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An association of ecclesiastical scholars engaged in editing the Acta Sanctorum. This work is a great hagiographical collection begun during the first years of the seventeenth century, and continued to our own day. The collaborators are called Bollandists, as being successors of Bolland, the editor of the first volume. The collection now numbers sixty-three volumes in folio, to which must be added a supplementary volume, published in 1875 by a French priest, and containing chiefly certain tables and directions facilitating research in the volumes. Although Bolland has given his name to the work, he is not to be regarded as its founder. The idea was first conceived by Heribert Rosweyde (b. at Utrecht, 1569; d. at Antwerp, 1629). He entered the Society of Jesus in 1588. An indefatigable worker and a fearless but judicious investigator, notwithstanding his duties as professor of philosophy in the Jesuit college at Douai during the last years of the sixteenth century, Rosweyde devoted the leisure of his vacations and holidays to explore the libraries of the numerous monasteries scattered through Hainault and French Flanders. He copied with his own hand a vast number of documents relating to church history in general, and to hagiography in particular, and found in the old texts contained in the manuscripts coming under his observation quite a different flavour from that of the revisions to which many editors, notably Lippomano and Surius, then the latest and most celebrated, had believed it necessary to subject them. Rosweyde thought it would be a useful work to publish the texts in their original form. His superiors, to whom he submitted his plan in 1603, gave it their hearty approval, and allowed him to prepare the projected edition, without, however, relieving him of any of the occupations on which he was expending his prodigious activity. So, for the time being, he was allowed merely the privilege of devoting his spare moments to the preparation of the work. Rosweyde did not cease to pursue his project, which he announced publicly in 1607, as well as the plan he proposed to follow. Under the title: "Fasti sanctorum quorum vitae in belgicis bibliothecis manuscriptiae", he gave in a little volume in 16mo., published by the Plantin press at Antwerp, an alphabetical list of the names of the saints whose acts had been either found by him or called to his attention in old manuscript collections. This list filled fifty pages; the prefatory notice in which he indicates the character and arrangement of his work, as he had conceived it, takes up fourteen. Finally, the work contains an appendix of twenty-six pages containing the unpublished acts of the passion of the holy Cilician martyrs, Tharsacus, Probus, and Andronicus, which Rosweyde regarded -- wrongly -- as the authentic official report from the pen of a clerk of the court of the Roman tribunal. According to this programme the collection was to comprise sixteen volumes, besides two volumes of explanations and tables. The first volume was to present documents concerning the life of Jesus Christ and the feasts established in honour of the special events of His life; the second volume would be devoted to the life and the feasts of the Blessed Virgin, and the third to the feasts of the Saints honoured with a more special cult. The twelve succeeding volumes were to give the lives of the saints whose feasts are celebrated respectively in the twelve months of the year, one volume for each month. This calendar arrangement had been prescribed by his superiors, in preference to the chronological order Rosweyde himself favoured. But this presented, especially at that time, formidable difficulties. Lastly, the sixteenth volume was to set forth the succession of martyrologies which had been in use at different periods and in the various Churches of Christendom. The first of the two supplementary volumes was to contain notes and commentaries bearing on the lives divided into eight books treating respectively of the following subjects:

  • The authors of the lives;
  • the sufferings of the martyrs ;
  • the images of the saints ;
  • liturgical rites and customs mentioned in hagiographical documents;
  • profane customs to which allusions had been made;
  • questions of chronology ;
  • names of places encountered in these same documents;
  • barbarous or obscure terms which might puzzle the readers.
The other supplement was to present a series of copious tables giving:
  • the names of the saints whose lives had been published in the preceding volumes;
  • the same names followed by notes indicating the place of the saint's birth, his station in life, his title to sanctity, the time and place in which he had lived, and the author of his life;
  • the state of life of the various saints (religious, priest, virgin, widow, etc.);
  • their position in the Church (apostle, bishop, abbot, etc.);
  • the nomenclature of the saints according to the countries made illustrious by their birth, apostolate, sojourn, burial ;
  • nomenclature of the places in which they are honoured with a special cult;
  • enumeration of the maladies for the cure of which they are especially invoked;
  • the professions placed under their patronage;
  • the proper names of persons and places encountered in the published lives;
  • the passages of Holy Scripture there explained;
  • points which may be of use in religious controversies;
  • those applicable in the teaching of Christian doctrine ;
  • a general table of words and things in alphabetical order.
