15 Matryoshka - Boniface's Sisters




A fiction sequence (number 4)






Companion to 




St Boniface in People's Park
Crediton


      Boniface's Sisters is set in the C8/9, two centuries after Elen's story. A female companion of St. Boniface (who may be his relative), is leaving to join him at his mission on the continent; finding Elen's prayer in his letter, she takes it to comfort her on her travels, then writes a letter back home to Kredington (Crediton), where her brother lives. This letter subsumes the content of the earlier prayer-text written by Elen. The letter is read, introduced and then entrusted to others of the saint's women friends, by a brother of Boniface, during a meeting at his home.





Boniface's Sisters
an excerpt


      Wanting to get a feeling for the women around Boniface, I decided to re-imagine a fragment of one of the presumed lost letters from The Boniface Letter Collection, which contains: 
The best direct evidence for the learning and piety of the women who accompanied Boniface from England to Germany comes from a group of 150 letters in a number of manuscripts (of which the most complete is MS Nationalbibliothek Lat.751) that includes ten letters by women as well as letters from St Boniface and his successor St Lull to women. Christine E. Fell remarks that "a single surviving letter implies the loss of others" (31), so the original correspondence must have included more letters by women. The letters of the Boniface collection are of the greatest value because a number of them present women speaking directly.[i]
     It seemed a good idea to reinvent a fragment of a lost narrative, as a way of showing that the past can be reinterpreted. There may be an alternative way of understanding the reported canon, which highlights the chronology of the male clerics and missionaries of the early Devon church...



I nearly perished during the journey - 
of this you already know.
I travelled equoreis campis

 (the pathways of the sea)

with its multae … aquarum congragationes

 (many congregations of the waters) -

And in a violent storm 
I lost my thread box
 with its precious string of amethyst beads
and our mothers crucifix,
an omen it seemed.
Then, to begin with, I sola in hac terra 
(was alone in this country) 
derelicta … et sola
(bereft and alone) … 

… May you include in your prayers 
a special one  I keep by my side
that has given me much nourishment 
since the day I left our land;
it was written I understand, 
some centuries ago by Elen, a celtic saint, 
who landed from across her own wild sea,
 the Severn,
and thus I believe has special meaning for my own situation
and  for other female missionaries of our time -

May the beloved rose peace be with us
in the times of turbulence on outer or inner waters … 

My dearest brother
 I enclose the books and vestements
I promised you 
and will in the coming months copy
the Epistles of St Peter 
they will aureis litteris fulgeant
 (shine with golden letters)
a light to shine your way … 

… I would like to share with you 
the names and titles of the writings
of some of the women pilgrims 
I have met as I have journeyed to this land - 

some have introduced me to other works and writers, 
some have been born in Dumnomnia
I present to you these details, 
with passages traced in letters of ink
 and dedicated to nostrarum defunctarum sororum 
(our dead sisters).
 And to the glory of God.
There’s Huneberc
the Anglo­-Saxon nun of Heidenheim 
who has told us of the life of the pilgrim Willibald:
She begins ,

“I, an unworthy sister of Saxon origin,
last and least in life and manners, venture to write ..."




A floral display at one of the Flower Festivals 
 at Crediton Church








[i] http://www.umilta.net/boniface.html.

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