Hagiographer and Bollandist; b. Anvers, Aug. 19, 1859; d. Brussels, April 1, 1941. Having entered the Society of Jesus in 1876, he joined the bollandists in 1891 and became president of the group in 1912, serving as the great master of hagiography until his death. His 50 years of activity in this institution were interrupted only by the war, during which he wrote the life of St. john berchmans from memory. Studying the more ancient martyrs and the saints of the Greek Church, he conducted projects that required indefatigable labor, perspicacious judgment, and rigorous method. In the Acta Sanctorum he left three masterpieces: his edition of the Synaxarium Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (see synaxary); a historical commentary of the martyrology of st. jerome based on the text established by Dom H. Quentin; and a commentary on the roman martyrology discussing its sources and historical value. He compiled catalogues of hagiographical manuscripts, of which the model remains the Bibliotheca hagiographica graeca [ed. F. Halkin, 3v. (Brussels 1957)] and edited either in the Analecta Bollandiana or in separate volumes a number of texts: Saints de Chypre [Analecta Bollandiana 26 (1907) 161–301]; Les Légendes grecques des saints militaires (Paris 1909); Les Saints stylites (Brussels 1923); Étude sur le légendier romain: les saints de novembre et décembre (Brussels 1936). A series of works of historical criticism offering a condensation of its thought and method have become classics of hagiography: Les Légendes hagiographiques (3d ed. Brussels 1927); Les Origines du culte des martyrs (2d ed. Brussels 1933); Les Passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (Brussels 1921); Sanctus. Essai sur le culte des Saints dans l'antiquité (Brussels 1927); Cinq leçons sur la méthode hagiographique (Brussels 1934). While new numbers of the Acta Sanctorum were not published with the regularity one might have expected under H. Delehaye, his own investigations brought about a fundamental renewal in the methods and substance of hagiography. He untangled problems considered inextricable, such as the evolution of the Martyrology of St. Jerome [Acta Sanctorum (November 2) Brussels 1931], and provided scholars with new tools for hagiographical research. His vigorous enthusiasm, extreme competence as a scholar, and the disinterested aid he gave and received from collaborators made him the equal of D. papebroch, if not the greatest of the Bollandists.
Bibliography: p. peeters, Analecta Bollandiana 60 (1942) i-1ii, list of works; L'Oeuvre des Bollandistes (new ed. Brussels 1961). r. aigrain, L'Hagiographie (Paris 1953). b. de gaiffier, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65), 3:208. É. de strycker, L'Année théologique 3 (1942) 265–283; Catholicisme. Hier, aujourd'hui et demain, ed. g. jacquemet (Paris 1947–) 3:562–563.