"And others still," adds the author, "if anything of importance presents itself, of which our readers may give us an idea."

Cardinal Bellarmine, to whom Rosweyde sent a copy of his little volume, could not forbear exclaiming after he had read this programme: "This man counts, then, on living two hundred years longer!" He addressed to the author a letter, the original of which is preserved in the present library of the Bollandists, signed, but not written by the hand of Bellarmine, in which he intimates in polished but perfectly plain language that he regarded the plan as chimerical. Rosweyde was nowise disconcerted by this. From various other sources he received encouragement, enthusiastic praise, and valuable assistance. The new enterprise found an especial protector, as generous as he was zealous and enlightened, in Antoine de Wynghe, abbot of the celebrated monastery of Liessies in Hainault. Venerable Louis of Blois, whose third successor de Wynghe was, seemed to have bequeathed to him his affectionate devotion to the sons of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The large sympathy of this religious Maecenas manifested itself in every way; in letters of recommendation to the heads of the various houses of the great Benedictine Order which opened to Rosweyde and his associates monastic libraries ; in loans and gifts of books, of manuscripts, and of copies of manuscripts ; and in pecuniary assistance. Rosweyde quite counted on completing by his own efforts the monument of which he had dreamed, and on bringing it to a worthy end. As a matter of fact, he did not get beyond the first stages of the structure. His literary activity was expended on a multitude of historical works, both religious and polemical, some of which, it is true, would have later formed a part of the great hagiographical compilation. The majority, however, bear no relation whatever to the work. The writings which would have been available are: the edition of the Little Roman Martyrology, in which Rosweyde believed he recognized the collection mentioned by St. Gregory the Great in his letter to Eulogius of Alexandria ; the edition of the martyrology of Ado of Vienne (1613); the ten books of the Lives of the Fathers of the Desert, which he first published in Latin (1615 in fol.), dedicating the work to the Abbot of Liessies, and later in Flemish (1617) in fol., with an inscription to Jeanne de Bailliencourt, Abbess of Messines. The rest, however, as for instance the Flemish edition of Ribadeneira's "Flowers of the Saints" (1619, two folio volumes), the "General History of the Church" (1623), to which he added as an appendix the detailed history of the Church in the Netherlands, both in Flemish ; the Flemish lives of St. Ignatius and St. Philip Neri ; the Flemish translation of the first part of the "Treatise on Perfection", drew his attention completely from what he should have regarded as his principal task. It is due to him, however, to say that for several years his superiors, without ceasing to encourage him in the pursuit of his project, were forced through the necessity of filling vacant offices, to lay upon him duties which did not leave him the absolutely indispensable leisure. He set this forth clearly himself in the memorandum addressed to them in 1611, in response to their inquiry as to how he was progressing with the preparation of his volumes. But it is not less true that nearly all his publications, the most important of which have been mentioned above, are of a later date than this, and undoubtedly Rosweyde himself was chiefly to blame for the delay, which, however, may be called a fortunate one, since it resulted in advantageous modifications of the plan of the work. At the time of Rosweyde's death, then, which took place in Antwerp in 1629, not a page was ready for the printer. Moreover, the superiors of the order, on their part, hesitated to have the work carried on by another. For more than twenty years, however, Rosweyde had been extremely active; he had secured access to a quantity of manuscripts and had enlisted the co-operation of many learned men who had manifested the keenest interest in his undertaking; thanks to their assistance, he had collected many manuscripts and books relating to the lives of the saints ; in a word, he had aroused an eager interest in his compilation, so great and so universal that it was necessary to satisfy it.

