Catholic historian and patristic scholar, educator, author; b. St. Annaberg (Silesia), Sept. 10, 1885; d. Bad Kissingen (Bavaria), Jan. 30, 1964. After being ordained in 1910, he took his doctorate in theology at the University of Breslau, where he began to teach church history in 1919; in 1929 he was appointed ordinary professor of patrology, ancient church history, and Christian archeology. He was the first theologian to be deprived of his university position by the Nazi government for political reasons (1933). Cardinal Bertram thereupon provided him with a position at the cathedral of Breslau in order to enable him to continue his research. But he lost his very valuable library when the Gestapo expelled him from Breslau in 1945. He found refuge in Bavaria and after the war was appointed to the chair of patrology and the history of the liturgy at the University of Würzburg, which he occupied until his retirement in 1950. His early works deal with the history of the Dominican Order: Venturino von Bergamo O.P. (Breslau 1911), Der hl. Dominikus (Breslau 1922), Die Dominikanermission des 15. Jahrhunderts (Habelschwerdt 1924), and Die Briefe Jordans von Sachsen (Leipzig 1925). He became best known because of his one–volume textbook Patrologie, which he published in 17 editions and six languages (Eng. ed. by H. Graef, New York 1960). The volume Kleine patristische Schriften [Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, 83 (Berlin 1965)] collects 48 articles dealing with the influence of Eastern theology on Western writers, especially St. Augustine, published previously in various periodicals.
Bibliography: b. altaner, Verzeichnis meiner Veröffentlichungen 1907–53 (Würzburg 1953). "Bibliographie B. Altaner," Historisches Jahrbuch der Görres–Gesellschaft, 77 (1958) 76–600. j. quasten, Theologische Revue, 51 (1955) 213–214; American Catholic Historical Review, 50 (1964) 92–93.