Hippolyte Delehaye

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Hippolyte Delehaye (Antwerp 19 August 1859 – Brussels 1 April 1941) was a Belgian Jesuit who was a hagiographic scholar and an outstanding member of the Bollandists, who established critical editions of texts relating to the Christian saints and martyrs that were based on applying the critical method of sound archaeological and documentary scholarship to the texts. This critical approach encountered difficulties, within the Jesuit Order, within the Holy Office and among "integralist" opponents of critical approaches.[1]


He joined the Jesuit Order in 1876 and after studying philosophy at Louvain from 1879 to 1882, he taught mathematics at the Collège St-Barbe at Ghent until 1886. He became a fellow of the Société des Bollandistes named for the 17th century hagiographic scholar Jean Bolland in Brussels, 1892. He was an editor of the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca (1895) a repertory of Greek hagiographies, and of the Analecta Bollandiana, which was subjected to Roman censorship 1901-27, and in 1912 became the President of the Bollandists.


His major publications, works of method and synthesis that are of general use to historians, are:

  • Les Légendes hagiographiques, Brüssels 1905, 1906 (translated by V. M. Crawford, 1907, reprinted 1998), 1927. A 1955 French edition was translated by Donald Attwater, The Legends of the Saints (Fordham University Press, 1962).
  • Les Origines du culte des martyrs, 1912
  • Les Passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires, 1921
  • Sanctus. Essai sur le culte des saints dans l'antiquité, 1927

Other important works, with more restricted focus, are:

  • Les versions grecques des Actes des martyrs persans sous Sapor II, 1905
  • Les Légendes grecques des saints militaires, 1909
  • A travers trois siècles: L'Oeuvre des Bollandistes 1615 à 1915, 1920 (translated in 1922)
  • Les saints Stylites, 1923
  • Martyrologium Romanum ... (Propylaeum ad Acta SS. Decembris), 194 A commentary on the Roman martyrology, of which Delehaye was the chief editor.
  • Cinq leçons sur la méthode hagiographique, 1934.

Posthumous collections of fugitive pieces were published in 1966 as Mélanges d'hagiographie grecque et latine and in 1991 as L'ancienne hagiographie byzantine: les sources, les premiers modèles, la formation des genres, the previously unpublished texts of lectures delivered in 1935.


  1. ^ Detailed in Bernard Joassart's study concentrating on the Légendes, Hippolyte Delehaye. Hagiographie critique et modernisme (Subsidia Hagiographica, 81), 2 vols. (Brussels : Société Bollandiste) 2000; a chapter is devoted to Delehaye in Lawrence Barmann and J.T.Talar, eds., Sanctity and Secularity During the Modernist Period