BONIFACE (Bonifacius), the name of nine of the popes.
Boniface I., bishop of Rome from 418 to 422. At the death of Pope Zosimus, the Roman clergy were divided into two factions, one of which elected the deacon Eulalius, and the other the priest Boniface. The imperial government, in the interests of public order, commanded the two competitors to leave the town, reserving the decision of the case to a council. Eulalius having broken his ban, the emperor Honorius decided to recognize Boniface, and the council was countermanded. But the faction of Eulalius long continued to foment disorders, and the secular authority was compelled to intervene.
Boniface II., pope from 530 to 532, was by birth a Goth, and owed his election to the nomination of his predecessor, Felix IV., and to the influence of the Gothic king. The Roman electors had opposed to him a priest of Alexandria called Dioscorus, who died a month after his election, and thus left the position open for him. Boniface endeavoured to nominate his own successor, thus transforming into law, or at least into custom, the proceeding by which he had benefited; but the clergy and the senate of Rome forced him to cancel this arrangement.
Boniface III. was pope from the 15th of February to the 12th of November 606. He obtained from Phocas recognition of the "headship of the church at Rome," which signifies, no doubt, that Phocas compelled the patriarch of Constantinople to abandon (momentarily) his claim to the title of oecumenical patriarch.
Boniface IV. was pope from 608 to 615. He received from the emperor Phocas the Pantheon at Rome, which was converted into a Christian church.
Boniface V., pope from 619 to 625, did much for the christianizing of England. Bede mentions (Hist. Eccl.) that he wrote encouraging letters to Mellitus, archbishop of Canterbury, and Justus, bishop of Rochester, and quotes three letters - to Justus, to Eadwin, king of Northumbria, and to his wife Æthelberga. William of Malmesbury gives a letter to Justus of the year 625, in which Canterbury is constituted the metropolitan see of Britain for ever.
Boniface VI. was elected pope in April 896, and died fifteen days afterwards.
Boniface VII. was pope from August 984 to July 985. His family name was Franco. In 974 he was substituted by Crescentius and the Roman barons for Benedict VI., who had been assassinated. He was ejected by Count Sicco, the representative of the emperor Otto II., and fled to Constantinople. On the death of Otto (983) he returned, seized Pope John XIV., threw him into prison, and installed himself in his place.
Boniface VIII. (Benedetto Gaetano), pope from 1294 to 1303, was born of noble family at Anagni, studied canon and civil law in Italy and possibly at Paris. After being appointed to canonicates at Todi (June 1260) and in France, he became an advocate and then a notary at the papal court. With Cardinal Ottoboni, who was to aid the English king, Henry III., against the bishops of the baronial party, he was besieged in the Tower of London by the rebellious earl of Gloucester, but was rescued by the future Edward I., on the 27th of April 1267. Created cardinal deacon in 1281, and in 1291 cardinal priest (SS. Sylvestri et Martini), he was entrusted with many diplomatic missions and became very influential in the Sacred College. He helped the ineffective Celestine V. to abdicate, and was himself chosen pope at Naples on the 24th of December 1294. Contrary to custom, the election was not made unanimous, probably because of the hostility of certain French cardinals. Celestine attempted to rule in extreme monastic poverty and humility; not so Boniface, who ardently asserted the lordship of the papacy over all the kingdoms of the world. He was crowned at Rome in January 1295 with great pomp. He planned to pacify the West and then recover the Holy Land from the infidel; but during his nine years' reign, so far from being a peacemaker, he involved the papacy itself in a series of controversies with leading European powers. Avarice, lofty claims and frequent exhibitions of arrogance made him many foes. The policy of supporting the interests of the house of Anjou in Sicily proved a grand failure. The attempt to build up great estates for his family made most of the Colonna his enemies. Until 1303 he refused to recognize Albert of Austria as the rightful German king. Assuming that he was overlord of Hungary, he declared that its crown should fall to the house of Anjou. He humbled Eric VI. of Denmark, but was unsuccessful in the attempt to try Edward I., the conqueror of Scotland, on the charge of interfering with a papal fief; for parliament declared in 1301 that Scotland had never been a fief of Rome. The