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Working draft of forthcoming book

Boniface I
The Artesian Saint

copyright 2009 by Richard L. Meehan


meehan at stanford.edu.
As a young man he
was called Winfrith
and he came from
Sussex, formerly a
Celtic land, now
taken over by the his
people the Saxons Winfrith
was a conscientious student
undistracted by the romances
of the day.

After the Synod of Whitby, in which it was decided that


the Celtic Church, suspiciously casual in its penances
and vivacious in its festivities, had erred on the date of
Easter and the correct style of tonsure. Papal envoys
were sent to England to correct these evils and remind
the British of the dangers of free will and the sordid
embraces of women. Stone cups that flowed wine and
fish with teeth of gold gave way to strategic planning
and office memos.

Against his father's wishes the young man decided on


the religious life. At
school he studied the
Latin (but not Greek)
classics, and the
church fathers, among
them Ambrose who wrote
of the many levels of interpretation of the Great Flood.
Being of stern Saxon stock, he was well suited for the
missionary life and after receiving Holy Orders in 690
determined to undertake convert the heathens of the
continent, notably the Frisians, to the true faith.

Who were the Frisians? Simple, boggish folk who lived in


the coastal Netherlands, they had been the laughing
stock of the ancient
world since Pliny the
Elder visited them in
the year 47 and reported
that they, like the Irish, were not worth conquering.
They loved their oak trees and were given to holding
religious services beneath them followed by drinking
parties in which they consumed what Mediterranean
sophisticates called "mouldy grain."

By far the most successful


missionaries in Frisland had
been the Irish who quickly
took to native ways, talked
with angels, and regaled the
Frisfolk with tall tales of miracles and oak tree
prophecies.
One of them, a certain Aldebert, especially detested by
Boniface, was wildly popular among the locals. Aldebert
explained that he had been born from his mother's side
like the Virgin following a wondrous annunciation by a
calf. He showed them a personal letter that Jesus Christ
had written to him. He gave them instructions in
ancient Celtic practices such
as fighting the waves of
the invading sea. His own
ancestors had lived and
worshipped in the bogs
and woods, he said, and
they understood when natural forces must be bravely
resisted and when destiny required submissions to the
natural world.

According to
conservatives like
Boniface these
Irishmen degraded their Christian profession by
participation in the idolatrous rites of Thor and Woden.
At first Boniface made little headway on restoring the
purity of doctrine to men of this character who carried
on merrily in the dense, primeval forests where Woden,
Thor, and the other deities of the Teutonic pantheon
might well seem alive and all-powerful to the tribals who
inhabited this land.

Boniface was eager to


tell The Holy
Father about the
evil doings of his
idolatrous albeit
successful Irish
competitors. After tireless campaigning in the
year 752 Boniface received permission from Pope
Gregory to excommunicate the Irish and return to
Germany to save the Frisians from their pagan ways.
To assist his efforts His
Holiness granted Boniface
a letter to the Frankish
king Charles Martel.
These were the dark
ages in Europe. No one
knew whether the Saint
would ever be seen again.

Boniface returned to Germany. By


day he found the Frisians
praying to their new
Christian God.

Nighttime was a different story altogether. Boniface


suffered greatly thinking about the pleasurable orgies
beneath the oak trees. He could not bear the thought of
the pains of hell that
these simple folk would
suffer in consequence
of the fun they were
enjoying.

Boniface took a bold but risky move. For miles around


the Frisians gathered to witness this grim Christian hack
away at their pagan god, for Boniface had taken the bold
step of deciding to cut down the house of Thor,
embodied in a great oak tree.

Intervention was called for.


For miles around the Frisians gathered to witness the
Christian hack away at
their pagan god, for
Boniface had taken the
bold step of deciding to
chop down Thor, embodied
in a great oak tree.

The Frisians rose as one and turned the axe on


Boniface. Did the tree fall? What was done with the
sacred wood? These facts are not recorded.

According to Willibald in the year 874 not long after the


saints martyrdom it was decided to erect or church at
the spot, on the Boone River, which required that the
site be protected from the vast eruptions of the heap
and spring tides by building of an earthen mound, in
other words a dike or levee. A man called Abba,
supervisor of the works, was inspecting it on horseback
when suddenly and unexpectedly the steed of the
attendant, while merely stamping on the
ground, felt it sinking
and giving way
altogether, and
wallowed. Then at
once a miracle
stupendous and worthy to
behold was made manifest. A fountain, exceeding clear
beyond the manner of that country, came bursting out,
and, penetrating through unknown channels, flowed
forth, so that it seemed already a very large brook.

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