1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hagiology

HAGIOLOGY (from Gr. ἅγιος, saint, λόγος, discourse), that branch of the historical sciences which is concerned with the lives of the saints. If hagiology be considered merely in the sense in which the term has come to be understood in the later stages of its development, i.e. the critical study of hagiographic remains, there would be no such science before the 17th century. But the bases of hagiology may fairly be said to have been laid at the time when hagiographic documents, hitherto dispersed, were first brought together into collections. The oldest collection of this kind, the συναγωγὴ τῶν ἀρχαίων μαρτυρίων of Eusebius, to which the author refers in several passages in his writings (Hist. Eccl., v. proem 2; v. 20, 5), and which has left more than one trace in Christian literature, is unfortunately lost in its entirety. The Martyrs of Palestine, as also the writings of Theodoret, Palladius and others, on the origins of the monastic life, and, similarly, the Dialogues of St Gregory (Pope Gregory I.), belong to the category of sources rather than to that of hagiologic collections. The In gloria martyrum and In gloria confessorum of Gregory of Tours are valuable for the sources used in their compilation. The most important collections are those which comprise the Acts of the Martyrs and the lives of saints, arranged in the order of the calendar. In the Greek Church these are called menologies (from Gr. μήν, month, λόγος, discourse), and their existence can be traced back with certainty to the 9th century (Theodore of Studium, Epist. i. 2). One of them, the menology of Metaphrastes, compiled in the second half of the 10th century, enjoyed a universal vogue (see Symeon Metaphrastes). The corresponding works in the Western Church are the passionaries or legendaries, varieties of which are dispersed in libraries and have not been studied collectively. They generally draw from a common source, the Roman legendary, and the lives of the local saints, i.e. those specially honoured in a church, a province or a country. One of the best known is the Austrian legendary (De magno legendario Austriaco in the Analecta Bollandiana, xvii. 24-264). From the menologies and legendaries various compilations were made: in the Greek Church, the Synaxaria (see Synaxarium); in the Western Church, abridgments and extracts such as the Speculum historiale of Vincent de Beauvais; the Legenda aurea of Jacobus de Voragine; the Sanctorale of Bernard Guy [d. 1331] (see L. Delisle, Notice sur les manuscrits de Bernard Guy, Paris, 1879); the Sanctilogium of John of Tynemouth (c. 1366), utilized by John Capgrave, and published in 1516 under the name of Nova legenda Angliae (new edition by C. Horstman, Oxford, 1901); and the Catalogus sanctorum of Petrus de Natalibus (c. 1375), published at Vicenza in 1493, and many times reprinted. The Sanctuarium of B. Mombritius, published at Milan about 1480, is particularly valuable because it gives a faithful reproduction of the ancient texts according to the manuscripts. One of the most zealous collectors of lives of saints was John Gielemans of Brabant (d. 1487), whose work is of great value (Bollandists, De codicibus hagiographicis Iohannis Gielemans, Brussels, 1895), and with him must be associated Anton Geens, or Gentius, of Groenendael, who died in 1543 (Analecta Bollandiana, vi. 31-34).

Hagiology entered on a new development with the publication of the Sanctorum priscorum patrum vitae (Venice and Rome, 1551–1560) of Aloysius Lipomanus (Lippomano), bishop of Verona. As a result of the co-operation of humanist scholars a great number of Greek hagiographic texts became for the first time accessible to the West in a Latin translation. The Carthusian, Laurentius Surius, carried on the work of Lippomano, completed it, and arranged the materials strictly in the order of the calendar (De probatis sanctorum historiis, Cologne, 1570–1575). What prevents the work of Surius from being regarded as an improvement upon Lippomano’s is that Surius thought it necessary to retouch the style of those documents which appeared to him badly written, without troubling himself about the consequent loss of their documentary value.

The actual founder of hagiologic criticism was the Flemish Jesuit, Heribert Rosweyde (d. 1629), who, besides his important works on the martyrologies (see Martyrology), published the celebrated collection of the Vitae patrum (Antwerp, 1615), a veritable masterpiece for the time at which it appeared. It was he, too, who conceived the plan of a great collection of lives of saints, compiled from the manuscripts and augmented with notes, from which resulted the collection of the Acta sanctorum (see Bollandists). This last enterprise gave rise to others of a similar character but less extensive in scope.