Father John van Bolland (b. at Julemont, in Limburg, 1596; d. at Antwerp, 12 September, 1665) was at this time prefect of studies in the college of Mechlin, and had charge of a congregation composed of the principal people of the city. It was called the "Latin Congregation", because all the exercises, sermons included, were conducted in that language. His family either took their name from, or gave it to, the village of Bolland, near Julemont. Before making his theological studies he had taught belles-lettres with distinction in the three higher classes of the humanities at Ruremonde, Mechlin, Brussels, and Antwerp. The superior of the Belgian province of the Society of Jesus bade him examine the papers left by Rosweyde, and report to him his opinion as to what it was advisable to do with them. Bolland went to Antwerp, familiarized himself with the manuscripts, and, while admitting that the work was still merely a rough and faulty draft, gave reasons for believing that without an undue expenditure of labour it might be brought to a successful completion. He even showed himself disposed to take charge of the work, but only under two conditions : first, that he should be left free to modify the plan of Rosweyde as he understood it; second, that the copies, notes, and books which had been collected by Rosweyde should be removed from the library of the Professed House, where they were interspersed among the books in common use, and set apart in a place of their own for the exclusive use of the new director of the undertaking. The provincial, Jacques van Straten, accepted with alacrity both offer and conditions. Bolland was removed from the college of Mechlin and attached to the Professed House at Antwerp, to be director of the Latin Congregation and confessor in the church, and with the charge of preparing, in his leisure hours ( horis subsecivis ) the Acta Sanctorum for publication. Happily, he had not the least idea, any more than had the provincial, of all the undertaking involved. He fancied that he could finish it by his own unaided efforts, and that after the completion of the work proper and the preparation of historical, chronological, geographical, and other tables, as announced by Rosweyde, he could complete the publication by adding to it a comprehensive collection of notices of holy persons who flourished in the Church subsequent to the fifteenth century, but have not been honoured with a public cult. "And after all that is done", he wrote in his general preface, at the beginning of the first volume of January, "if I still have any time to live, I shall lend a charm to the leisure hours of my old age by gathering the ascetical doctrine found in the teachings of the saints recorded in this work." And nevertheless, he began by outlining a plan of quite another vastness from that of Rosweyde, whose programme had already appalled Bellarmine. Rosweyde had confined his quest of original texts to the libraries of Belgium and the neighbouring regions. He had not gone beyond Paris to the south, or Cologne and Trier to the east. Bolland made appeal to collaborators, either Jesuits or others, residing in all the different countries of Europe. Then Rosweyde had proposed to publish at first only the original texts, without commentaries or annotations, relegating to the last volumes the studies intended to enable one to appreciate their value and to throw light on their difficulties. Bolland recognized at once how defective this plan was. So he decided to give in connection with each saint and his cult all the information he had been able to find, from whatever sources; to preface each text with a preliminary study destined to determine its author and its historical value, and to append to each notes of explanation for the purpose of clearing away difficulties. The duties of the various offices filled by Bolland, added to the formidable correspondence imposed on him by his research into documents and other sources of information concerning the life and cult of the saints to be treated in the work, together with the answers to the numerous letters of consultation addressed to him from all parts, concerning matters of ecclesiastical learning, left him no leisure for the discharge of his duties as hagiographer. Thus, after five years at Antwerp, he was forced to admit that the work was almost where Rosweyde had left it, except that the mass of material which the latter had begun to classify was notably augmented; as a matter of fact it was more than quadrupled. Meanwhile, eager desire for the appearance of the hagiographical monument announced by Rosweyde almost thirty years previously grew apace in the learned and the religious world. There was nothing left for Bolland but to admit that the undertaking was beyond his individual strength and to ask for an assistant. The generous Abbot of Liessies, Antoine de Wynghe, effectually supported his demand by volunteering to defray the living expenses of the associate who should be assigned to Bolland, as the Professed House at Antwerp, which depended on the alms of the faithful for its support, could not pay a man to do work which was not strictly in the field of its ministrations.

