This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

July 14 -- Blessed Bonface of Savoy

buy this Boniface at
In a way, it is fitting to have this beatus celebrated on Bastille Day, even though he was the Archbishop of Canterbury.  He was the son of the Count of Savoy, and spent fourteen of his twenty-nine years as archbishop outside England.  On the other hand, those Jacobin bastards who hijacked the French Revolution destroyed his tomb and effigy in their zeal to suppress religion in France.  So the coincidence of Bastille Day and his feast is a mixed honor, but then again, his legacy is also mixed. 

His appointment to Canterbury was engineered by his niece, Eleanor of Provence, who was married to King Henry III of England.  That was thoughtful of her, except that the See was about 14,600 pounds in the red.  Boniface initiated some heavy austerity measures and levied a tax on his bishops, but still lived pretty large himself.  The bishops resisted, even after a papal order permitting the tax.  Eventually, the debt was retired and nearly all the bishops were reconciled (or replaced), but there were still a lot of residual bad vibes.

At the same time, Henry III was butting heads with his wife's uncle over the appointment of bishops.  Henry kept nominating people who would be helpful to the Crown, as kings are wont to do.  In spite of having landed his job through nepotism,...

ETYMOLOGICAL INTERRUPTION -- Please skip to the next paragraph if the word nepotism doesn't interest you.  The use of the that word in the previous paragraph is not improper, but it is etymologically inapt.  The word nepos in Latin means grandson or nephew.  Since Henry appointed his uncle, not his nephew, Boniface's position as archbishop was technically avunculism, not nepotism.  I suppose cronyism is the more generally applicable word, though it is better applied to personal friends. 

Henry liked bishops who liked Henry.
... Boniface thwarted Henry's efforts to put his lapdogs into mitres.  Henry was having a lot of trouble with the barons trying to infringe on royal authority, and for a while, Boniface backed them.  At some point, however, he backed Henry again, which was wise, since the barons were routed and the absolute monarchy was reinstated. 

A contemporary British chronicler named Matthew Paris wrote that Boniface was "noted more for his birth than his brains," which might be unkind, but perhaps not untrue.  He was an able enough administrator, balancing contending forces in England and France, protecting the interests of his primacy from both the Crown and the bishops below him.  Theologically, there doesn't seem to be much to say about him.  The push to have him beatified came from Savoy; in England, where he was widely disliked and disrespected, they were glad to see him go. 

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