This area of study, part of mankind’s cultural heritage, has been developed by the Bollandists for over more than four centuries. The team of both Jesuit and lay scholars is dedicated exclusively to the critical study of the saint, their lives, and their cults.
Société Des Bollandistes Researches Saints and Maintains 500,000 Volume Library

In 17th century Belgium, Jesuit Fr. Heribert Rosweyde set out to philologically document all the early and medieval lives of saints. His work was continued and expanded upon by his fellow Jesuit, Fr. Jean Bolland, who went on to publish the greatest ever collection of texts and critical studies related to the saints: the Acta Santorum or “Acts of the Saints”. Bolland’s successors, who came to be known as the Society of Bollandists, continued this undertaking.

Today, the Bollandists’ mission is guided by the idea that saints are inspirational, even when they seem to belong more to the realm of folklore or imagination. For two thousand years, aside from being the leading force of renewal in Christianity, they have been influencing our world, our culture, and our thinking in ways few people realize. From the early martyrs whose exploits sustained generations of readers, to the great mystical authors, from pilgrimages and the trade in relics, to accounts of prodigious healings and other miracles: the saints have inspired innumerable writers and artists, their names identify towns and villages all over Europe and America, their patronage still animates countless feasts and processions.

This area of study, part of mankind’s cultural heritage, has been developed by the Bollandists for over more than four centuries. The team of both Jesuit and lay scholars is dedicated exclusively to the critical study of the saint, their lives, and their cults.

The laboratory is the Bibliotheca Bollandiana, a 500,000-volume library with a unique collection. With hundreds of medieval manuscripts and incunables; a historic collection of approximately 25,000 pre-1800 volumes; over 1,000 current periodicals; special Greek, Slavic, Armenian, and Georgian sections; hundreds of copper plates; and tens of thousands of images; the Bibliotheca Bollandiana is unique in its field, as it is continually updated. The library is in a 1905 neo-romanesque building in Brussels, Belgium, and is accessible to scholars. By means of electronic databases available online, the collection will eventually be made accessible to all.

Current projects include:

  • Digitizing printed repertoires and handwritten card indexes. They will be made accessible online in new electronic databases and continuously updated. Two projects are underway, in partnership with Louvain university and the lnstitut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes (CNRS, Paris), allowing every Latin or Greek hagiographic text prior to 1500 AD to be cross-linked to the manuscripts and the printed editions where they can be found.
  • A new, scientifically organized and presented catalogue of the saints, blessed and servants of God post-1500 AD, with their earliest biographies and prime data regarding their cults and iconography.
  • Specialized seminars and teaching programs for doctoral and post-doctoral students.
  • The Bollandists corresponded widely with other scholars in the 17th-19th centuries. Its insightful and instructive content means the archive merits thorough searches, organization and publication.
  • The Library's detailed and comprehensive card catalogue, developed over 150 years, is a great instrument. The Société Des Bollandistes aims to put it online, so that others may benefit too.
  • The restoration and conservation, using modern methods, of the unique collection of original copper plates containing the engravings printed in the Acta Sanctorum.
  • Devotional images of 17th to 20th centuries - the large collection requires organization and preservation.

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