Boniface IV was born in the province of Valeria. His father was a doctor
named John. Like St. Gregory the Great, Boniface turned his house into a
monastery. Like Gregory, too, he entered the papal service, but unlike
Gregory, Sabinian, and Boniface III, he does not seem to have served as
ambassador to Constantinople. He became dispensator, that is, a high
official in the administration of the patrimony of St. Peter; and evidently
he gave satisfaction, for Gregory the Great speaks of him as "my most
beloved son Boniface the deacon."
Boniface was consecrated pope on either August 25 or September 15, 608. The
day is disputed. As pope, Boniface did something which has endeared him to
those who love classical antiquity. He turned the Pantheon into a Christian
church. The Pantheon was a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Mars, and Venus.
Built about 25 B.C. by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the great friend and
general of Augustus, it was rebuilt in its present circular form by Hadrian
early in the second century. It is an outstanding example of ancient Roman
architecture, famed for its large dome and elaborate brickwork. If today
this masterpiece of classical antiquity can be admired much as it stood in
the days of the Caesars, it is due to Pope Boniface IV. He consecrated the
one-time temple of the gods to the one true God under the title of Our Lady
and the Martyrs. Had he not done so, in all probability this architectural
gem would have been seized by some turbulent little baron, and its beauty
would have vanished under the repeated batterings of feudal brawls.
Boniface took an interest in the newly fledged church in England. He had an
interview with Mellitus, the first bishop of Saxon London, and sent letters
to Lawrence, the archbishop of Canterbury, and to King Ethelbert.
He also had dealings with that remarkable Irish monk and missionary, the
impetuous, restless, lovable St. Columban. St. Columban, a splendid example
of Irish missionary zeal, had already preached the gospel in Gaul and
Switzerland. Now he was working among the Lombards of North Italy. He
became involved in the struggle against heresy, and with more zeal than
theological science, Columban sent Pope Boniface a letter in which he
mingled expressions of the greatest respect with free reprehensions for the
Pope's attitude in a theological quarrel about which the impulsive monk
candidly confessed he knew little!
Boniface, if his epitaph may be trusted, took Gregory the Great for his
model. He seems to have succeeded in following his holy predecessor, for
like Gregory, Boniface is honored as a saint. He died in 615 and was buried
in St. Peter's. His feast is kept on May 25.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.