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E04437: Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues (1.9), describes six miracles effected by *Bonifatius (6th c. bishop of Ferentino, central Italy, S01715): two in childhood and two when he was a bishop; one of these took place in a church dedicated to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Written in Latin in Rome, c. 593.

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posted on 07.12.2017, 00:00 by frances
Gregory the Great, Dialogues 1.9

Summary:

Following a poor harvest of grapes, Bonifatius ordered that a small amount of juice be placed in several wine jars. Two days later, each of the jars was filled to the brim. He then ordered that his followers keep this miracle secret.

One day, a travelling musician disturbed Bonifatius as he prayed before dining with a nobleman. Angrily, Bonifatius said that the musician would soon die, though they should give him food and drink. As soon as the musician crossed the threshold of the house, a stone fell from the roof, ultimately causing his death.

Bonifatius' nephew, Constantius, a priest, sold a house and obtained twelve solidi. When his nephew was away, Bonifatius gave this money to poor people who asked for alms. His nephew was angry. Bonifatius then prayed in the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ferentino and found the twelve solidi in the folds of his clothes.

Bonifatius gave a group of Goths a cask of wine. This wine was enough for their journey to and from Ravenna and for the days they spent there.

As a child, Bonifatius gave away the year’s supply of his family’s grain to the poor. Bonifatius prayed and knelt by the wheat which remained. The grain was replenished.

As a child, Bonifatius tended to his mother’s hens. When one was taken by a fox. Bonifatius prayed to God. The fox returned, dropped the hen and dropped down dead.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.

History

Evidence ID

E04437

Saint Name

Boniface, bishop of Ferentino : S01715 Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source

Bonifacius Maria

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

590

Evidence not after

604

Activity not before

500

Activity not after

580

Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Rome

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory the Great (pope)

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Punishing miracle Power over life and death Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Miracle with animals and plants

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Foreigners (including Barbarians) Animals Relatives of the saint Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people

Source

Gregory the Great (Pope, 590-604) wrote his Dialogues on the Lives and Miracles of the Italian Fathers (Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum italicorum) in Rome around 593. Organised into four books, the first three are a collection of lives and miracles of various Italian saints. The longest is the Life of Benedict of Nursia, which comprises the entirety of book 2. The final book consists of an essay on the immortality of souls after death. As a whole, the work documents and explains the presence of the miraculous in the contemporary world and the ability of saints to effect miracles both before and after death. The attribution of the Dialogues to Gregory has been disputed, most recently by Francis Clark who argued that the work was created in the 680s in Rome. Others - such as Adalbert de Vogüé, Paul Meyvaert and Matthew dal Santo - have, however, strongly argued for Gregory's authorship and it is broadly accepted that Gregory was responsible for the Dialogues. For a discussion of Gregory's devotion in writing the Dialogues, see E04383, and for the role of the Dialogues as a tract justifying the nature of miracles and theorising on the immortality of souls, see E04506. Gregory's principal aim in collecting the miracle stories of the holy men and a very few women of sixth-century Italy was to show the presence of God's power on earth as manifested through them, rather than to encourage the cult of these individuals. Indeed, though posthumous miracles at the graves of a few individuals are recorded (and also a few miracles aided by contact relics of dead saints), there is very little emphasis in the Dialogues on posthumous cult; some of the miraculous events that Gregory records (e.g. E04429) are not even attributed to named individuals. Although very few of the holy persons in the Dialogues are 'proper' saints, with long-term cult, we have included them all in our database, for the sake of completeness and as an illustration of the impossibility of dividing 'proper' saints from more 'ordinary' holy individuals.

Discussion

Nonnosus' miracles echo others described in the Dialogues. For example, compare Boniface's miraculous supply of wine with a similar miracle, also described by Gregory, in which Nonnosus (Prior of Mount Soracte S01713) produced plentiful olive oil from a poor harvest of olives (Dialogues 1.7 E04433). In both cases, a small amount of liquid was placed in a vessel, left and after a few days the vessels were filled to the brim. Similarly, this story ought to be understood in the context of other ‘garden’ miracles throughout the Dialogues, and discussed by Barbara Müller (2005). These stories work on multiple levels. The role of the gardener mirrors the ideal role of the ideal church leader keeping watch over his flock and fighting threats from the Devil. Yet these scenes should also, in Müller’s view, be understood in the context of a world where garden work was a fact of daily life. After describing the death of the musician who angered Boniface, Gregory discussed the reason for this miracle. God resides within holy men: they are temples of God. This means that when they are angered, God is also angered. Throughout the Dialogues, Gregory sought to explain the miracles of the saints, and this digression ought to be seen in this context.

Bibliography

Edition: Vogüé, A. de, Grégoire le Grand, Dialogues, Sources chrétiennes 260 (Paris: Cerf, 1979). Translation: Zimmerman, O.J., Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great, Fathers of the Church 39 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1959). Further Reading: Clark, F.,The 'Gregorian' Dialogues and the Origins of Benedictine Monasticism (Leiden: Brill, 2003). Dal Santo, M., "The Shadow of A Doubt? A Note on the Dialogues and Registrum Epistolarum of Pope Gregory the Great (590–604)," Journal of Ecclesiatical History, 61.1, (2010), 3-17. Meyvaert, P., "The Enigma of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues: A Reply to Francis Clark," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 39 (1988), 335–81. Müller, Barbara, "The diabolical power of lettuce, or garden miracles in Gregory the Great's Dialogues," Studies in Church History 41 (2005), 46-55. Vogüé, A. de, "Grégoire le Grand et ses Dialogues d’après deux ouvrages récents," Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 83 (1988), 281–348.

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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