Devon hopes for new Patron Saint

Ross Tibbles
Ross Tibbles

Bid to to make St Boniface the Patron Saint of Devon moves a step closer

Devon County Councillors will later this month be asked to consider a proposal that the Patron Saint of Crediton, St Boniface, is made the Patron Saint of Devon.

The County Councillor for Crediton, Nick Way, will present the recommendation to Devon County Council.

The recommendation has been prepared by the Boniface Link Association and is supported with the backing of many religious leaders and the Mayor of Crediton, Cllr Frank Letch MBE.

Judy Tucker, from the Boniface Link Association, explained: “The idea of St Boniface as Patron Saint of Devon originated with a group in South Zeal.  They had just enjoyed a very successful Burns’ Night celebration in one of the local pubs and wondered why there was no similar sort of occasion to celebrate for Devon.

‘After some considerable thought they came up with the suggestion that St Boniface could be adopted as Patron Saint of Devon and his feast day, June 5th, should also be celebrated as Devonshire Day. The Boniface Link Association of Crediton heard of this idea and agreed to try to take it forward.”

In a letter to all of the Devon County Councillors, Mrs Tucker explains: “Patron Saints tend to differ in importance from the general calendar of saints because they are, or become, cultural icons as well as religious figures.

St George overcoming his enemy the dragon (evil) is invoked against England’s enemies in Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ and again in the special film version of that play, starring Sir Lawrence Olivier, made during World War Two to inspire the whole country in the fight against the evils of Nazi Germany.

‘What cultural support can Devon gain from St Boniface?  Boniface believed that church and state should work together, to the glory of God and the good of His people.  Many people nowadays are probably happy to leave God to those they view as a few eccentrics in church on Sundays but the good of the people is as important as ever.

‘The name ‘Boniface’, bestowed on him by the Pope, means maker, or doer, of good. Boniface was also dedicated to peaceful co-existence among the peoples with whom he worked.  Indeed his birth name, Wynfrith, means ‘friend of peace’.  
‘Celebrating St Boniface as our patron saint could also celebrate our Saxon heritage, to encourage tourism and support our economy.  This would fit well with the government’s stated intention to encourage counties to fly their flags to boost community pride, promote county identity and encourage tourism.

‘A communities minister was quoted in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ saying ‘Our historic counties are at the heart of communities and are part of the fabric of British society that has been woven into our national story since Saxon times’.

‘How wonderful it would be if St Boniface’s Day could also become our ‘Devonshire Day’.”

The idea of Boniface as Patron Saint of Devon has gained the support of all the main churches with none of them suggesting anyone else for the role.

Rt Rev Mark O’Toole, the Bishop of Plymouth, about the recommendation, said: “I would be delighted to see this as he is not only a most extraordinary Devonian but also one of the most exceptional Englishmen that we have had in our history.

‘It may interest you to know that he is one of the patrons of the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth which covers not only Devon but also Dorset and Cornwall.”

St Boniface, who was born and Christened Wynfrith or Winfrith (or Winfrid), grew to become a major figure in the Roman Catholic Church and continues to be commonly known as “Apostle of Germany” and the first archbishop of Mainz.

The National Shrine to Crediton’s most famous son is in the Roman Catholic Church in Park Road, Crediton. Boniface’s links with Crediton led to the founding of a monastery in the town in 739 which in turn is believed to have led to the choice of Crediton as the See of the first bishopric of Devon and the building in 909 of the first diocesan church in the town.

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