Culture: Cult figure with a frosty touch who brings destruction to Hungary's vineyards

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The Independent Online
Winfrid of Wessex, "Apostle of the Germans", met his death in the tiny Friesian village of Dokkum on 5 June in the year of 754. According to semi- historical legend, he was "struck down" by heathens, although the precise circumstances of his demise are shrouded in mystery.

His life in the German-speaking lands is better documented, however. Bonifatius, as he is known in his adopted land, had come to preach the Gospel to Germans in 716, making his way south from the Friesian islands, and leaving his mark in Hesse, Thuringia and Bavaria.

In 722 he was made a bishop in recognition for his work among the Germans. He went on to consolidate the church's power in Salzburg, Freising, Passau, Regensburg, and founded parishes in Erfurt and Wurzburg. In 747 he took over as Bishop of Mainz, the southern German city which remains a bastion of Catholicism in Germany.

Bonifatius the Holy is buried in the crypt of the cathe- dral of Fulda, the focus of his cult. Hundreds of churches, schools, kindergartens and libraries across Germany bear his name, and the date of his death is venerated as a holy day.

Not all of Catholic Europe is in awe of this son of Devon. In Hungarian folklore, Bonifatius is the third and last of the "frosty saints", bringing destruction to vineyards on his holy day almost every year.

If the vintage is poor, Bonifatius and the other two rogue saints invariably get the blame. Whatever else he might be in Germany and Devon, in Hungary Bonifatius is the patron saint of plonk.

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