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E06041: Pope Boniface V, in a letter to Æthelburh, queen of the Northumbrians (northern Britain), urging her to persuade her husband to convert to Christianity, states that he is sending her a mirror and a comb 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, 2.11 ('Redemptoris nostri', JE 2009/JH 3214)

Dominae gloriosae filiae Aedilbergae reginae Bonifatius episcopus seruus seruorum Dei ... Praeterea benedictionem protectoris uestri beati Petri apostolorum principis uobis direximus, id est speculum argenteum et pectine eboreum inauratum, quod petimus ut eo benignitatis animo gloria uestra suscipiat, quo a nobis noscitur destinatum.

'To his daughter the glorious lady, Queen Æthelburh, Bishop Boniface, servant of the servants of God ... Moreover we are sending you the blessing of your protector, Saint Peter, prince of the apostles, in the form of a silver mirror and an ivory comb adorned with gold, 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, 171-75; translation modified to resemble E06040.


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


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).


This letter for Æthelburh (ob. 647) accompanied that of the same pope for her pagan husband Edwin (E06040). The wording of its gift clause, which occurs at the very end of the letter, follows a virtually identical formulation to that found in Edwin's letter, with changes only made to accommodate the different (indeed, gendered) gifts of Petrine 'blessing' offered to the queen. Despite this, Colgrave and Mynors' edition translates this identical clause in a markedly different style, thus subtly changing its meaning. Here, we have adapted the translation to match that used by Colgrave and Mynors for the Boniface-Edwin letter. See E06042 for a discussion of the gifts sent to Edwin and Æthelburh 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: 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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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