Boniface Consiliarius

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Bonifatius Consiliarius (died circa 705) (also known as Boniface Consiliarius and Archdeacon Boniface) resided in Rome where he was an advisor to the papacy for approximately 50 years. Despite his role of consiliarius or archdeacon, it is his work as a translator that he is most famous for, as well as the fact that he is one of the few papal officials at that time who completed well known translations such as the Miracula.[1] Later records of the same document mention him by name, and he is briefly mentioned in other significant documents about the papacy.

Early life[edit]

While there is no record of a birth date for Bonifatius, it is believed that he died in 705 AD[2] and based on the fact that he worked under the papacy for such a long period of time of his life, which was based in Rome, it is most likely that he was born there as well. Based on the estimated amount of time historians believed he worked as a papal official it would mean that Bonifatius would have served as consiliarius under the papacy of St. Martin until the papacy of John VIII[disambiguation needed][3] by the time he died. Bonifatius is one of few papal officials from the 7th century that scholars know by name because he is referenced in documents such as the Liber Pontificalus (He is mentioned in the sections “Life of Benedict II”(683-85) and “Life Sergius”(687-701))[4] and has one well known piece of work that is his Latin translation of the first twelve chapters of the Miracula. He was also known for assisting in the translations of the Third Council of Constantinople (the sixth ecumenical council) after most likely attending said council.

He was also well noted in historical documents for his friendship as well as being the teacher of the English bishop, Wilfrid of Ripon. This friendship was recorded in the account of Wilfrid’s life in the Vita S. Wilfridi, cc. 5 and 53 as well as the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum V 19. [He is noted in the most famous account of the life of Wilfrid written by Eddius Stephanus titled Vita S. Wilfridi, which was later paraphrased by St. Bede in the year 731.[5] ] The translated piece mentioned that Wilfrid learned of "Paschal calculation, with the schismatics of which Britain and Ireland were not acquainted with"[6] Bede expands on this point to mention that Wilfrid also learned of "other things suitable to ecclesiastical learning, which he could not have learned in his own country,"[7] and the same document states that a man who is referred to as Archdeacon Boniface taught him this. Based on what little information there is on Bonifacius and his known friendship with Wilfrid, it is most likely Bonifatius Consiliarius is this Archdeacon Boniface who taught Wilfrid the Paschal calculation (this equation used to determine the date of Easter). In addition, Bonifatius was also introduced Wilfrid to the four gospels.[7] There are also records of Wilfrid returning to Rome in 679-80 and in 704 to seek assistance from Bonifatius,[8] most likely in the area of how to integrate what Bonifatius taught him to the people of what is present day England.

Bonifatius' most famous[9] and most well-known work for which historians are able to identify Bonifatius was in fact a translator for the papacy in addition to serving in the role of consiliarius would be for his translation of the first twelve chapters of the Miracula known in English as the Seventy Miracles of SS. Cyrus and John. He translated this work from Greek into Latin, the original was written by Sophronius of Jerusalem. This document detailed the miracles of Saints Cyrus and John. Anastasius Bibliotecarius noted this when he went to write his famous translations of the same work ("Bonifatius consiliarius… duodecim cum praefatione capitula olim interpretatus est" [10]) referencing that a Bonifatius Consiliarius had already translated the first twelve chapters of this piece into Latin and it is through this quote that we know that it was Bonifatius and not Anastasius that made these initial translations of the first twelve chapters of this work. Based on when these translations were completed, it would make sense that the Bonifatius that did these translations is in fact the same Bonifatius that was associated with Wilfrid and the sixth ecumenical council. It is believed that Anastasius would have used Bonifatius’ translations to assist him in completion of his translations of the Miracula in the ninth century. Bonifatius’ translations would most likely have been completed during the papacy of Leo II or Benedict II, Leo known for being bilingual and wanting to have such documents like the Miracula translated from Greek to Latin.

He is mentioned in the Liber Pontificalis[11] which is a series of biographies of the popes. His name mentioned in connection with Pope Benedict II in addition to Sergius. This connection is confirmed because when Anastasius Bibliothecarius wrote his translation of the Miracula, he noted that Bonifatius under Benedict II was sent to see Macarius of Antioch in 684 or 685 despite the fact that the sixth ecumenical council had anathematized (or excommunicated) Macarius for his belief in monothelitism[12] Most likely, Bonifatius was sent to see Macarius to try and convert him and he would have been the ideal candidate to do so because of his vast knowledge of both theology and Greek.[8]

Modern historians have made conclusions about the papal office, and on the life of Bonifatius Consiliarius based on the limited information on Bonifatius Consiliarius and his writings as well as records of the papal office during the life of Bonifatius that "by examining Bonifatius’s Latin prose style and vocabulary in minute detail, and comparing these to existing papal documents… papal officials with similarly high levels of rhetorical, theological and legal training may have been more numerous than previously supposed."[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wright, Charles D. (Dec 1, 2012). Translating the Middle Ages. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 9781409472179. 
  2. ^ W. Berschin, “Bonifatius Consiliarius. Ein Römischer Übersetzer in der Byzantinischen Epoche,” in A. Lehner, Lateinische Kultur in VIII Jahrkundert (Ottilien, 1989), pp. 25-40
  3. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: List Of Popes". 1911-06-01. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  4. ^ "Early Byzantine Italy and the Maritime Lands of the West". 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  5. ^ Eddius Stephanus The Life of Bishop Wilfrid, Cambridge University Press, September 12, 1985
  6. ^ Rhodes, MJ "The Visible Unity of the Catholic Church Volume II" pp. 158
  7. ^ a b Bede, The Age of Bede, Penguin Books Limited, 1998
  8. ^ a b Pollard, Richard, "A Cooperative Correspondence: The Letters of Gregory the Great," in Neil and Dal Santo, A Companion to Gregory the Great (Leiden, 2013), pg. 307-309
  9. ^ B. Valtorta, "Clavis Scriptorum Latinorum Medii Aevi," pg. 70-71
  10. ^ Franklin, Carmela. "The Latin Dossier of Anastasius the Persian: Hagiographic Translations and Transformations" pp. 113
  11. ^ Liber Pontificalis, excerpt from Davis, The Book of Pontiffs (Liverpool, 200) pp. 85-87
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ Pollard, Richard "An edition and study of seventh-century papal letters, and a study of Carolingian Nonantola’s manuscripts" Excerpt from "Papers of the British School at Rome" Issue 79, pgs 365-366