as Jelsma acknowledges himself in the introduction. They outline some of the basic principles of living a good Christian life, focusing on confession and penitence, with pride, disobedience, and sexual licentiousness as the main sins. To look at these sermons in order to find a Boniface probing deeper levels of biblical interpretation is to be disappointed. The correspondence even at its most emotionally charged moments gets its effect from rhetoric and biblical citation and reference, not from carefully applied allegory, and not much more happens in these sermons: no biblical readings are allegorized to any extent. What is evident is that these sermons are not addressed to an audience of bible readers: while there are plenty of short citations (signaled by Jelsma), only one of the sermons, the fourth, actually quotes a longer passage from scripture, citing Christ's words on the Mount and expanding briefly on each beatitude. The question of audience, then, becomes interesting very quickly. Are these perhaps Latin translations of originally vernacular sermons? If not, and if they were intended for a Latin-educated audience, why are they so pedestrian, so elementary in their exposition of doctrine?

§24.  Judging from Jelsma's translation and in the absence of a modern edition of the sermons,7 these sermons are intended for recent converts with some rudimentary religious training. They easily equate all Germanic religious (such as soothsaying) and cultural habits (such as drinking and gambling) to Satanic worship, and remind the audience that all these bad habits were supposedly sworn off during (adult) baptism. In his afterword, Jelsma notes that the audience is addressed as 'fratres,' 'brothers,' on more than one occasion, but it seems to me that he supposes a bit too quickly that the audience is primarily clerical, that commoners are addressed only indirectly. Sure, the contemporary clergy needed to be reminded of the moral imperative of celibacy, but this can also be upheld as an ideal for lay people. Besides, there is a certain rhetorical overload in the list of sins listeners need to stay away from: "pride, idolatry, envy, murder, slander, lying, purgery, hate, fornication, adultery, any kind of soiling, theft, bearing false witness, robbery, gluttony, drunkenness, gossip, discord, anger, mixing poison, consulting wizards and soothsayers, belief in witches and werewolves, abortion, disobedience of superiors and the use of means of defense" (sermon 15, p. 72); none of these, of course, are inapplicable to members of the clergy, but belief in witches and werewolves we would probably look for outside of the clergy. Interesting is the injunction to avoid "means of defense," given that Willibald's vita will claim that Boniface ordered his men to lay down their weapons when they were attacked in Friesland.

§25.  The question (or the problem) of audience applies to the original sermons as well as to the book. I am not privy to sales information, but I can't help but think that there is little appeal among the Dutch citizenry for such sermons. Given a probably small audience, and that presumably academic or religious, the lack of editorial material is really a shame. I'd love to have a little booklet with these translations that also tells me (in more detail, and with a more complete bibliography) about the various earlier editions, especially the textual history of the sermons. Another interest surely is the later readership of these sermons—was it, as the paucity of editions and translations suggest, a pure academic/religious readership? And if so, why this edition?

§26.  Jelsma, in his afterword, comments on the sermons, but sometimes plays fast and loose. For instance, he supposes all too easily that Arianism must still have run rampant among the Germans, and evidence suggests it did not—the preacher of these sermons may have had to explicate the trinity as often as he did simply because it remains a difficult concept.8 Jelsma inserts, as editor, a trinitarian note in a citation from the first sermon "Faith [that is, belief in the trinity, Jelsma's note] is the foundation of all good works," but does this gratuitously: the trinity is in fact not mentioned until much later in the sermon; the editorial insertion is fathered by a wish for a trinitarian note. Moreover, if the primary audience was the clergy, as Jelsma suggested earlier, one might expect a less pedestrian or even tautological explication of the trinity in some of the sermons, an explication with a more explicit base in scripture.

§27.  That the sermons ascribed to Boniface are finally available in translation is a good thing, no doubt about it, and I am glad that Jelsma took up yet another labor of love. I wish he had made this a more academic book; since he didn't, I hope that it will sell well among a non-academic readership, though I have my doubts. That I am saddened that these sermons are not rhetorically very powerful or allegorically very sophisticated is more an expression of my own desire for a Boniface who was not always strict and dogmatic, but perhaps this is precisely what appealed to the sober Dutch historian. I hope that Jelsma won't give up his Bonifacian work, and that Dutch publishers continue to print it.

