« AnteriorContinuar »
the Roman see was declared to be the center of unity; subjection to S. Peter and his vicar was decreed; and metropolitans were directed to apply to Rome for their palls'. A council of the bishops and clergy was appointed to meet annually; and the rule of S. Benedict was for the first time made binding upon the religious. S. Boniface sent a history of this council to Cuthbert archbishop of Canterbury, in return for letters and presents which he had received from England. In the following year the annual council met at Leptines or Estines, in Hainault.
A council of the French Church assembled in 744 at Soissons. It seems probable that S. Boniface presided there also. It was occupied with the trial and condemnation of Adalbert and Clement, two heretical impostors. Adalbert pretended to possess miraculous powers, such as belong to none but God; and Clement had seduced many persons from the faith by his false doctrine. They were finally condemned by the council of Rome in 745.
In 745, S. Boniface wrote a letter to Ethelbald, king of the Mercians, rebuking him for his scandalous life, and urging him to penitence. He wrote also to request Egbert archbishop of York to send him some of the works of Ven. Bede. In this year he was appointed to the diocess of Mentz, on the deposition of the former bishop for killing the murderer of his father; and the see was raised to the metropolitan dignity. Before this he had possessed no fixed diocess. As the German Church increased,
1 Eccl. Hist. B. ii. p. 128.
other sees were invested with the metropolitan rank; but among these Mentz retains the primacy. It originally possessed jurisdiction over thirteen bishoprics.
S. Boniface in the year 746 founded the Benedictine monastery of Fulda, on the confines of Bavaria. It became the most famous school in the West, during that age and the next. The first superior was S. Sturmius, a Bavarian, who had been educated in the convent at Frislar, and after searching for some time for a suitable situation, at last, with the consent of Boniface, began to build on the banks of the river Fulda. The pope endowed it with singular privileges, and granted it full exemption from all episcopal jurisdiction, except that of the Roman see. This seems to be the first instance which has been recorded of such a remarkable liberty having been given. In later ages it became very general. The superior of Fulda is now a prince of the empire, and is styled primate of all the abbats of Germany.
Prince Carloman about this time withdrew from the world, and made a profession of the religious life in a monastery near Rome. He afterwards retired for greater privacy to the Benedictine house at Monte Cassino, and ended his days in peace at Vienne in 755. His brother Pepin thus became sole prince of the extensive dominions in Germany and France which Charles Martel had bequeathed. For nearly a century, the French kings had been weak and indolent, and the sovereign authority had been intrusted to the Maire du Palais. This office, after having been the cause of many wars, had become hereditary before the time of Charles Martel.
The people therefore petitioned pope Zachary that the title of king might be given to him who already possessed the power. Childeric III., the last of the Merovingian dynasty, seems to have yielded up a distinction which he was unable to defend, and died in the monastery of Sitiu in 754. Zachary granted the request of the French nation, and Pepin with his queen was solemnly crowned at Soissons, on the 1st of March, 752, by Boniface, in the midst of an august assembly of the bishops and nobility of the kingdom. This was the beginning of the Carlovingian dynasty, though it took its name from Charles Martel. It lasted till the end of the tenth century. In 987, Hugh Capet founded a new race of kings, a branch of which is still represented by the lineal descendant of King Charles X.
In 752 Zachary died, and Stephen II. was elected to fill the vacant see. The Lombards were then at war with Rome, and the pope was reduced to great straits. He therefore undertook a journey into France, to solicit aid from King Pepin. As he approached Pontyon, a royal palace near Langres, the king came out to receive him, and prostrated himself before him; and, without allowing him to alight, walked by the side of his horse till he arrived at the castle. This remarkable event happened on the feast of the Epiphany, 754. Stephen continued his journey to the abbey of S. Denys, where he crowned Pepin, his queen, and his two sons, Charlemagne and Carloman. The reason of this second coronation is not well ascertained. Perhaps it was because the throne of France was not vacant till the death of Childeric in that year. During his stay at S. Denys,
the pope was seized with dangerous illness, and his life was despaired of. Out of gratitude to S. Denys for his recovery, he granted many privileges to the abbey, and left his pallium upon the altar of the church. He returned to Rome after accomplishing the chief object of his journey.
In 755 Boniface consecrated Lullus as his successor in the see of Mentz, in virtue of the power which pope Zachary had given him in 745, and which had been confirmed by Stephen. Lullus was an Englishman, and had formerly been a monk of Malmesbury. His appointment was sanctioned by the pope, King Pepin, and the bishops and clergy. Boniface had thus lived to see the Church firmly established in Germany, and, as he reminded Stephen in a letter which he wrote about this time, he had been papal legate in that country for thirtysix years. But one desire remained unsatisfied, to lay down his life for Christ. He therefore resumed his missionary labours, and as he was departing from Mentz he said to Lullus, "The time of my death approaches, I pray you to finish the churches which I have begun in Thuringia, and labour for the conversion of the people. And bury my body in the church of Fulda."
He descended the Rhine to Friseland, in company with Eoban bishop of Utrecht, and twelve priests, deacons and monks. They gained many disciples, and built churches on the ruins of the idol temples. A day was appointed for the new converts to assemble to receive confirmation, on the banks of the river Bourde. Suddenly the little band was surrounded by a troop of savage pagans, who rushed upon them
sword in hand. The Christians at first tried to oppose them by force; but Boniface hearing the tumult, understood that the ardent desire of his life was about to be granted, and came out of the tent bearing the holy relics in his hand. Cease to fight, my children," he cried, "the Scripture forbids us to render evil for evil. The day has come which I have long expected; hope in God and He will save your souls." The pagans immediately overpowered them, and put fifty-two of them to death. Thus the blessed archbishop received his crown, on the 5th of June, 755. The spot where the martyrs fell is not known.
The pagans thinking that the chests, in which the relics and books were carried, contained valuable treasure, began to fight among themselves for the possession of them, and several were killed. When they discovered nothing but books and relics, they scattered them about the fields, and hid them in ditches and marshes. The Christians of Utrecht came soon after and carried away the body of S. Boniface to their city. Lullus translated it to Mentz, and it was finally laid in the abbey church of Fulda. The place where his remains rest has been the scene of innumerable miracles. Some of the books were recovered, and have been preserved in this monastery. One of them is a book of the Gospels written in the saint's own hand. Not long after his decease another company of missioners finished the pious work which he had begun in Friseland. In the year 756, Cuthbert archbishop of Canterbury ordained in a council of the English Church that the day of the martyrdom of the blessed Boni