Acta Sanctorum is a principal source for research into the societies and cultures of early Christian and medieval Europe. Our knowledge of this period relies heavily on hagiographical literature, and specifically on this monumental collection of texts, published over a period of 300 years by the Société des Bollandistes.

The resurgence of interest in hagiographical materials in recent years reflects the growing recognition of their value to historical research of many kinds—social and ecclesiastical history, art and architecture, literature, folklore, and ethnology. Acta Sanctorum records every detail of domestic and public life. It’s an inexhaustible fund of information on every aspect of life from the beginning of the Christian era to the end of the 16th century.

The Acta Sanctorum Database now makes this vast body of literature available in electronic form, providing a new level of access to these texts and enabling them to be searched quickly and efficiently for names, topics, and themes.


The Acta Sanctorum Database contains the complete texts of the 68 printed volumes, from the two January volumes published in 1643 to the Propylaeum of December published in 1940. It has been prepared with the help and cooperation of the Société des Bollandistes and includes the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina reference numbers widely used by scholars to identify hagiographical texts. It delivers the same level of accuracy and detail which scholars have come to expect from our Patrologia Latina Database and offers the same speed and sophistication in searching.

Web subscribers who own both Patrologia Latina Database and Acta Sanctorum Database are able to search across both databases at the same time, in a single search. Bibliotheca Hagriographica Latina reference numbers have been added to Patrologia Latina Database, enabling direct comparison of textual passages between the two resources. In addition, Brill’s Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minor will be available to users of the cross-searchable site, providing information that is not available in any other electronic format. Jan Frederik Niermeyer's Mediae latinitatis lexicon minus is a practical lexicon for succinct information much used by students of Medieval history. It has proved to be invaluable to medievalists for almost 50 years. The dictionary provides French and English translations for every entry of a Medieval Latin concept, and all entries are contextualized with relevant text passages. The combined resources of these databases offer scholars unprecedented opportunities to further their research in early European social history and the development of Christianity, from the foundation of the Church to the Reformation.

Acta Sanctorum brings together materials on the lives of the saints in critical editions with commentaries on the source documents. These include Vitae, Passiones, Miracula, Translationes, Gloria posthuma, inscriptions, etc. Acta Sanctorum contains the full text of the printed volumes, the majority in Latin. All Latin text is fully searchable and Unicode functionality allows full display of diacritics and Greek keyword searching. Texts in other languages such as Syriac, Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Georgian, Slavic, and Celtic are captured in scanned image form for display at the appropriate point in the texts. The source for the database is the original edition, published in Antwerp and Brussels, and not the later incomplete editions published in Venice in 1734 -1760 and by Palme in Paris in 1863 -1870.

SGML text encoding offers a sophisticated level of searching on structural textual elements. The user-friendly interface makes searching easy on both the CD-ROM and Web editions; CD-ROM users can also construct their own search queries via the SGML coding.

Key Features

  • Quick and easy access to an essential resource for historians of many kinds
  • Over 500MB database of fully searchable primary source material
  • Fast electronic searching of texts that might otherwise be overlooked
  • Saints' lives searchable by categories such as male or female, festal date, country of origin, and keyword or phrase
  • Free MARC records are available.


Key Benefits

  • An invaluable resource for students of history, church history, art history, religion, and theology
  • Quick and easy search options save valuable research time
  • All the material is at your fingertips, eliminating the need to search through 68 printed volumes
  • Confident, accurate research based on a reliable electronic reproduction of the original edition of this highly respected collection
  • Wider use of primary source material


Using the Acta Sanctorum Database

With the Acta Sanctorum Database, you can:

  • Find every reference to a saint throughout the hagiographic corpus
  • Create your own anthologies of saints' lives with particular themes, such as dragon slaying or well-making
  • Design courses and set projects with freedom from the constraints of the available reprints


These are just a few of the research applications:

  • Explore patterns and key topics in the representation of women saints
  • Study attitudes to sexuality and marriage in the Middle Ages
  • Learn about medieval burial practices
  • Trace the origins of cult practice around relics and sacred sites
  • Research the origins of saintly iconography in the primary texts
  • Unearth information about local pre-Christian cultures
  • Explore medieval theories of class and status
  • Learn about the daily lives of early religious communities
  • Survey the history of attitudes to food and fasting in the period
  • Research the history of medicine and healing


Publication Media

The electronic edition mirrors the printed edition, following the ecclesiastical calendar. The collection is available for outright purchase as four CD-ROMs, containing the complete text of all 68 volumes of Acta Sanctorum, covering the feast days from January 1 to November 10, when work on the original was discontinued. All Propylaea and volumes of corrections and indices have been included. The user interface of the Web edition was redesigned for final release, and Unicode characters now appear in the full-text online version, making the Greek text fully searchable.

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