§28.  I have picked only a few examples from the rich offering for Boniface scholars, and one feels that, while 2004 was a good occasion for Boniface studies, there is so much interest that we will see more publications in the next few years, perhaps more academic and less popular publications. Jelsma's translation of the sermons indicates, for instance, that there is an interest in translations of primary texts; I would be happy to see translations into English, German, or Dutch of all the vitae, not just Willibrord's. For an English audience, the correspondence is still readily available since the reprint of Emerton's selection of letters, but a complete translation would be welcome also, and while Willibrord's vita can still be found in a good library in Talbot's The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1954) and in Noble and Head's Soldiers of Christ (University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1995), perhaps there is a market for an English edition and translation of all the primary texts—the correspondence, the different vitae, the sermons, the aenigmata, the poems, and of course the church-related documents collected by Rau. Even for a German audience it is not so easy to collect all these texts, especially not since Rau is long out of print and quite expensive.9 The Dutch can easily lay their hands on Willibald and now the sermons, but the correspondence and all the other smaller collections are unavailable to them. In other words, there is work to be done for translators, and if Jelsma's translation of the sermons sells well enough in the Netherlands, there may even be a financial incentive.

§29;  Besides editions and translations of the primary texts, there are a few other desiderata. Students of the modern veneration of Boniface could do with an overview of Boniface-services and references in the liturgy around the world (including, for instance, Africa, considering German missionary activities in south-west Africa); students of the conversion could do with a thorough investigation of missionary methods, beyond a summary of what the hagiographies tell us; students of gender may delve even deeper into the relationships between Boniface and his female correspondents and fellow missionaries. The bibliography of Boniface is by now quite extensive; I am preparing a fully annotated bibliography, a preliminary version of which can be found at Still, there is plenty left to do: the Bonifacian well is far from dry.


1. Two different publications/projects trace the journey of Boniface's remains from Mainz to Fulda. A beautiful high-quality map, Hessen zu Fuß entdecken: Die Bonifatius-Route von Mainz nach Fulda, published by the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund, covers it in great detail, with good illustrations and textual information, and accompanies a 55-page booklet Auf Spurensuche...: Die Bonifatiusroute von Mainz nach Fulda, edited by Eveline Grönke and V. Rupp. Map and book are available from a website,, that also has a wealth of information on the towns along that route. I wish to thank the publishers for kindly sending me a copy, which I received as I was finishing up this review. I have not been able to review Christian Vogel's Via Antiqua Bonifatius' Letzter Weg: Die Bonifatiusüberführung von Mainz nach Fulda und ihr Weg (Assenheim: 2004). [Back]

2. A quick perusal of the aforementioned Auf Spurensuche reveals it to be a carefully edited book that, while shorter and with fewer photographs, since it only deals with the route of Boniface's remains from Mainz to Fulda, treats Boniface much more seriously (that is, less hagiographically).[Back]

3. Klaas Bruinsma (2004), Willibald's Vita Bonifatii: It Libben fan Bonifatius (Leeuwarden: Bornmeer). [Back]

4. Akky van der Veer (2004), Bonifatius en syn tiid/Bonifatius en zijn tijd (Leeuwarden: Bornmeer). [Back]

5. The German translation was published by Philipp Hedwig Külb (1859) in the Sämtliche Schriften des Heiligen Bonifacius (Regensburg). However, I recently acquired a copy of J.A. Zimmermann's Der heilige Bonifazius, Apostel Deutschlands (Einsiedeln, New York, Cincinnati: Benziger, 1875), which contains a summary of the sermons (pp. 264-66). I also learned that a Dutch translation was published in the twentieth century, Isaias Onings, De Preken van den H. Bonifatius (Hertogenbosch: Geert Groote Genootschap, 1938), but have been unable to locate a copy of this publication, and Jelsma seemed to have been unaware of it. [Back]

6. Reinhold Rau (1968), Briefe des Bonifatius, Willibalds Leben des Bonifatius; Nebst Einigen Zeitgenössischen Dokumenten, Ausgewählte Quellen zur Deutschen Geschichte des Mittelalters 4b (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft), 373-74. See also Heinrich Hahn (1884), "Die angeblichen Predigten des Bonifaz," Forschungen zur Deutschen Geschichte 24: 583 625, in which Hahn argues against their authenticity, and the response by August Josef Nürnberger (1889), "Die angebliche Unechtheit der Predigten des hl. Bonifatius," Neues Archiv 14: 109 34. [Back]

7. The Latin text was published in 1733 in Paris by Martene-Durand in the Collectio veterum scriptorum (Vol. 9, pp. 168-218). [Back]

8. There is some discussion on the extent to which Arianism was still current in part of Germany in the eighth century, but I accept Theodor Schieffer's judgment (1954) in Winfrid-Bonifatius und die Christliche Grundlegung Europas (Freiburg: Herder) that Arianism did not play a role of any significance (see esp. 41, 170). [Back]

9. I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Michael Glatthaar of Freiburg, who kindly presented me with a copy. [Back]