Alan Quick reports for the Crediton Courier — There was outrage in Crediton on Saturday morning (May 16) after it emerged that graffiti/criminal damage of a religious nature was sprayed onto the St Boniface statue and Boniface Heritage trail panel alongside the statue either late on Friday, May 15 or early on May 16.
Blue paint with the words “Pagan Justice” with a Pagan symbol (Pentacle) under it has been painted on the front of the statue.
On one side is the wording “God is Dead” and on the other side, in a reference to where Boniface is reputed to have felled the oak tree worshipped by Pagans in the early eighth century in Germany (Geismar), is the wording “Geismmar”.
The adjoining newly-positioned Boniface walk information panel, which tells the story of Boniface felling Thor’s oak, has also been damaged.
It has been sprayed with red paint, again with the Pagan symbol.
Due to the nature of the graffiti it is not believed that the damage has been caused by children.
There have, however, been several incidents of anti-social behaviour in the Mid Devon District Council-owned park in recent weeks.
This has included two incidents of late night bonfires, one of which has damaged a waste bin.
There have also been reports of illegal gatherings and not observing social distancing and children ripping out two bags of flowers from flower beds.
In addition, members of the public have been seen not keeping their dogs on leads in the park, which is a requirement of use of the park.
Dog owners are reminded that dogs are not permitted off leads in the park and to please pick up after their dog.
Crediton Police is investigating the incident and information would be welcomed.
Contact the police using the 101 number or email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
The crime reference is CR/039031/20.
Crediton Town Council has arranged for the statue to be cleaned.
The statue was unveiled by Princess Margaret on Sunday, July 24, 1960 and the dedication was by the then Bishop of Crediton, Wilfrid Westall.
Last year Boniface was declared Patron Saint of Devon, a move which was supported by Devon County Council, the Anglican Diocese of Exeter and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth.
In a joint statement issued in March last year, the Rt Rev Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter, and Rt Rev Mark O’Toole, Bishop of Plymouth, said: “We are delighted to champion the groundswell of support to acclaim St Boniface as patron saint of Devon.
“Boniface left his monastery in our lovely county to take the Gospel to northern Europe, and was martyred there in 754.
“He is rightly acclaimed: ‘Apostle to the Germans’.
“At a time when our links with Europe are under scrutiny, it is good to honour our historic, spiritual links and to celebrate the faith and courage of this extraordinary man of whom Devon can rightly be proud.”
Cllr Nick Way, the County Councillor for Crediton, put forward the motion to Devon County Council on March 13, last year, which was approved by the council.
He said: “Devon’s only native-born saint, Boniface, has been described by eminent historians as ‘The greatest Englishman of all times’ and is often referred to as the First European because of his important missionary work across a large part of the continent.
“He is a significant historic figure. Cornwall has St Piran and Dorset has St Wite as their patron saints.
“Devon should have its own patron saint, it is important for the county’s identity and tourism.
“People should be able to celebrate St Boniface Day each year on June 5.”
Boniface was born in Crediton around 675AD or 680AD. At the time the town was the main seat of the church in Devon.
His Anglo Saxon name was Wynfrith (from the Saxon words for friend and peace). He changed it to the Latin name Boniface (meaning good fate) when he entered the monastery in Exeter.
He later became a missionary in northern Europe and is credited with taking Christianity to Germany.
The felling of Thor’s Oak has also led to Boniface being credited with the tradition of the Christmas tree after a small fir tree was said to have grown from the oak after it had been felled by Boniface.
St Boniface was killed by a mob in what is now Holland on Pentecost Sunday in 754AD.
He is buried at Fulda, the abbey he founded in northern Germany. It is now a place of pilgrimage for Christians.
St Boniface Roman Catholic Church has the national shrine to the saint, whilst historic Crediton Parish Church has an aisle and a number of artefacts dedicated to St Boniface.
Both are popular destinations for people from across the world interested in St Boniface.
The relic of St Boniface, said to be a piece of bone from one of his fingers, is contained in a casing buried in the floor at the National Shrine of St Boniface, located in the Roman Catholic Church in Park Road, Crediton.
The Boniface Heritage Trail includes a number of two metre high stained glass panels at various locations around the town.
They tell the story of St Boniface and were erected earlier this year.
The Boniface Heritage Trail was a major community project led by Crediton’s Town Team and it took more than four years of hard work by local volunteers to create and fund.
The majority of funding for the trail panels came from LEADER European funding.
Each sign also has a QR code embedded in the border of the design: For those with a smartphone a simple camera scan of each QR code will take them to eight separate web pages where more information can be seen. These web pages are in English, German, French and Dutch. The same pages can also be accessed at: www.creditontownteam.org.uk .