Boniface of Savoy (archbishop)

Infobox Archbishop of Canterbury
Full name = Boniface of Savoy

birth_name =
consecration = 15 January 1245
term_end = 18 July 1270
predecessor = Edmund Rich
successor = Robert Kilwardby
birth_date =
death_date = 18 July 1270
tomb =

Boniface of Savoy (c. 1217 – 18 July 1270) was the Prior of Nantua, Bishop of Belley and Archbishop of Canterbury.

Early life

Boniface and his elder brother Count Amadeus IV of Savoy were sons of Thomas I, Count of Savoy and Marguerite of Geneva (also called Margaret of Faucigny). He is thus not to be confused with his nephew Count Boniface of Savoy, the son of Amadeus IV. The elder Boniface was born about 1207 in Savoy. Some sources state that at a young age he joined the Carthusian Order.Walsh "A New Dictionary of Saints" p. 104-105] However, there is no evidence of this, and it would have been very unusual for a nobleman to enter that order with its very strict discipline.Moorman "Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century" p. 162] He also had a brother Peter of Savoy who was named Earl of Richmond in 1240 and yet another brother William of Savoy, who was Bishop of Valence and a candidate to be Bishop of Winchester in England.Prestwich "Edward I" p. 21] Knowles, "Savoy, Boniface of (1206/7–1270)" "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" [ Online Edition] accessed 8 November 2007]

Ecclesiastical career

Boniface was the Prior of Nantua from 1232 to 1253. He then became the Bishop of Belley in Burgundy from 1232 to 1243 and, on 1 February 1241, through the influence of his niece, Queen Eleanor wife of Henry III, he was nominated to the see of Canterbury. He did not, however, come to England until 1244 and was present, in the following year 1245, at the Council of Lyon. There, he was consecrated by Innocent IV on 15 JanuaryFryde "Handbook of British Chronology" p. 233] but it was only in 1249 that he returned to England and was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral. Before he returned in 1249, he helped arrange the marriage another of his nieces, Beatrice of Provence (sister of Queen Eleanor of England) to Charles of Anjou, the brother of King Louis IX of France.

Matthew Paris said that Boniface was "noted more for his birth than for his brains."quoted in Moorman "Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century" p. 159-160] He showed little concern for the spiritual duties of his office. His exactions and his overbearing behaviour, combined with the fact that he was a foreigner, offended the English. He was heavily involved in advancing the fortunes of his family on the continent, and spent fourteen of the twenty-nine years he was archbishop outside England.Moorman "Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century" p. 166-167] To his credit is his attempt to free the see of Canterbury from debt and that, with all his faults, he is said to have been "pauperum amator". He had inherited a see that was in debt over 22,000 marks, but managed to clear the debt before his death.Moorman "Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century" p. 172-173] He also worked for the canonization of Edmund Rich while he was at the papal court-in-exile at Lyons from 1244 to 1249.

Clashes with King Henry III

He was energetic in defending the liberties of his see, and clashed with King Henry over the election of Henry's clerk Robert Passelewe to the see of Chichester. Robert Grosseteste had examined Passelewe, and found him unfit for episcopal office, and Boniface then quashed the election in 1244. He was also involved in disputes with the king's half-brothers, especially Aymer de Valence , who was Bishop of Winchester. He also quarrelled with his suffragan bishops, who resented his attempts to supervise their affairs closely. In 1256, Boniface attempted to have Adam Marsh named Bishop of Ely, but this was quashed by Pope Alexander IV, who ruled in favor of Hugh de Balsham.

In 1258 and 1259, Boniface was a member of the Council of Fifteen, which conducted business for Henry III under the Provisions of Oxford. This Council consisted of the earls of earl of Leicester, earl of Gloucester, earl of Norfolk, earl of Warwick, earl of Hereford, the count of Aumale, Peter of Savoy, John fitzGeoffrey, Peter de Montfort, Richard Grey, Roger Mortimer, James Audley, John Mansel, the Walter de Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester as well as Boniface.Powell "The House of Lords in the Middle Ages" p. 189-190] In April of 1260, Boniface worked with Richard of Cornwall to broker a peace between King Henry and Prince Edward

He accompanied his niece, the queen and Prince Edward to Burgos for the marriage of Edward to Eleanor of Castile and Edward's knighting.Prestwich "Edward I" p. 10] During the Second Barons' War, Boniface seems to have first made common cause with the English Bishops against the exactions of Pope and King, but he drifted more and more to the King's side. In 1262, he retired to France, where he joined with the Papal Legate in excommunicating the barons. He was not summoned to the Parliament at London in January of 1265 because he was abroad.Powell "The House of Lords in the Middle Ages" p. 196] On the triumph of the king's party in 1265, he returned to England.

Death and afterwards

Boniface was ordered by Pope Urban IV either to repair the buildings at Lambeth or to build new ones and the present Early English Chapel of the Palace is part of the work which he then undertook. He died 18 July 1270, while on a visit to Savoy. He was buried with his family in the Cistercian abbey of Hautecombe in Savoy. In his will, he left legacies to all the houses of the Franciscans and Dominicans in the diocese of Canterbury.Burton "Monastic and Religious Orders" p. 121] Oddly enough, his official seal included a head of the pagan god Jupiter Serapis along with the usual depiction of the archbishop in full vestments.Harvey "A Guide to British Medieval Seals" p. 65] He was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839. His feast day is 14 July.Delaney "Dictionary of Saints" Second Edition p. 104]



* "From G.M. Bevan's "Portraits of the Archbishops of Canterbury" (1908)"
* Delaney, John J. "Dictionary of Saints" Second Edition Doubleday: New York 2003 ISBN 0-385-13594-7
* Harvey, P. D. A. and McGuiness, Andrew "A Guide to British Medieval Seals" Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1996 ISBN 0-8020-0867-4
* Knowles, Clive H. "Savoy, Boniface of (1206/7–1270)" "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" Oxford University Press, 2004 [ Online Edition] accessed 8 November 2007
* Moorman, John R. H. "Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century" Revised Edition Cambridge:Cambridge University Press 1955
* Powell, J. Enoch and Keith Wallis "The House of Lords in the Middle Ages: A History of the English House of Lords to 1540" London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1968
* Prestwich, Michael "Edward I" New Haven:Yale University Press 1997 ISBN 0-300-07157-4
* Walsh, Michael "A New Dictionary of Saints: East and West" London: Burns & Oats 2007 ISBN 0-8601-2438-X

NAME=Boniface of Savoy
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Archbishop of Canterbury
DATE OF DEATH=18 July 1270

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