The Bollandists are an association of scholars - originally all Jesuit, but now including non-Jesuits -- philologists and historians -- who since the early seventeenth century have studied
hagiographyand the cult of the saints in Christianity. Their most important publication has been the " Acta Sanctorum" (the Lives of the Saints). They are named after the Jesuit and founding hagiographer Jean Bollandor Bollandus (1596-1665).
The idea of the "Acta Sanctorum" was first conceived by the Dutch Jesuit
Heribert Rosweyde(1569-1629), who was a lecturer at the Jesuit college of Douai. Rosweyde used his leisure time to collect information about the lives of the saints. On his death, Bolland continued his work in Antwerp.
Underestimating the magnitude of the undertaking, Bolland initially thought he could finish the work on his own, but after a few years he had to admit that the undertaking was beyond his individual strength. He was then assigned an assistant,
Godfrey Henschenor Henschenius (1601-1681). The first two volumes of the "Acta", by Bolland and Henschen, were published in Antwerp in 1643.
Unlike Rosweyde and Bolland, Henschen was allowed to devote himself exclusively to the writing of the "Acta". He solved many problems relating to chronology, geography and the philological interpretation of the sources. By the time of his death, 24 volumes had appeared; moreover, Henschen left many notes and commentaries for the following volumes. It can therefore be said that the "Acta" owe their final form to Henschen.
In 1659, Bolland and Henschen were joined by
Daniel van Papenbroeckor Papebrochius (1628-1714), who devoted fifty-five years of his life to the "Acta". From July 1660 until December 1662, Henschen and van Papenbroeck travelled through Germany, Italyand Francein order to collect copies of hagiographic manuscripts. Another Bollandist of this period was Jean Gamans.
Society of Jesuswas suppressed by Pope Clement XIVin 1773, the Bollandists moved from Antwerp to Brussels, where they continued their work in the monastery of the Coudenberguntil 1788, when the Bollandist Society was suppressed by the Austrian government of the Low Countries. Their library was acquired by the Premonstratensians of the Abbey of Tongerloo, who endeavored to carry on the work. The fifty-third volume was published by the abbot of Tongerloo in 1794. The 53 volumes of the first series covered the saints from January 1to October 14.
After the re-establishment of the
Society of Jesusin Belgium, a new Society of Bollandists was formed in the second quarter of the nineteenth century under the patronage of the Belgian government. The first volume of the new series appeared in 1845. A collection of 61 volumes was published in Parisbetween 1863 and 1867. By the end of the 19th century the work was re-oriented, bringing it more in line with the new philological methods. In 1882, a quarterly review on critical hagiographywas established under the title of "Analecta Bollandiana", which still exists today and publishes supplements to the "Acta".
The Bollandists are depicted in the famous Canadian novel, "
Fifth Business", by Robertson Davies.
* Robert Godding, Bernard Joassart, Xavier Lequeux, François De Vriendt, Joseph van der Straeten, "Bollandistes, saints et légendes. Quatre siècles de recherche hagiographique", Bruxelles, Société des Bollandistes, 2007. (French)
* [http://www.kbr.be/~socboll/ Société des Bollandistes]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02630a.htm The Bollandists] , article from "The Catholic Encyclopedia".
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