A group of Belgian Jesuits who compile the Acta Sanctorum, named for John van Bolland, editor of the first volume. The Acta is a hagiographical work comprising the Acts of all saints venerated throughout the Christian world and containing a vast amount of material on church history in all countries and centuries, with numerous details of chronology, geography, law, government, literature, fine arts, and industry. The saints are arranged according to the days of the year, each of which is treated as a separate unit. The work was planned by Herbert Rosweyde, a Belgian Jesuit who collected a vast amount of material from the libraries of Belgium. His successor Bolland extended Rosweyde’s plan to include all information from whatever source on each saint and his cult, prefacing each text with a study to determine the author and historical value. It met with the encouragement of churchmen and scholars, and in 1660 at the invitation of Pope Alexander VII two colleagues, Henschen and Papebroch, made a journey from Antwerp, Belgium to Rome, Italy and gathered material which long remained one of the most valuable resources of the work. By 1709 it was carried to Volume V of June, the 24th of the collection, and was continued in Antwerp mainly by Belgian Jesuits assisted by historians throughout the world until 1773, when the suppression of the Jesuits caused their removal to Brussels, Belgium. Emperor Joseph II compelled them to sell their effects, and in spite of the attempts of Napoleon I to restore the Bollandists, work was not resumed until 1837 when a new group was organized, receiving aid from most of the European governments and societies of learned men. In 1869 the subsidy of the Bollandists was removed from the governmental budget, and another disastrous setback was caused by World War I, after which the work was reorganized by Father Hippolyte Delehaye who published the 65th volume in 1926 (to 10 November). The new Bollandists are also treating extensively saints of the eastern countries, thanks to the recent greater accessibility of oriental texts. They also publish the Analecta Bollandiana, informing scholars of newly-discovered material, as well as collections of hagiographical documents in Greek, Latin, and oriental languages, and catalogs containing detailed descriptions of the Greek, Latin, and oriental hagiographical manuscripts in various great libraries.

MLA Citation

  • “Bollandists”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 22 November 2018. Web. 25 September 2020. <>