Jesuit priest; b. Paris, Feb. 22, 1816; d. there, May 26, 1871. After studies at the Collège Charlemagne and the École normale, Olivaint gained an agrégé in history, taught in Paris and Grenoble, and then tutored the son of the Duc de Rochefoucauld-Liancourt. Although religiously indifferent as a youth, he entered the jesuits (1845). After ordination (1850), he taught history (1852–57) in the newly opened Collège de Vaugirard in Paris. During his term there as rector (1857–65), the college became the leading private school in the capital. Olivaint was then named superior of the Jesuit Parisian residence at rue de Sèvres (1865–71). He was absorbed in retreat and sodality work until the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (1870). When his residence was designated an auxiliary hospital during the war, he showed an equal devotion to the wounded.
When the Commune revolted against Versailles, he sent his community from Paris but remained there himself with a priest and two brothers. He and Father Caubert were arrested (April 4, 1871), and sent to the Conciergerie prison where they found three other Jesuit priests, Ducoudray, Clerc, and de Bengy. Next day the Commune declared the prisoners "hostages of the people of Paris." By April 13 more than 200 hostages had been gathered in the prison of Mazas. When the government reoccupied all Paris except the 11th arrondissement, the Commune ordered their execution, and had them transferred to the Rouquette prison. Six hostages, including two Jesuits, were shot on May 24. Two days later, 47 prisoners, including Olivaint and his fellow religious, were ordered to leave the Rouquette. Guarded by communards, they walked to Belleville through jeering crowds until, at 83 rue Haxo, the mob massacred them and threw their bodies into a cesspool. After the fall of the Commune (May 28), the remains of Olivaint and his Jesuit companions were returned to the rue de Sèvres. Their beatification process was introduced in Rome in 1937.
Bibliography: a. de ponlevoy, Actes de la captivité et de la mort des RR. PP. P. Olivaint … (Paris 1871; 17th ed. 1907). c. clair, Pierre Olivaint (Paris 1878). É. lecanuet, L'Église de France sous la Troisième République 1: 99–126. l. koch, Jesuiten-Lexikon 1324–25.
[r. j. sealy]