Illustrations in the Acta Sanctorum
More than 700 engravings are to be found in the Acta Sanctorum, spread mainly between vol. I of April (1675) and vol. VI of October (1794). Their purpose was mainly didactic. In many cases they constitute essential iconographic sources, a fact which has largely been ignored up to now. They include portraits of saints, objects which belonged to them, reliquaries, miniatures, churches and monasteries, seals, maps, tombstones, clothes… Sometimes these illustrations document something which no longer exists because the monuments or artifacts were modified or have disappeared. The Acta Sanctorum thus contain the only known representations of certain buildings or reliquaries destroyed or lost in the 17th or the 18th century. The illustrations cover a dozen European countries with a prevalence of Italy, Germany, the Low Countries and Spain. They bear witness to the important network of correspondents both religious and lay which the Bollandists had developed over the years. A systematic classification of these illustrations was undertaken a few years ago with the purpose of analyzing each one of them in detail, as well as enabling a broader study of their presence in the Acta Sanctorum.
Bibliography: Fr. De Vriendt, Memorare iuvat effigies. Les gravures des Acta Sanctorum: un trésor iconographique à exploiter, in De Rosweyde aux Acta Sanctorum. La recherche hagiographique des Bollandistes à travers quatre siècles. Actes du Colloque international (Bruxelles, 5 oct. 2007), éd. R. Godding, B. Joassart, X. Lequeux et Fr. De Vriendt (= Subsidia hagiographica, 88). Bruxelles, 2009, p. 89-104.
François De Vriendt