From 92 Pages to More Than 60,000: How the Bollandists Created the "Science of the Saints"

May 15, 2021
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Robert Godding, SJBollandist Society

Michael Garanzini, SJSociety of Jesus

Free and Open to the Public. This event is co-presented with the Bollandist Society

2:00 PM CDT (GMT -5) | 21:00 (Brussels)  

For many centuries the Church has been venerating the saints. During Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, thousands of Lives have been written in Greek, in Latin and in the languages of the Christian East. Very soon wonderful and imaginary elements were mixed with historical ones, creating “legends”. If the awareness appeared quite early that all Lives of saints were not equally trustworthy, it is only at the beginning of the 17th century that scientific criteria were applied for the first time to that literature. 

Critical hagiography is the “science of the saints”, a discipline which was created by Jean Bolland, a Belgian Jesuit, who initiated the publication of what would become the largest ever collection of Lives of saints: the Acta Sanctorum. Through the following three centuries, this unique enterprise would not proceed unchallenged given the attachment of many to the wonderful elements related to their patron saints. Nowadays a scientific approach commands the inquiries for beatification, and critical hagiography has become an intensively cultivated field in universities.


This event will be moderated by Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J.

Robert Godding, S.J. is Director of the Bollandist Society, a historian and a specialist in Latin hagiography mainly from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, and in the hagiography of Italy. He is responsible for the Latin sector of the research and also teaches hagiography at the Gregorian University in Rome.

Michael J. Garanzini, S.J. is President of both the International Association of Jesuit Universities and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and Secretary for Higher Education of the Society of Jesus. From 2001 until 2015, he served as the twenty-third President of Loyola University Chicago.  Garanzini has a doctorate in psychology and religion from the University of California, Berkeley, and through his career has taught at Saint Louis University, Fordham University, Georgetown University, Regis College, and the Pontifical Gregorian University, in Rome. Fr. Garanzini is the author of The Attachment Cycle: An Object Relations Approach to the Healing Ministries (1988), Meeting the Needs of Dysfunctional Families (1993), Child-Centered Schools: An Educator's Guide to Family Dysfunction (1995), and articles in numerous journals.