The assistant chosen, doubtless at Bolland's suggestion, for he had been one of his most brilliant pupils in the humanities, was Godfrey Henschen (b. at Venray in Limburg, 1601; d. 1681), who had entered the Society of Jesus in 1619. He was assigned to his former master in 1635 and laboured at the publication of the Acts Sanctorum up to the time of his death in 1681, forty-six years later. Twenty-four volumes had then appeared, of which the last was the seventh volume of May. He had, moreover, prepared a great amount of material and many commentaries for June. It may be safely said that the Bollandist work owes its final form to Henschen. When he arrived at Antwerp, Bolland had succeeded in putting into good order the documents relating to the saints of January, and had found a publisher in the person of John van Meurs. Doubtless for the purpose of trying Henschen, he bade him study the acts of the February saints, leaving him every latitude as to the choice of his first subjects and the manner of treating them. Bolland then gave himself entirely to the printing of the volumes for January. It was well under way when Henschen brought to Bolland the first fruits of his activity in the field of hagiography. They were studies for the history of St. Vaast and that of St. Amand, printed later in the first volume of February under date of February sixth. Bolland was absolutely astonished, and possibly somewhat abashed, by the great scope and solidity of the work which his disciple had to show him. He himself had not dared to dream of anything like it. His preliminary commentaries on the acts of the various saints of January were practically confined to designating the manuscript where the texts he was publishing had been found, to annotations, and a list of the variants in the various copies and the previous editions. The commentaries and annotations of Henschen solved, or at least tried to solve, every problem to which the text of the Acts could give rise, in the matter of chronology, geography, history, or philological interpretation, and all these questions were treated with an erudition and a method which could be called absolutely unknown hitherto. Modest and judicious savant that he was, Bolland at once admitted the superiority of the new method and desired Henschen, despite the reluctance occasioned by his humility and the profound respect in which he held his master, to review the copy already in press. He held it back for a considerable time to enable his colleague to make the additions and corrections he judged necessary or advantageous. The pages containing the material for the first six days of January had already come from the press; the pages which seemed most defective to Henschen were replaced by revises. His hand is more clearly apparent in the following pages, although he persisted in employing a reserve and watchfulness which sometimes seems to have cost him an effort, in order to avoid too marked a difference between Bolland's commentaries and his own. Papebroch, in his notice on Henschen printed at the beginning of the seventh volume of May, points out as particularly his the toil expended on the acts of St. Wittikind, St. Canute, and St. Raymond of Pennafort on the seventh of January; of St. Atticus of Constantinople and Blessed Laurence Justinian on the eighth; of Sts. Julian and Basilissa on the ninth. "But from this day on", he adds, "Bolland left to Henschen the Greek and Oriental saints, as well as the majority of those of France and of Italy, reserving for himself only those of Germany, Spain, Britain, and Ireland ". He still desired to associate the name of Henschen with his own on the title-page of the various volumes, but the humble religious would not allow it to appear except as his assistant and subordinate. Meanwhile Bolland, in his general preface to the first volume of January, did not fail to tell what he owed to his excellent collaborator. He then insisted that in the volumes of February and the following ones, Henschen's name should be on the title-page as prominently as his own and, moreover, that in the course of these volumes all commentaries from the pen of Henschen should be signed with his initials, claiming, doubtless not without some foundation, that he received a great number of letters relating to articles written by his colleague, which caused him difficulty. The two volumes of January, containing respectively, if we take into account the various tables and preliminary articles, the first, 1,300 pages, the second, more than 1,250, appeared in the course of the same year, 1643. They aroused in the learned world positive enthusiasm, which is easily understood when we consider how far the new publication surpassed anything of the kind known up to that time -- the Golden Legend, Guido Bernardus, Vincent of Beauvais , St. Antoninus of Florence, Peter de Natali, Mombritius, Lippomano, and Surius. There was another marked difference when, fifteen years later, in 1658, the three volumes for February were published, showing a notable improvement over those for January. Congratulations and warm encomiums came from every side to testify to Bolland and his companion the admiration aroused by their work. The encouragement was not only from Catholics. Learned Protestants of the foremost rank did not hesitate to praise highly the truly scientific spirit which marked the new collection. Among others who had been heard from even before the publication of the February volumes, was the celebrated Gerard Vossius. The editors had the satisfaction of seeing added to all these approbations that of Alexander VII, who publicly testified that there had never been undertaken a work more useful and glorious to the Church. The same pontiff and, at his suggestion, the General of the Society of Jesus , Goswin Nickel, immediately invited Bolland to Rome, promising him a rich harvest of materials. The invitation was equivalent to a command, though for that matter this literary journey was of too great advantage to the work in hand for Bolland to do anything but gladly accept it. Finding, however, that he was too much enfeebled by recent illness to stand the fatigues of the journey, and that, moreover, it was necessary for one of the editors to remain in Antwerp, the centre of correspondence, he easily obtained permission from the Father General to send in his place Henschen, who was already favourably known through his collaboration in volumes published.

