St. Boniface

Statue of St. Boniface
Boniface chapel
The life of St. Boniface
A walk back in time

A gruesome murderBonifatiustoren

Dokkum is often mentioned in one breath with St. Boniface. The gruesome murder of St. Boniface has undoubtedly played a part in the flourishing of the town in later years.


But what did exactly happen 1250 years ago in Dokkum? And above all, who was Boniface?


In 754 Dokkum was firmly put on the world map. As a result of the brutal murder of the 74 year old Boniface and his 52 companions, Dokkum became a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Christians. On the site of the murder, in the present town centre, a 3 metres high mound was erected. On this terp a kind of memorial church was built, followed later on by a monastery and an abbey church. This was the beginning of Dokkum's town centre, nowadays the Markt with the Grote Kerk.
Miraculous events

One of the legends tells about Boniface's horse being stuck in the marshy clay during a pursuit by pagan Friesians, as a result of which Boniface could be captured. But then a miraculous thing happened. Where the horse's legs had left holes in the brackish, marshy ground, a freshwater spring welled up. And this was in an area as salty as the sea itself.

This miraculous spring attracted many pilgrims. Meanwhile the area around the spring is built on, and the spring is walled up, but even today stories are told about this miraculous spring. A little girl was cured of whooping cough in the nineties, after her parents had held her in the water of the spring. Ever since more and more people come to Dokkum hoping to benefit from the healing waters of the spring.

Miraculous events

One of the legends tells about Boniface's horse being stuck in the marshy clay during a pursuit by pagan Friesians, as a result of which Boniface could be captured. But then a miraculous thing happened. Where the horse's legs had left holes in the brackish, marshy ground, a freshwater spring welled up. And this was in an area as salty as the sea itself.

This miraculous spring attracted many pilgrims. Meanwhile the area around the spring is built on, and the spring is walled up, but even today stories are told about this miraculous spring. A little girl was cured of whooping cough in the nineties, after her parents had held her in the water of the spring. Ever since more and more people come to Dokkum hoping to benefit from the healing waters of the spring.

Statue of St. BonifaceBonifatius standbeeld

A statue was erected in 1962 near the Boniface Spring in memory of St. Boniface. This memorial was unveiled by Princess Beatrix on St. Boniface Day, 5th June. This statue by Gerrit Bolhuis, represents the preacher in his last moments, when he held the bible over his head to ward off the killing blow. The following text is inscribed on the plinth of the statue: HIC BONIFATIO LUMEN VITAE EXTORTUM DCCLIV HIC FRISIAE LUANGELII LUMEN EXORTUM. Translated into English this means: This is where Boniface's light of life was extinguished, 754, and where the light of the gospel came to Friesland.

Boniface chapelBonifatiuskapel

At a few meters distance from the spring you will find the entrance to the procession park. In this special park you will find the beautiful Boniface Chapel. The walls of the porch and the chapel are built of Roman bricks left over from the ruins of monasteries and abbeys in Friesland. This gives the chapel its medieval character, although it was only built in 1934. Because of their great cultural-historical value, both the chapel and the park were listed in 1997 as national heritage monuments.
Each year around 20.000 pilgrims visit the holy spring and the chapel.

The life of St. Boniface

Wynfrith, who was later to be called Boniface, was born in Crediton (England) in about 675 AD. From the age of six till he was thirty he lived at the monastery. In 716 AD he set sail to Europe to preach Christianity.

Wynfrith's first mission occurred at an ill-chosen moment. Redbad, king of the Friesians, had just inflicted a crushing defeat on the Franks led by Charles Martel. This defeat meant that Christianity had to take a step back. His first acquaintance with the Friesians had little effect and he returned to the monastery of Nutshaling without having accomplished his mission.stbonifatius

While he was away the abbot had died and Wynfrith was elected the new abbot of the monastery. However, one year later he left England for a second time. This time he did not travel straight to the heathen but put his plans before the pope in Rome first. Pope Gregory II was sympathetic to Wynfrith's passion to convert the heathen. The pope gave him a new name: Boniface, the name of a Roman martyr from the 4th century. Upon his departure he received a papal commission in which the pope orders him to teach the heathen people of Europe the truths of both Testaments. And thus Boniface left for the north of Europe with a task to which he would dedicate the rest of his life.

In the winter of 753 Boniface travelled to Utrecht and in early spring he resumed his journey to Friesland. On his way to Friesland he destroyed heathen properties, preached, baptized and founded churches. Boniface called on the newly converted Christians to come together on Whit Saturday to receive the sacrament of the Holy Spirit. But they would never hear the missionary preach again..

In the early morning of 5 June 754 a band of robbers invaded the missionaries' camp hoping to find treasures and wine. Boniface ordered his companions to not offer any resistance upon which the robbers started the attack. Boniface and his 52 companions were brutally murdered. Boniface tried to ward off the dagger-thrusts with a bible, but the dagger pierced the booked and killed him. This was the end of Wynfrith's missionary work, which he began many years before.

Dokkum maintains close relations with Crediton in England and Fulda in Germany. Under the authority of Boniface a Benedictine monastery was founded in Fulda in 744. In memory of this the bones of the murdered bishop were buried in Fulda, where also some of his relics are kept. There are also some relics of Boniface in Dokkum, which are kept in the Roman Catholic church of St. Boniface. Here you will find the petrified loaf of bread, which Boniface refused. Part of his skull is also kept here.

A walk back in time

The Boniface route is a cultural-historical walk, which will lead you past places connected with Boniface. On the market you will find a sculpture group, which marks the start of this route. The sculptures represent the four bishops, who have been of great importance for Christianity in Northeast Friesland.

After the starting point there are ten special art objects along the route, each representing a story from the life of Boniface.


No oak tree is sacredBonifatiusroute
A book used as a shield
Steady as a rock
The good shepherd
Freshwater spring
Large landowner
The barking dog
Fierce storms may rage
The Bible is worth gold.
Marsh land


More information is available at the Tourist Information Office.

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