September 12th 1665 - Bolland Jean
† in Antwerp
'Bollandists' means a working group of mostly Belgian Jesuits, who are concerned with the publication of the Acta Sanctorum. Jean Bolland was the first head of that group. He came from Julémont near Bollanden, not far from Liège. There he was born on August 13th 1596. At an age of sixteen he entered on September 21st 1612 in Mecheln the Society of Jesus. After his formation he worked as teacher for humanistic subjects, and as Study Prefect in Mecheln. In the year 1629 the Provincial assigned him to examine the hagiographic material of Father Herbert Rosweyde († 1629), and to write an expert opinion about the possibilities to publish the 'Acta Sanctorum' planned by Rosweyde.
The enterprise came off. Bolland moved to Antwerp and got in 1635 with Gottfried Heuschen a very talented co-worker. Up to the death of Father Bolland, on September 12th 1665 in Antwerp, the first five folio volumes had appeared (each volume with more than thousand pages), about the saints of January and February. The enterprise was well received by the circles of European scholars.
In the year 1675 serious difficulties with the Carmelites arose, when the Bollandists objected to the traditional view that the Prophet Elija had founded the Order of the Carmelites. Their view was condemned as heretic by the Spanish Inquisition. Only in 1715 the condemnation was taken back. There were added the difficulties by the abolition of the Society of Jesus in 1773. The enterprise was dissolved in 1786 by the Belgian government. More than fifty volumes had been published already.
Only in 1837 the undertaking was re-established by the government. In 1905 a whole wing of the new built Collège S. Michel in Brussels was reserved for the Bollandists. A call for support found a good echo in the whole world. Soon the new library had more than 150.000 volumes. In 1931 there were published altogether 63 volumes, which went up to November.
Two further series associate with the Acta Sanctorum: the magazine 'Analecta Bollandiana', whose first number appeared 1882, and since 1910 the collection of the 'Subsidia Hagiographica'. The Bollandists work according to the motto:
'Antiqua reduco' (I bring the old back to the light)
'Obscura revelo' (and clarify the dark.)
That basic idea is found on the old title page. The importance of the Bollandists is not limited to hagiography. They offer also much material for the general church history, and for neighbouring subjects.
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