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St Boniface of Mainz

Credited with starting the tradition of Christmas trees

Fr Lawrence Lew CC

Bishop and Martyr: ca. 680-755

His life

+ Boniface (whose baptismal name was Winfrid) was born in Devonshire, England. Educated by the Benedictines, he later became a monk in the abbeys of Exeter and Nursling.

+ With the blessing of his abbot, Boniface traveled to Friesland in 716, but his missionary efforts were unsuccessful. After returning to England, he was elected abbot of Nursling. But he resigned a short time later and traveled to Rome to seek the pope’s permission to evangelize the people of Germany.

+ In 745, Boniface established a number of monasteries throughout Germany. From these mission centers grew a number of dioceses and Boniface established his own episcopal see at Mainz.

+ After serving the people of Germany for more than 20 years, Boniface was martyred on June 5, 755. Today, Saint Boniface is honored as a patron of Germany.

Worth knowing

Saint Boniface is popularly credited with the creation of the Christmas tree. This dates from an incident near the end of his life when he chopped down a tree that was considered to be sacred by the pagan peoples of the area.


“Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. Let us wait upon God’s strengthening aid and say to him: O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations.”—From a “Letter on the Martyrdom of Saint Boniface” quoted in the Liturgy of the Hours

The saint in art

Saint Boniface is often represented holding an ax, symbolizing his cutting down of the sacred tree. He is also depicting holding a copy of the Bible that is pierced by a sword, recalling a copy of the Gospel of Matthew that the bishop was holding when he was martyred. This book is preserved in the Benedictine Abbey of Fulda.


May the Martyr Saint Boniface be our advocate, O Lord,
that we may firmly hold the faith
he taught with his lips and sealed in his blood
and confidently profess it by our deeds.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal)


Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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