At this time, the hagiographers were joined by a new companion, who was to accompany Henschen on his journey, and who later was to shed as glory on the work as had his two predecessors. This was Father Daniel von Papenbroeck, better known under the slightly altered form of Papebroch (b. Antwerp, 1628; d. 28 June, 1714). He entered the Society in 1646, after having been, like Henschen, a brilliant pupil of Bolland's in the course of the humanities. He had just completed his thirty-first year when he was called on, in 1659, to give himself entirely to the work of hagiography, in which he was to have a remarkably long and fruitful career, for it lasted till his death, which occurred in the eighty-seventh year of his age, and the fifty-fifth of his work in this field. At the same time that they appointed Papebroch a collaborator to Bolland and Henschen, the superiors of the order, at the instance of important persons who wished the publication of the "Acta Sanctorum" hastened as much as possible, relieved the Fathers in charge of the work of every other regular occupation, in order that they might thenceforth devote their entire time to the hagiographical work. They were not obliged to fulfil any duties of the sacred ministry except for the distraction and rest that men of such great intellectual activity might find in a change of occupation. About the same time they were granted another favour. We have seen that Bolland, in accepting the succession to Rosweyde's post, had obtained that a special place should be set apart for the manuscript copies and books collected by Rosweyde, which had hitherto been scattered among the books belonging to the general library of the Professed House. This embryo of the Bollandist Museum consisted of two small mansard rooms, lighted by dormer windows so narrow that in the corners it was impossible to clearly enough to read the titles of the books, even at noonday. Moreover, the walls were not fitted with shelves where the books could be arranged. They were merely piled one above the other without any attempt at order. It required Bolland's wonderful local memory to find anything in this chaos. About 1660, he had the satisfaction of having a spacious hall on the first floor placed at his disposal, where books and manuscripts could be placed on shelves in methodical order. The library or the "Hagiographical Museum", as it became customary to call it, had already received, and continued to receive daily, thanks to the gifts of generous benefactors and judicious purchases, many acquisitions, so that Henschen during the course of his literary journey was able to say that he found very few libraries, public or private, that could compare with the Hagiographical Museum" of Antwerp. This library was greatly enriched some years later when Papebroch, through the death of his father, a rich merchant of Antwerp, was enabled to apply to the work on which he was engaged his large inheritance.

Bolland's two companions began their journey on the feast of St. Mary Magdalen, 22 July, 1660. Their old master accompanied them as far as Cologne, where they left him after a week's stay. An almost daily correspondence kept up with him, and preserved nearly entire at Brussels, partly at the Royal Library and partly at the Library of the Bollandists, allows us to follow each step of the learned pilgrimage through Germany, Italy, and France. In Germany, they visited successively Coblenz, Mainz, Worms, Speyer, Frankfort, Aschaffenburg, Würzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Eichstädt, Ingolstadt, Augsburg Munich, and Innsbruck. Everywhere the name of Bolland ensured them an enthusiastic welcome and opened every library to them; everywhere they found precious material to take with them for use in the succeeding volumes of the "Acta". A reception no less friendly and a harvest even more abundant awaited the travellers in Italy, at Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Venice, Ferrara, Imola, Florence, Ravenna, Forlì, Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia, Ancona, Osimo, Loreto, Assisi, Perugia, Foligno, and Spoleto. They arrived in Rome the day before the Vigil of Christmas, and remained there until 3 October of the following year, 1661. During all this time they were overwhelmed with attentions and favours by Alexander VII, who in person did the honours of his rich Chigi library and commanded by special Briefs that all libraries should be opened to them, and especially that they should be allowed access to the manuscripts of the Vatican. They were received with no less courtesy by the cardinals, the heads of the various orders, the savants Allatius, Aringhi, Ughelli, Ciampini, and others, then shining lights in the capital of the Christian world. The five or six copyists placed at their disposal were kept constantly busy during the nine months they were in Rome in transcribing manuscripts according to their directions, and this occupation was continued by them a long time after the Bollandists departure. As for the Bollandists themselves, their time was principally employed in collecting Greek manuscripts, in which they were diligently assisted by the celebrated Hellenist, Laurentius Porcius, and the abbot Francesco Albani, later cardinal, and pope under the name of Clement XI. The learned Maronite, Abraham of Eckel, who had just brought to Rome a great number of Syriac manuscripts, was willing to make extracts and translate for them the Acts of the Saints found therein. Ughelli gave them two volumes in folio of notes which he had collected for the completion of his "Italia Sacra". The Oratorians put them in touch with the manuscripts of Baronius, and a large collection of lives of the saints which they had intended to publish themselves. On leaving Rome they visited Naples, Grotta-Ferrata, and Monte Casino, then Florence, where they remained for four months, and lastly Milan. Everywhere, as at Rome, they left behind them copyists who continued for years the work of transcribing which had been marked out for them. They then spent more than six months in travelling through France, where they halted successively at the Grande Chartreuse of Grenoble, at Lyons, at the monasteries of Cluny and Cîteaux, at Dijon, Auxerre, Sens, and lastly at Paris. They arrived in the great capital, 11 August, 1662, and were immediately put in touch with whatever distinguished savants Paris could then boast of. They found at their command, with unrestricted leave to copy whatever served their purpose, the wealth of hagiographical matter contained in the rich libraries of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and St. Victor, as well as those of the Celestines and Feuillants, of Wion d'Hérouval, de Thou, de Séguier, and lastly the Mazarine and the Royal Library. Their stay at Paris extended over three months, every moment of which time they spent in transcribing and collating, besides enlisting the services of several copyists during the entire time.

