Smedt, Charles de

views updated


Belgian Bollandist; b. Gand, April 6, 1831; d. Brussels, March 4, 1911. Educated at Louvain, De Smedt entered the Society of Jesus in 1851 and taught at Namur and in the scholasticate at Tronchienne (1857). Upon joining the church history faculty at Louvain in 1864, he quickly recognized the need for purging Catholic historical writing of its use of doubtful sources and of an exaggerated reliance on the supernatural element in human affairs. Sent to Paris in 1869 as an editor of the Études religieuses, he published a series of articles on the principles of historical criticism, later edited as a book, Principes de la critique historique (Paris 1883). He served as a fellow of the society of Bollandists from 1870 and was made a member in 1876 on the death of V. de Buck. Two series of lectures delivered at Louvain were published as Introductio ad historiam ecclesiasticam critice tractandam and Dissertationes selectae in primam aetatem historiae ecclesiasticae. The latter work outlined a reordination of the Acta Sanctorum, giving greater importance to primary sources by publishing the original documents. As head of the society of Bollandists (18821911) he inaugurated the periodical Analecta Bollandiana as an instrument for the publication of hagiographical documents and critical apparatus. He likewise reorganized the use of subsidiary historical disciplines including the employment of inventories, almanacs, catalogues, and bibliographies. He discovered an unknown manuscript of the Gesta episcoporum cameracensium (10921138) and published an outstanding ascetical treatise, Notre vie surnaturelle (2 v. 3d ed. Brussels 1920). His reorganization of the work of the Bollandists slowed down the publication of the Acta Sanctorum but immeasurably added to their value. De Smedt became a correspondent of the Académie des Inscriptions (1894) and a member of the Académie Royale de Belgique (1900).

Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 15.1:151618. Le R. P. Charles de Smedt, Analecta Bollandiana 30 (1911) i-x. h. delehaye, L'Oeuvre des Bollandistes à travers trois siècles 16151915, (2d ed. Brussels 1959), with bibliog. 166189; Eng. (Princeton 1922). r. aigrain, L'Hagiographie (Paris 1953) 346350. a. cauchie, Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 12 (1911) 347358. m. coens, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 9:837.

[j. beaudry]