most noted conflict of Boniface was that with Philip IV. of France. In 1296, by the bull Clericis laicos, the pope forbade the levying of taxes, however disguised, on the clergy without his consent. Forced to recede from this position, Boniface canonized Louis IX. (1297). The hostilities were later renewed; in 1302 Boniface himself drafted and published the indubitably genuine bull Unam sanctam, one of the strongest official statements of the papal prerogative ever made. The weight of opinion now tends to deny that any part of this much-discussed document save the last sentence bears the marks of an infallible utterance. The French vice-chancellor Guillaume de Nogaret was sent to arrest the pope, against whom grave charges had been brought, and bring him to France to be deposed by an oecumenical council. The accusation of heresy has usually been dismissed as a slander; but recent investigations make it probable, though not quite certain, that Boniface privately held certain Averroistic tenets, such as the denial of the immortality of the soul. With Sciarra Colonna, Nogaret surprised Boniface at Anagni, on the 7th of September 1303, as the latter was about to pronounce the sentence of excommunication against the king. After a nine-hours' truce the palace was stormed, and Boniface was found lying in his bed, a cross clasped to his breast; that he was sitting in full regalia on the papal throne is a legend. Nogaret claimed that he saved the pope's life from the vengeful Colonna. Threatened, but not maltreated, the pope had remained three days under arrest when the citizens of Anagni freed him. He was conducted to Rome, only to be confined in the Vatican by the Orsini. He died on the 11th or 12th of October 1303, not eighty-six years old, as has commonly been believed, but perhaps under seventy, at all events not over seventy-five. "He shall come in like a fox, reign like a lion, die like a dog," is a gibe wrongly held to be a prophecy of his unfortunate predecessor. Dante, who had become embittered against Boniface while on a political mission in Rome, calls him the "Prince of the new Pharisees" (Inferno, 27, 85), but laments that "in his Vicar Christ was made a captive," and was "mocked a second time" (Purgatory, 20, 87 f.).
Authorities. - Digard, Faucon and Thomas, Les Registres de Boniface VIII (Paris, 1884 ff.); Wetzer and Welte, Kirchenlexikon, vol. ii. (2nd ed., Freiburg, 1883), 1037-1062; Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopadie, vol. iii. (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1897), 291-300, contains an elaborate bibliography; J. Loserth, Geschichte des spateren Mittelalters (Munich, 1903), 206-232; H. Finke, Aus den Tagen Bonifaz VIII. (Münster, 1902) is dreary but epoch-making; Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen, Jahrgang 166, 857-869 (Berlin, 1904); R. Scholz, Die Publizistik zur Zeit Philipps des Schönen und Bonifaz VIII. (Stuttgart, 1903); K. Wenck, "War Bonifaz VIII. ein Ketzer?" in von Sybel's Historische Zeitschrift, vol. xciv. (Munich, 1905), 1-66. Special literature on Unam Sanctum: C. Mirbt, Quellen zur Geschichte des Papsttums (2nd ed., Tübingen, 1901), 148 f.; Kirchenlexikon, xii. (1901), 229-240, an exhaustive discussion; H. Finke, 146-190; J.H. Robinson, Readings in European History, vol. i. (Boston, 1904), 346 ff. On Clericis laicos: Gee and Hardy, Documents Illustrative of English Church History (London, 1896), 87 ff.
(W. W. R.*)
Boniface IX. (Piero Tomacelli), pope from 1389 to 1404, was born at Naples of a poor but ancient family. Created cardinal by Urban VI., he was elected successor to the latter on the 2nd of November 1389. In 1391 he canonized Birgitta of Sweden. He was able to restore Roman authority in the major part of the papal states, and in 1398 put an end to the republican liberties of the city itself. Boniface won Naples, which had owed spiritual allegiance to the antipopes Clement VII. and Benedict XIII. of Avignon, to the Roman obedience. In 1403 he ventured at last to confirm the deposition of the emperor Wenceslaus and the election of Rupert. Negotiations for the healing of the Great Schism were without result. In spite of his inferior education, the contemporaries of Boniface trusted his prudence and moral character; yet when in financial straits he sold offices, and in 1399 transformed the annates into a permanent tax. In 1390 he celebrated the regular jubilee, but a rather informal one held in 1400 proved more profitable. Though probably not personally avaricious, he was justly accused of nepotism. He died on the 1st of October 1404, being still under sixty years of age.
(W. W. R.*)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)