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ST. BONIFACE IV

608 - 615 AD

Boniface IV was born in the province of Valeria. His father was a doctor named John. Like St. Gregory the Great, Boniface turned his house into a monastery. Like Gregory, too, he entered the papal service, but unlike Gregory, Sabinian, and Boniface III, he does not seem to have served as ambassador to Constantinople. He became dispensator, that is, a high official in the administration of the patrimony of St. Peter; and evidently he gave satisfaction, for Gregory the Great speaks of him as "my most beloved son Boniface the deacon."

Boniface was consecrated pope on either August 25 or September 15, 608. The day is disputed. As pope, Boniface did something which has endeared him to those who love classical antiquity. He turned the Pantheon into a Christian church. The Pantheon was a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Mars, and Venus. Built about 25 B.C. by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the great friend and general of Augustus, it was rebuilt in its present circular form by Hadrian early in the second century. It is an outstanding example of ancient Roman architecture, famed for its large dome and elaborate brickwork. If today this masterpiece of classical antiquity can be admired much as it stood in the days of the Caesars, it is due to Pope Boniface IV. He consecrated the one-time temple of the gods to the one true God under the title of Our Lady and the Martyrs. Had he not done so, in all probability this architectural gem would have been seized by some turbulent little baron, and its beauty would have vanished under the repeated batterings of feudal brawls.

Boniface took an interest in the newly fledged church in England. He had an interview with Mellitus, the first bishop of Saxon London, and sent letters to Lawrence, the archbishop of Canterbury, and to King Ethelbert.

He also had dealings with that remarkable Irish monk and missionary, the impetuous, restless, lovable St. Columban. St. Columban, a splendid example of Irish missionary zeal, had already preached the gospel in Gaul and Switzerland. Now he was working among the Lombards of North Italy. He became involved in the struggle against heresy, and with more zeal than theological science, Columban sent Pope Boniface a letter in which he mingled expressions of the greatest respect with free reprehensions for the Pope's attitude in a theological quarrel about which the impulsive monk candidly confessed he knew little!

Boniface, if his epitaph may be trusted, took Gregory the Great for his model. He seems to have succeeded in following his holy predecessor, for like Gregory, Boniface is honored as a saint. He died in 615 and was buried in St. Peter's. His feast is kept on May 25.


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