Boniface (Latin: Bonifatius; c. 675 – 5 June 754 AD), born Winfrid (also spelled Winifred, Wynfrith, Winfrith or Wynfryth) in the Devon town of Crediton in Anglo-Saxon England, was a leading figure in the Anglo-Saxon mission to the Germanic parts of the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He organised significant foundations of the church in Germany and was made archbishop of Mainz by Pope Gregory III. He was martyred in Frisia in 754, along with 52 others, and his remains were returned to Fulda, where they rest in a sarcophagus which became a site of pilgrimage. Boniface’s life and death as well as his work became widely known, there being a wealth of material available—a number of vitae, especially the near-contemporary Vita Bonifatii auctore Willibaldi, legal documents, possibly some sermons, and above all his correspondence. He is venerated as a saint in the Christian church and became the patron saint of Germania, known as the “Apostle of the Germans“.
Norman F. Cantor notes the three roles Boniface played that made him “one of the truly outstanding creators of the first Europe, as the apostle of Germania, the reformer of the Frankish church, and the chief fomentor of the alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian family.” Through his efforts to reorganize and regulate the church of the Franks, he helped shape the Latin Church in Europe, and many of the dioceses he proposed remain today. After his martyrdom, he was quickly hailed as a saint in Fulda and other areas in Germania and in England. He is still venerated strongly today by German Catholics. Boniface is celebrated as a missionary; he is regarded as a unifier of Europe, and he is regarded by German Catholics as a national figure. In 2019 Devon County Council with the support of the Anglican and Catholic churches in Exeter and Plymouth, officially recognised St Boniface as the Patron Saint of Devon.