They left Paris 9 November and turned their steps toward Rouen, then went through Eu, Abbeville, and Arras, omitting, to their great regret, the city of Amiens, because of the impassable roads, and the impossibility of securing means of transportation. They reached Antwerp 21 December, 1662, after an absence of twenty-nine months. They not only brought back with them an enormous mass of documents transcribed by themselves and by the copyists they had been obliged to engage, but they found awaiting them at Antwerp a like number from the copyists they had employed in the principal cities they had visited (notably, Rome, Florence, Milan, and Paris ) and who were still carrying on with the labour with which they had been charged. This long journey caused little delay in the progress of the work, for which, on the other hand, it was so productive of good results. Thanks to the incredible activity of the three eminent hagiographers, the three volumes for March were given to the public in 1668. They bore only the name of Henschen and Papebroch, as Bolland had passed to a better life, 12 September, 1665, thirty-six years after succeeding Rosweyde in the preparation of the "Acta Sanctorum". Seven years later, in 1675, the three volumes for April appeared, preceded by preliminary treatises, the subjects of which were respective: in the first volume, the two most ancient collections of notices on the popes (catalogues of Liberius, and Felix) and the date of St. Ambrose's death, both by Henschen ; in the second, the attempt at a diplomatical treatise by Papebroch, "whose chief merit ", as the author himself was fond of saying with as much sincerity as modesty, "was that it inspired Mabillon to write his excellent work: "De re diplomatica"; in the third, a new revised edition of the new revised edition of the "Diatribi de tribus Dagobertis", which had made the name of Henschen celebrated twenty years previously. The custom of having these "Parerga" was kept up in the succeeding volumes; there was even an entire volume, the "Propylaeum ad tomos Maii", filled with notes of Papebroch on the chronology and history of the popes from St. Peter to Innocent XI. Another happy thought first carried out at that time was the publication of the Greek acts in their original text; previously, only Latin versions had been given. The Greek texts were still relegated to the end of the volumes in the form of appendices; it was only in the fourth volume of May that they were first printed in the body of the work. The first three volumes of May were published in 1688. Besides the names of Henschen and Papebroch, the title-page bore those of Conrad Janninck and François Baert, who had been appointed to the work, the former in 1679; the latter in 1681, at the same time as Father Daniel Cardon, who was carried off by a premature death the second year after his appointment.

Up to this time Bolland and his first two companions had met with nothing but encouragement. A severe storm was soon to burst on the one who was now head of the undertaking and on the work itself. In the first volume of April Papebroch had occasion to treat, under date of the eighth, the Acta of St. Albert Patriarch of Jerusalem, and author of the Carmelite rule. In his preliminary commentary he had combated, as insufficiently grounded, the tradition universally received by the Carmelites, that the origin of the order dated back to the prophet Elias, who was regarded as its founder. This was the signal for an outburst of wrath on the part of these religious. From 1681 to 1693 there appeared no less than twenty or thirty pamphlets filled with abusive language against the unfortunate critic, and adorned with titles often ludicrous through their very efforts at violence : "Novus Ismaël, cuius manus contra omnes et manus omnium contm eum, sive P. Daniel Papebrochius . . . ; Amyclae Jesuiticae, sive Papebrochius scriptis Carmeliticis convictus . . . . ; "Jesuiticum Nihil . . ."; "Hercules Commodianus Johannes Launoius redivivus in P Daniele Papebrochio . . . "; "R. P. Papebrochius Historicus Conjecturalis Bombardizans S.Lucam et Sanctos Patres", etc. The series culminated in the large quarto volume signed with the name of Father Sebastian of St. Paul, provincial of the Flemish-Belgian province of the Carmelite Order, and entitled: "Exhibitio errorum quos P. Daniel Papebrochius Societatis Jesu suis in notis ad Acta Sanctorum commisit contra Christi Domini Paupertatem, Aetatem, etc. Summorum Pontificum Acta et Gesta, Bullas, Brevia et Decreta; Concilia; S. Scripturam; Ecclesiae Capitis Primatum et Unitatem; S. R. E. Cardinalium Dignitatem et authoritatem; Sanctos ipsos, eorum cultum, Reliquias, Acta et Scripta; Indulgentiarum Antiquitatem; Historias Sacras; Breviaria, Missalia, Maryrologia, Kalendaria, receptasque in Ecclesia traditiones ac revelationes, nec non alia quaevis antiqua Monumenta Regnorum, Regionum, Civitatum, ac omnium fere Ordinum; idque nonnisi ex meris conjecturis, argutiis negativis, insolentibus censuris, satyris ac sarcasmis, cum Aethnicis, Haeresiarchis, Haereticis aliisque Auctoribus ab Ecclesia damnatis. Oblata Sanctissimo Domino Nostro lnnocentio