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E06040: Pope Boniface V, in a letter to Edwin, pagan king of the Northumbrians (northern Britain), urging him to convert to Christianity, states that he is sending him a gold-embroidered shirt and a robe from Ancyra as a 'blessing' from 'your protector' *Peter (the Apostle, S00036). Written in Latin at Rome, 625; recorded by Bede, writing at Wearmouth-Jarrow (north-east Britain), 731.

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posted on 2018-07-25, 00:00 authored by bsavill
Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 2.10 ('Licet summae diuinitatis', JE 2008/JH 3213)

Viro glorioso Eduino regi Anglorum Bonifatius episcopus seruus seruorum Dei ... Praeterea benedictionem protectoris uestri beati Petri apostolorum principis uobis direximus, id est camisia cum ornatura in auro una et lena Anciriana una: quod petimus ut eo benignitatis animo gloria uestra suscipiat, quo a nobis noscitur destinatum.

'To Edwin, glorious king of the English, Bishop Boniface, servant of the servants of God ... Moreover we are sending you the blessing of your protector, St Peter, prince of the apostles, in the form of a shirt embroidered with gold and a robe from Ancyra, asking your Majesty to accept these gifts in the same spirit of goodwill as that in which they were sent by us.'

Text and translation: Colgrave and Mynors 1969, 166-70; translation lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Letter


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region Britain and Ireland Britain and Ireland

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Rome Northumbria Wearmouth and Jarrow

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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē Northumbria St Albans St Albans Verulamium Wearmouth and Jarrow St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of an individual

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - Popes Pagans Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects Precious cloths


Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed 731) includes fifteen papal letters: eight of Gregory I (590-604), three of Boniface V (619-25), two of Honorius I (625-38), and one each of John IV-elect (640-42) and Vitalianus (657-72). Bede states in his preface to the History that Nothhelm, a priest of London (and, after Bede's death, archbishop of Canterbury, 735-9), had provided him with copies of 'some letters of Saint Gregory and other popes,' following a period of research in the Roman archives (sanctae ecclesiae Romanae scrinio) with the permission of the future Gregory II (715-31). There has been some debate, however, about whether all Bede's papal letters were copied directly from Rome, rather than from English archives via their original addressees: this may well have been the case for Boniface's letters to Edwin and Æthelburh (E06040, E06041), and perhaps others (see further Story, 2012, 785ff).


Boniface's statement of his Petrine 'blessing' of Edwin/Eadwine (king of the Northumbrians, 616-33) via these precious gifts of clothing comes at the end of a lengthy letter to the king, exhorting him to convert to Christianity. Edwin eventually accepted baptism in 627, and was later commemorated as a saint (S02159). Associations with Peter as a 'protector' figure for early medieval English kings appears to have been a favourite motif for papal scribes: in the later eighth century, Hadrian I would refer to Peter as the 'patron' (fautor) of King Offa (Liber Diurnus, MS V, no. 93), and as late as the eleventh century, Alexander II could write of the 'kingdom of the English' as being 'in the hand and protection of the prince of the apostles' (Anglorum regnum... sub apostlorum principis manu et tutela: PL 146, 1413). King Cædwalla's adoption of 'Peter' as his baptismal name in 689, and subsequent burial near his tomb in Rome, may fall within this same category of papal-sponsored Petrine patronage of English kings (E05710). See E06042 for a discussion of the gifts sent to Edwin and Æthelburh (E06041) in comparison with those later sent to King Oswiu.


Edition and translation: Colgrave, B., and Mynors, R.A.B., Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford, 1969). Further Reading: Cramp, R., "Eadwine [St Eadwine, Edwin] (c. 586-633)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), Jaffé, P., Regesta pontificum Romanorum: ab condita ecclesia ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII, third edition, revd. K. Herbers et al. (Göttingen, 2016-). Mommsen, T., "Die Papstbriefe bei Beda," Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde, 17 (1892), 387-96. Story, J., "Bede, Willibrord and the Letters of Pope Honorius I on the Genesis of the Archbishopric of York," English Historical Review, 127 (2012), 782-818. Wallace-Hadrill, J.M., Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People: A Historical Commentary (Oxford, 1988).

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