Pope St. Boniface IV
Son of John, a physician, a Marsian from the province and town of Valeria; he
succeeded Boniface III after a vacancy of over nine months; consecrated 25
August, 608; d. 8 May, 615 (Duchesne); or, 15 September, 608-25 May, 615 (Jaffé).
In the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great he was a deacon of the Roman Church
and held the position of dispensator, i.e., the first official in connexion with
the administration of the patrimonies. Boniface obtained leave from the Emperor
Phocas to convert the Pantheon into a Christian Church, and on 13 May, 609 (?)
the temple erected by Agrippa to Jupiter the Avenger, to Venus, and to Mars was
consecrated by the pope to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs. (Hence the title
S. Maria Rotunda.) It was the first instance at Rome of the transformation of a
pagan temple into a place of Christian worship. Twenty-eight cartloads of sacred
bones were said to have been removed from the Catacombs and placed in a porphyry
basin beneath the high altar. During the pontificate of Boniface, Mellitus, the
first Bishop of London, went to Rome
to consult the pope on important matters
relative to the newly established English Church (Bede, H. E., II, iv). Whilst
in Rome he assisted at a council then being held concerning certain questions on
the life and monastic peace of monks, and, on his departure, took with him to
England the decree of the council together with letters from the pope to
Lawrence, Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the clergy, to King Ethelbert,
and to all the English people
concerning what was to be observed by the Church
of England. The decrees of the council now extant are spurious. The letter to
Ethelbert (in William of Malmesbury, De Gest. Pont., I, 1464, ed Migne) is
considered spurious by Hefele (Conciliengeschichte, III, 66), questionable by
Haddan and Stubbs (Councils, III, 65), and genuine by Jaffé [Regest. RR. PP.,
Between 612-615, St. Columban, then living at Bobbio in Italy, was persuaded
by Agilulf, King of the Lombards, to address a letter on the condemnation of the
Three Chapters to Boniface IV, which is remarkable at once for its expressions
of exaggerated deference and its tone of excessive sharpness. In it he tells the
pope that he is charged with heresy (for accepting the Fifth Council, i.e.
Constantinople, 553), and exhorts him to summon a council and prove his
orthodoxy. But the letter of the impetuous Celt, who failed to grasp the import
of the theological problem involved in the
Three Chapters, seems not to have
disturbed in the least his relation with the Holy See, and it would be wrong to
suppose that Columban regarded himself as independent of the pope's authority.
During the pontificate of Boniface there was much distress in Rome owing to
famine, pestilence, and inundations. The pontiff died in monastic retirement (he
had converted his own house into a monastery) and was buried in the portico of
St. Peter's. His remains were three times removed - in the tenth or eleventh
century, at the close of the thirteenth under Boniface VIII, and to the new St.
Peter's on 21 October, 1603. For the earlier inscription on his tomb see
Duchesne; for the later, Groisar,
Analecta Romana, I, 193. Boniface IV is
commemorated as a saint in the Roman Martyrology on 25 May.
Liber Pontificalis (ed. DUCHESNE), I, 317; JAFFÉ, Regesta RR. PP. (2nd ed.), I, 220; Acta et Epistolæ in MANSI, X, 501; PAUL THE DEACON, Hist. Longobard., IV, 36 (37); GASQUET, A Short History of the Catholic Church in England (London, 1903), 19; HUNT, A History of the English Church from its Formation to the Norman Conquest (London, 1901), 42; MANN, Lives of the Popes, I, 268-279; VON REUMONT, Gesch. der Stadt Rom (Berlin, 1867), II, 156, 165; GREGOROVIUS, II, 104; LANGEN, 501.
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