XII . . . Coloniae Agrippinae, 1693." Papebroch, who was receiving at the same time from the most distinguished scholars lively protests against the attacks of which he was made the object, met them at first merely with a silence which perhaps seemed disdainful. But learning that active steps were being taken at Rome to obtain a condemnation of the collection of the Acta Sanctorum or of some of its volumes, he and his companions decided that the time for silence had passed. It was Father Janninck who entered the lists in an open letter to the author of the "Exhibitio Errorum", followed soon afterwards by another in which he replied to a new little book published in support of the work of Father Sebastian of St. Paul. The two letters were printed in 1693. They were followed by a more extended apology for the "Acta", published by the same Janninck in 1695; and lastly there appeared in 1696, 1697, and 1698 the three volumes of the "Responsio Danielis Papebrochii ad Exhibitionem Errorum", in which the valiant hagiographer takes up one by one the charges hurled against him by Father Sebastian and confutes each with an answer as solid in argument as it was temperate in tone. The adversaries of Papebroch, fearing lest they should not be able to obtain from the Court of Rome the condemnation for which they were begging, addressed themselves, with the utmost secrecy, to the tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition, where they won over to their side the most powerful influences. Before the writers of Antwerp had any suspicion of what was being plotted against them, there was issued, in November, 1695, a decree of this tribunal condemning the fourteen volumes of the Acta Sanctorum published up to that time, under the most rigorous qualifications, even going so far as to brand the work with the mark of heresy. Papebroch was painfully and deeply moved by the blow. He could submit to all the other insults heaped upon him, but he was obliged to refute the charge of heresy. He made the most vehement entreaties and had all his friends in Spain on the alert to let him know which propositions the Holy Office of Spain had regarded as heretical, in order that he might retract them, if he was unable to furnish satisfactory explanations, or secure the correction of the sentence, if his explanations were acceptable. His efforts proved fruitless. Having fallen seriously ill in 1701, and believing himself at the point of death, immediately after receiving the last sacraments he had a notary-public draw up in his presence and before witnesses a solemn protest which shows how greatly he was affected by the condemnation levelled at his head by the Spanish Inquisition. "After forty two years of assiduous toil, devoted to the elucidation of the Acts of the Saints, hoping to go to the enjoyment of their society, I ask only one thing on earth, and it is that His Holiness Clement XI be immediately implored to grant me after death what in life I have sought in vain from Innocent XII. I have lived a Catholic, and I die a Catholic, by the grace of God. I have also the right of dying a Catholic in the eyes of men, which is not possible so long as the decree of the Spanish Inquisition shall appear justly issued and published, and so long as people read that I have taught in my books heretical propositions for which I have been condemned. Papebroch had accepted without appeal or murmur the decision of the Roman Congregation of 22 December, 1700, placing on the Index his chronological and historical Essay on the Popes, published in the "Propylaeum Maii", a decree issued, as was expressly stated, on account of the sections bearing on certain conclaves and requiring merely the correction of the passages in question. But he did not cease working during the twelve years and a half that he still lived, both by his own efforts and those of his friends, not only to prevent the confirmation by Rome of the decree of the Spanish Inquisition, but also to secure the retraction of the decree. Father Janninck was even sent to Rome with this end in view and remained there for over two years and a half, from the end of October, 1697, till June, 1700. He was completely successful with respect to the first object of his mission, as in December, 1697, he received the assurance that no censure would be passed against the volumes condemned in Spain. The persecutors of Papebroch were compelled to sue for an injunction to silence for both parties, which was accorded them by a Brief of 25 November, 1698, gratefully accepted by Papebroch. More time was necessary, however, to bring about a final decision in the second matter. Whether it was judged prudent in Rome not to enter into conflict with the Spanish tribunal, or whether the latter prolonged the affair by passive resistance, the decree of condemnation made in 1695 was not revoked until 1715, the year following the death of Papebroch. As for the "Propylaeum Maii", it was not withdrawn from the Index of Forbidden Books until the last edition (1900); but this did not prevent the French editor, Victor Palmé, from publishing it in his reprint of the Acta Sanctorum, which he undertook about 1860.

