Boniface III—VII, POPES.—BONIFACE III, POPE, of Roman extraction and the son of John Cataadioce, was elected to succeed Sabinian after an interregnum of nearly a year; he was consecrated February 19, 607; d. November 12 of the same year. He had been ordained a deacon of the Roman Church, and in 603 sent by Gregory the Great as apocrisiarius, or legate, to the court of Constantinople, where, by his tact and prudence, he appears to have gained the favorable regard of the Emperor Phocas. After his elevation to the See of Rome, Boniface obtained a decree from Phocas, against Cyriacus, Bishop of Constantinople, by which it was ordained, that “the See of Blessed Peter the Apostle should be the head of all the Churches”, and that the title of “Universal Bishop” belonged exclusively to the Bishop of Rome—an acknowledgment somewhat similar to that made by Justinian eighty years before (Novell., 131, c. ii, tit. xiv). At Rome Boniface held a council, attended by seventy-two bishops and all the Roman clergy, wherein he enacted a decree forbidding anyone under pain of excommunication, during the lifetime of a pope or of a bishop, to treat of or to discuss the appointment of his successor, and setting forth that no steps were to be taken to provide for a successor until three days after the burial of the deceased. The acts of the council are lost, and it is not known what may have been the occasion for the decree. Pope Boniface was a man “of tried faith and character” (St. Greg., ep. xiii, 41). He died within a year of his elevation and was buried in St. Peter’s. His epitaph is found in the works of Duchesne and Mann.
BONIFACE IV, Saint, POPE, 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 August 25, 608; d. May 8, 615 (Duchesne); or, September 15, 608—May 25, 615 (Jaffe). 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 connection with the administration of the patrimonies. Boniface obtained leave from the Emperor Phocas to convert the Pantheon into a Christian Church, and on May 13, 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 ad Martyres; from its shape also called 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 decrees 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 Jaffe [Regest. RR. PP., 1998 (1548)].
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 October 21, 1603. For the earlier inscription on his tomb see Duchesne; for the later, Grisar, “Analecta Romana”, I, 193. Boniface IV is commemorated as a saint in the Roman Martyrology on May 25.
BONIFACE V, POPE, a Neapolitan who succeeded Deusdedit after a vacancy of more than a year; consecrated December 23, 619; d. October 25, 625. Before his consecration Italy was disturbed by the rebellion of the eunuch Eleutherius, Exarch of Ravenna. The patrician pretender advanced towards Rome, but before he could reach the city, he was slain by his own troops. The “Liber Pontificalis” records that Boniface made certain enactments relative to the rights of sanctuary, and that he ordered the ecclesiastical notaries to obey the laws of the empire on the subject of wills. He also prescribed that acolytes should not presume to translate the relics of martyrs, and that, in the Lateran Basilica, they should not take the place of deacons in administering baptism. Boniface completed and consecrated the cemetery of St. Nicomedes on the Via Nomentana. From the Venerable Bede we learn of the pope’s affectionate concern for the English Church. The “letters of exhortation” which he is said to have addressed to Mellitus, Archbishop of Canterbury, and to Justus, Bishop of Rochester, are no longer extant, but certain other letters of his have been preserved. One is written to Justus, after he had succeeded Mellitus as Archbishop of Canterbury (624), conferring the pallium upon him and directing him to “ordain bishops as occasion should require”. According to Bede, Pope Boniface also sent letters to Edwin, King of Northumbria (625), urging him to embrace the Christian Faith, and to the Christian Princess Ethelberga, Edwin’s spouse, exhorting here to use her best endeavors for the conversion of her consort (Bede, H. E., II, vii, viii, x, xi). In the “Liber Pontificalis” Boniface is described as “the mildest of men”, whose chief distinction was his great love for the clergy. He was buried in St. Peter’s, October 25, 625. His epitaph is found in Duchesne.
BONIFACE VI, POPE, a Roman, elected in 896 by-the Roman faction in a popular tumult, to succeed Formosus. He had twice incurred a sentence of deprivation of orders, as a subdeacon and as a priest. At the Council of Rome, held by John IX in 898, his election was pronounced null. After a pontificate of fifteen days, he is said by some to have died of the gout, by others to have been forcibly ejected to make way for Stephen VI, the candidate of the Spoletan party.
BONIFACE VII, ANTIPOPE (previously BONIFACE. FRANCO), a Roman and son of Ferrucius, was intruded into the Chair of St. Peter in 974; reinstalled, 984; d. July, 985. In June, 974, one year after the death of Emperor Otto I, Crescentius the son of Theodora and brother of John XIII, stirred up an insurrection at Rome, during which the Romans threw Benedict VI into the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, and elevated as his successor the Cardinal-Deacon Franco, who took the name of Boniface VII. The imprisoned pontiff was speedily put to death by the intruder. But in little more than a month the imperial representative, Count Sicco, had taken possession of the city, and Boniface, not being able to maintain himself, robbed the treasury of the Vatican Basilica and fled to Constantinople. After an exile of nine years at Byzantium, Franco, on the death of Otto II, December 7, 983, quickly returned to Rome, overpowered John XIV (April, 984), thrust him into the dungeons of Sant’ Angelo, where the wretched man died four months later, and again assumed the government of the Church. The usurper had never ceased to look upon himself as the lawful pontiff, and reckoned the years of his reign from the deposition of Benedict VI in 974. For more than a year Rome endured this monster steeped in the blood of his predecessors. But the vengeance was terrible. After his sudden death in July, 985, due in all probability to violence, the body of Boniface was exposed to the insults of the populace, dragged through the streets of the city, and finally, naked and covered with wounds, flung under the statue of Marcus Aurelius, which at that time stood in the Lateran Place. The following morning compassionate clerics removed the corpse and gave it Christian burial.