The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Gregory I the Great (590-604)
591 (II)


(34) 1. BONIFACIO (?-615)

Birth. (No date found), Valeria, Marsi nel Sannio. Son of Giovanni, a physician.

Education. He went to Rome and professed as a monk in the monastery of S. Sebastiano fuori le mura in that city (1).

Cardinalate. Mentioned as deacon cardinalis of the Holy Roman Church and dispensator Ecclesiae Romanae (the highest office in the papal financial administration) in 591. He was elected to the papacy after the death of Pope Boniface III on November 10, 607 but his election was not approved by Byzantine Emperor Phocas until ten months later.

Papacy. Consecrated Pope Boniface IV on August 25, 608. He governed the Church in terrible times of chronic famine, pestilence, floodings and oppression from the Barbarians and he distinguished himself for his great charity. The pope maintained cordial relations with the Byzantine empire and its official representatives in Italy. He counted in the exercise of his apostolic ministry, the energetic and willing cooperation of the new exarch of Italy, Smaragdus. The exarch was probably present at the ceremony of consecration of the new pope, because after the renewal of the three years truce with the Lombards, he gone to Rome for the solemn inauguration, in the Roman Forum, of a column topped by a golden statue of Emperor Phocas; the monument, which was the last erected in Rome to celebrate the emperor, was to symbolize the renewed agreement between Rome and Byzantium. Pope Bonifacius IV obtained from Emperor Phocas authorization to convert the Pantheon (temple of all the gods) into a church dedicating it to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. The new church, named S. Maria ad Martyres, was solemnly consecrated on May 13, 609. The pope donated his house for the establishment of a monastery, which he enriched with numerous gifts. The pope actively organized the church in England, where Augustine and his missionaries had recently converted many Anglos to Christianity. In the Roman synod that the pope celebrated in 610 to discuss some problems of the monastic life, one of the participants was Mellitus, first bishop of London. When Bishop Mellitus was preparing to leave, the pope gave him letters for Archbishop Lawrence of Canterbury, King Ethelbert of Kent, and the English people. Bishop Mellitus was also entrusted with the task of communicating to the king and the Church in England approved the decrees of the Synod of 610. The pope recommended, in particular, to apply the provision that allowed bishops to promote the priesthood those who, in monastic communities existing in their dioceses, had the necessary requirements. The schism of the Three Chapters, not yet completely solved in the metropolitan provinces of Milan and Aquileia, was revived with heated discussions when the new Lombard King Agilulf, an Arian, and his wife Theodolinda, a Catholic, favored the repudiation of Pope's Vigilius condemnation of the Three Chapters and Columbanus, a monk from Bobbio and a future Irish saint, persuaded the pope to intervene in the dispute. In a long letter, written in 613, the monk urged the pope, with formulations rather daring, to exercise the supervision that Pope Vigilius, in spite of his name (Vigilant), had left wanting. The monk also wanted the pope to convene a council to demonstrate his orthodoxy. The answer from the pope is unknown. During his pontificate, he ordained thirty six bishops for different sees and eight deacons.

Death. May 8, 615, while in monastic retirement, in Rome. Buried in porticu pontificum of St. Peter's basilica (2). His remains were brought into the interior of the basilica by Pope Nicholas III. Pope Boniface VIII ordered the transfer of the remains of this pontiff to his own burial chapel that was built by Arnolfo di Cambio in St. Peter's basilica (3).

Sainthood. His cult dates back to the time of his canonization by Pope Boniface VIII. Inscribed in the Roman Martyrology, his feast is celebrated on May 25; and on June 1, pro clero Romano.

Bibliography. Bertolini, Paolo. "Bonifacio IV, santo." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, 579-581; Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 1, 28; Chacón, Alfonso. itæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium ab initio nascentis Ecclesiae usque ad Clementem IX P. O. M. Alphonsi Ciaconii Ord. Praed. & aliorum opera descriptæ : cum uberrimis notis. Ab Augustino Oldoino, Soc. Jesu recognitae, et ad quatuor tomos ingenti ubique rerum accessione productae. Additis Pontificum recentiorum imaginibus, & Cardinalium insignibus, plurimisque aeneis figuris, cum indicibus locupletissimis. Romæ : P. et A. De Rubeis, 1677, I, col. 418 and 423-426; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XXXVII and 283; D'Amato, Sandro. '"De Civitate Valeria'. Papa S. Bonifacio IV." Bullettino della Deputazione Abruzzese di Storia Patria, 79 (1989), 121-96; De Angelis, Maria Antonietta. "Bonifacio IV, papa, santo." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 151-152; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 144, no. 43; Gray, P.T.R. ; Herren, M.W. "Colombanus and the Three Chapters Controversy." The Journal of Theological Studies, 45 (1994), 160-70; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 69; Le Liber pontificalis. Paris : E. de Boccard, 1981, 1955. 3 v. : facsims. (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome). Notes: Reprint of the 1955 edition./ Includes indexes./ Vol. 3: "Additions et corrections de L. Duchesne publiées par Cyrille Vogel ... avec L'Histoire du Liber pontificalis dupuis l'édition de L. Duchesne une bibliographie et des tables générales, I, 317-318; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 116-118, no. 67; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 49-51; Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab conditio Ecclesia. Ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Graz : Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956. 2 v. Reprint. Originally published : Lipsiae : Veit et comp., 1885-1888. Original t.p. included : Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia : ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Editionem secundam correctam et auctam edidit Philippus Jaffè ; auspiciis Gulielmi Wattenbach; curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald, I, 220-222.