A grievous trial of another sort was visited on Papebroch during the last years of the seventeenth century. A cataract affecting both eyes reduced him for about five years to a state of total blindness, which compelled him to give up all literary composition. The sight of his left eye was restored in 1702 by a successful operation. He immediately took up his work again and continued the Acta Sanctorum as far as the fifth volume of June, the twenty-fourth of the whole collection, which appeared in 1709. The weight of age -- he was then eighty-one -- compelled him to abandon the more arduous work of the Bollandist museum. He lived for almost five years, which he devoted to editing the "Annales Antverpienses" from the foundation of Antwerp down to the year 1700. The manuscript of this work comprised eleven volumes in folio, seven of which are at the Royal Library of Brussels, the others probably having been lost. An edition of the volumes which have been preserved to us was published at Antwerp, 1845-48, in five volumes in octavo.

We shall not pursue further the history of the Bollandist work during the eighteenth century up to the suppression of the Society of Jesus, in 1773. The publication continued regularly, though with more or less unevenness as to the value of the commentaries, up to the third volume of October, which appeared in 1770. The suppression of the Society brought about a crisis in which the work nearly foundered. The Bollandists then in office were Cornelius De Bye, James De Bue, and Ignatius Hubens. The Fathers Jean Clé and Joseph Ghesquière had but recently been transferred from the work. The former, at the time of the suppression of the Society, was superior of the Flemish-Belgian province; the latter was in charge of the projected publication of the "Analecta Belgica", a collection of documents relating to the history of Belgium, a work for which the funds of the Musée Bellarmine were appropriated. This Museum was established at Mechlin at the beginning of the eighteenth century, for the purpose of opposing the Jansenists, but was afterwards transferred to the Professed House at Antwerp. On 20 September, 1773, commissaries of the Government presented themselves at the residence of the professed Jesuit Fathers at Antwerp, and before the assembled community read the Bull of suppression of Clement XIV and the imperial letters patent empowering them to execute it. They then affixed seals to the entrances of the archives, libraries, and any rooms of the Fathers which contained money or objects of value. A like proceeding took place on the same day in all the houses of the Society then existing in Belgium. Nevertheless a special order was issued enjoining the members of the commission charged with executing the decree on the Professed House at Antwerp "to summon the ci-devant Jesuits employed in the publication of the 'Acta Sanctorum' and to announce to them that the government, satisfied with their labours, was disposed to exercise special consideration in their regard". Father Ghesquière and his collaborators in the "Analecta Belgica" were included in this indulgence granted to the Bollandists. This favourable attitude of the Government resulted, after various tiresome conferences, in the removal, in 1778, of the Bollandists and the historiographers of Belgium, together with their libraries, to the abbey of Caudenberg, at Brussels. Each of the, Bollandists was to receive an annual pension of 800 florins, besides the 500 florins to be given to the community of Caudenberg in payment for their board and lodging. The same indulgence was accorded to Ghesquière in consideration of his office of historian. The results of the sale of the volumes were to be divided between the abbey and the editors on condition that the abbey should take charge of the matter on hand, and provide a copyist to make fair copies of manuscripts for the printers, as well as religious who should be trained under the direction or the elder Bollandists for the continuation of the work. The other half of the profits was to be divided in equal portions among the writers. The four hagiographers took up their residence at the Abbey of Caudenberg, and with the consent of the abbot adopted two young religious assistants. One of these soon left them to pursue his scientific studies, feeling that he had not the vocation for this work; the other was John-Baptist Fonson, at that time (1788) twenty-two years of age, whose name soon afterwards appeared on the title page as editor. Under this new condition of things there appeared in 1780 Volume IV of October under the names of Constantine Suyskens (d. 1771), Cornelius De Bye, John De Bue, Joseph Ghesquière, and Ignatius Hubens, all former


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Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

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