Dom T. Ruinart collected the best Acta of the martyrs in his Acta martyrum sincera (Paris, 1689). The various religious orders collected the Acta of their saints, often increasing the lists beyond measure. The best publication of this kind, the Acta sanctorum ordinis S. Benedicti (Paris, 1668–1701) of d’Achery and Mabillon, does not entirely escape this reproach. Countries, provinces and dioceses also had their special hagiographic collections, conceived according to various plans and executed with more or less historical sense. Of these, the most important collections are those of O. Caietanus, Vitae sanctorum Siculorum (Palermo, 1657); G. A. Lobineau, Vie des saints de Bretagne (Rennes, 1725); and J. H. Ghesquière, Acta sanctorum Belgii (Brussels and Tongerloo, 1783–1794). The principal lives of the German saints are published in the Monumenta Germaniae, and a special section of the Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum is devoted to the lives of the saints. For Scotland and Ireland mention must be made of T. Messingham’s Florilegium insulae sanctorum (Paris, 1624); I. Colgan’s Acta sanctorum veteris et maioris Scotiae seu Hiberniae (Louvain, 1645–1647); John Pinkerton’s Vitae antiquae sanctorum . . . (London, 1789, of which a revised and enlarged edition was published by W. M. Metcalfe at Paisley in 1889, under the title of Lives of the Scottish Saints); W. J. Rees’s Lives of the Cambro-British Saints (Llandovery, 1853); Acta sanctorum Hiberniae (Edinburgh, 1888); Whitley Stokes’s Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore (Oxford, 1890); and J. O'Hanlon’s Lives of the Irish Saints (Dublin, 1875–1904). Towards the 13th century vernacular collections of lives of saints began to increase. This literature is more interesting from the linguistic than from the hagiologic point of view, and comes rather within the domain of the philologist.

The hagiography of the Eastern and the Greek church also has been the subject of important publications. The Greek texts are very much scattered. Of them, however, may be mentioned J. B. Malou’s “Symeonis Metaphrastae opera omnia” (Patrolagia Graeca, 114, 115, 116) and Theophilos Ioannu, Μνημεῖα ἁγιολογικά (Venice, 1884). For Syriac, there are S. E. Assemani’s Acta sanctorum martyrum orientalium (Rome, 1748) and P. Bedjan’s Acta martyrum et sanctorum (Paris, 1890–1897); for Armenian, the acts of martyrs and lives of saints, published in two volumes by the Mechitharist community of Venice in 1874; for Coptic, Hyvernat’s Les Actes des martyrs de l’Égypte (Paris, 1886); for Ethiopian, K. Conti Rossini’s Scriptores Aethiopici, vitae sanctorum (Paris, 1904 seq.); and for Georgian, Sabinin’s Paradise of the Georgian Church (St Petersburg, 1882).

In addition to the principal collections must be mentioned the innumerable works in which the hagiographic texts have been subjected to detailed critical study.

To realize the present state of hagiology the Bibliotheca hagiographica, both Latin and Greek, published by the Bollandists, and the Bulletin hagiographique, which appears in each number of the Analecta Bollandiana (see Bollandists), must be consulted. Thanks to the combined efforts of a great number of scholars, the classification of the hagiographic texts has in recent years made notable progress. The criticism of the sources, the study of literary styles, and the knowledge of local history now render it easier to discriminate in this literature between what is really historical and what is merely the invention of the genius of the people or of the imagination of pious writers (see H. Delehaye, Les Légendes hagiographiques, 2nd ed., pp. 121-141, Brussels, 1906). “Though the lives of saints,” says a recent historian, “are filled with miracles and incredible stories, they form a rich mine of information concerning the life and customs of the people. Some of them are ‘memorials of the best men of the time written by the best scholars of the time,’ ” (C. Gross, The Sources and Literature of English History, p. 34, London, 1900).  (H. De.)