Links. Biography by Thomas Oestereich, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in English, Britannica; biography, in English, Wikipedia; biography, in English, The Lives of the Popes in the Seventh Century, The History and the Lives of the Popes; biography by Joseph Brusher, S.J., Popes through the Ages; biography by Paolo Bertolini, in Italian, Enciclopedia dei papi, Treccani; brief biographical entry, in Italian, Dizionario bigrafico degli italiani, Treccani; images and biography by Franco Prevato, in Italian, Santi e Beati; his bust and biography, in Italian, S. Benedetto dei Marsi (AQ), radicchio.it; Bonifacio IV: figlio illustre di questa terra marsicana, testi a cura di Americo Roberti, in Italian, Communde di San Benedetto dei Marsi; biography by Sandro D'Amato, in Italian, S. Benedetto Official Web Corner; Marruvium; his image and biography, in Spanish; brief biography by Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz, in German, Biographisch-Bibliographischen Kirchenlexikons; biography, in Norwegian, Den katolske kirke; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; another engraving, from the same source; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; engravings, Araldica Vaticana; his engraving, from "Historia B. Platinae de vitis Pontificum Romanorum", Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library; his engraving, iStockphoto; his image, Shutterstock images; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; , Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek;his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; another engraving, from the same source; another engraving, also from the same source; his effigy on a medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic; his effigy on another medal, from the same source; and his tomb under the altar of S. Tommaso, St. Peter's basilica, Rome.

(1) This is according to Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa, I, pt. 1, 28. "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926, p. 144, no. 43, says that he was Benedictine monk. None of the other sources consulted mention that he was a monk.
(2) This is the text of his epitaph, taken from Montini, Le tombe dei papi, p. 116:

VITA HOMINVM BREVIS EST CERTA HANC DETERMINAT HORA
SED VITAE AETERNAE INDE PARATVR ITER
QVOD NON INDECORA AVT RVRSVM PERITVRA VIDENTVR
SED PVLCHRVM ATQVE DECENS IAM SINE FINE MANET
DIC IGITVR QVID MORS STIMVLIS AGITARIS INIQVIS
QVID FREMIS INCASSVM QVID FVRIBVNDA GERIS
COMMODA NVLLA TIBI POTERVNT TVA FACTA REFERRE
NEC PRODESSE POTEST IMPETVS ISTE TIBI
GREGORII SEMPER MONITA ATQVE EXEMPLA MAGISTRI
VITA OPERE AC DIGNIS MORIBVS ISTE SEQVENS
QVO HVNC TERRERE PVTAS SVNT HVIVS MAXIMA VOTA
MITTERE AD ASTRA ANIMAM REDDERE CORPVS HVMO
SAVCIA MVLTIPLICI SI QVIDEM NAM MEMBRA DOLORE
RVRSVS IN ANTIQVO PVLVERE VERSA MANENT
QVAE CONIVNCTA ANIMAE STABILITO IN CORPORE SVRGANT
AD VITAM AETERNAM TE PEREVNTE MAGIS
SANCTA FIDES MERITO VITAE CLEMENTIA PATRIS
SPEM CERTAM HANC FAMVLOS IVSSIT HABERE SVOS

HIC REQVIESCIT BONIFATIVS IVNIOR QVI SEDIT ANNOS V MENSES VIlI DIES XII
DEPOSITVS OCT IDVS MAli IMPERANTE DOM N ERACLIO .... ANNO EIVS II

(3) Pope Boniface VIII placed the following inscription on the tomb of his prdecessor, transcrubed by Montini, Le tombe dei papi, p. 117:

+ GREGORIO QVARTVS IAGET HIG BONIFAGIVS ALMVS
HVIVS Q (ui) SEDIS FVIT AEQVVS RECTOR ET AEDIS:
TEMPORE Q(ui) FOGAE GERNENS TEMPLVM FORE ROMAE
DELVBRA CVNCTORVM FVERANT QVO DEMONIOR(um):
HOC EXPVRGAVIT SANCTIS CVNCTIS Q(ue) DICAVIT:
EIVS NATALIS SOLLEMPNIA QVI CELEBRATIS:
PRIMIS SEPTEMBRIS FERT HAEC LVX QVARTA K (a)L (en)DIS

OCTAVVS TITVLO HOC BONIFATIVS OSSA REPERTA
HAC LOCAT ERECTA BONIFATII NOMINIS ARA


    Montini adds on p. 118 that when the chapel built by Pope Boniface VIII was demolished on October 20, 1605, during the construction of the new basilica of St. Peter, the remains of that pontiff were transferred to the groto of the baislica, while the remains of Pope Boniface IV were placed in the new basilica under the altar of S. Tommaso, in the Clementine chapel, with the customary led plate with an inscription. Externally, the sarcophagus that contains it, has a cross of red mosaic and in its four fields it has the inscription:
CORPVS      SANCTI
BONIFACII      PAPAE IV


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