Boniface’s Booklife: How the Ragyndrudis Codex Came to be a Vita Bonifatii
Aaij,Michel (Auburn University Montgomery)
The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe, Vol.10 (2007)
For over a millennium, Bonifacian iconography has been dominated by the image of a sword piercing a book. Originating in the eighth-century Utrecht vita, the standard account of Boniface trying to ward off the Frisian sword with a book was consolidated in the eleventh century by Otloh of Saint Emmeram, who connected the Utrecht narrative to the Ragyndrudis Codex, a valuable codex now in Fulda, close to the saint’s cult center. The codex’s outside, though, does not correspond with standard hagiography; neither do its (mainly anti-Arian) contents correspond with Boniface’s dual goal of conversion and church reform. Nonetheless, the tortured book is a fitting image of a man devoted to his mission; the questionable identification is appropriate since so many questions remain on Boniface’s life and death—whether he lived the life of an effective missionary who indeed was the Apostle of the Germans, whose many letters allow us to glimpse the interior life of a radically different man, whether he died as the result of a heathen robbery, Frisian guerilla, or even Frankish conspiracy. The Ragyndrudis Codex has become a Bonifacian vita, and if this metonymy is a clever ploy by an eleventh-century monk to strengthen Fulda’s legal and financial status, it has proven no less effective to the believer.