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Godfrey Henschen: The Revised Bollandist Dossier (1659) on St Peter Thomas O.Carm. (= Institutum Carmelitanum. Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana; Vol. 50), Roma: Edizioni carmelitane 2021, 535 S., 3 s/w-Abb., ISBN 978-88-7288-199-6, EUR 37,00
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Rezension von:
Richard Copsey
Whitefriars, Faversham
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Richard Copsey: Rezension von: Godfrey Henschen: The Revised Bollandist Dossier (1659) on St Peter Thomas O.Carm., Roma: Edizioni carmelitane 2021, in: sehepunkte 22 (2022), Nr. 2 [15.02.2022], URL:

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Godfrey Henschen: The Revised Bollandist Dossier (1659) on St Peter Thomas O.Carm.

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Brother Patrick Mullins is well known in Carmelite circles as the President of the Carmelite Institute of Britain and Ireland (CIBI), a position he has held with distinction since the Institute was launched in 2006. CIBI offers online courses in Carmelite spirituality and history for students throughout the world. One would have imagined that the demands of the Institute would have taken up all of Patrick Mullins' energy, but he has, over the years, produced several valuable volumes in the series Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana, published by the Edizioni Carmelitane in Rome. His focus is on the early history of the Carmelite Order, the development of its identity and spirituality, and especially on St Albert, the patriarch of Jerusalem and papal legate in the Holy Land who gave the Carmelites their Rule around 1212 CE. [1] These volumes have made available a wide range of primary sources, together with their English translations.

Having edited and translated the Bollandist Dossier on St Albert of Jerusalem by Daniel Papenbroeck [2], Patrick Mullins has, recently, focussed on the Bollandists' treatment of another Carmelite saint, St Peter Thomas. Peter Thomas was one of the leading figures in the Carmelite Order during the fourteenth century. Born in Périgord in France, he joined the Carmelite community in Bergerac and, after initial studies in theology, he was sent to study for his doctorate in Paris. Unfortunately, his stay there was interrupted in 1348 when, following the deaths of many friars from the Black Death, he was recalled to serve as procurator general for the Order at the papal court in Avignon. After three years in Avignon, Peter Thomas returned to complete his studies for the doctorate in Paris. Then, in 1354, he was appointed bishop of Patti and Lipari and was to spend the next period of his life as a papal envoy, mediating in various disputes among the secular powers in Europe. In 1359, Peter Thomas was translated to the bishopric of Coron in Greece and sent to conduct discussions with the Greek Orthodox Church leaders in Constantinople. In 1365, he joined King Peter of Cyprus in a Crusade to capture Alexandria. After the failure of the crusade, Peter Thomas returned to Cyprus where he died at the Carmelite house in Famagusta late on 6th January 1366, leaving behind a great reputation for holiness.

Patrick Mullins' first volume on St Peter Thomas dealt with the Bollandist Dossier written by the Jesuit Godfrey Henschen in 1643 and has already been reviewed in sehepunkte. [3] Now he has edited and translated the text of Godfrey Henschen's Revised Dossier which was published sixteen years later in 1659. As an example of the development of Godfrey Henschen's ideas and the way in which he re-assembled his material in the light of new manuscripts and other sources which he had discovered, this second volume is very illuminating.

Henschen's Revised Dossier is a major expansion and reworking of his first Dossier. The Introduction to the original Dossier (Section I) has been greatly expanded (from 45 to 103 pages) and its original four parts re-arranged into five more extensive and developed sections. The fourth part of the 1643 Dossier Introduction now becomes the first part in the 1659 Dossier. Other parts of the Introduction in the Revised Dossier are augmented with new material or some texts by other authors transferred from Section II (The Life of St. Peter Thomas by Philippe de Mézières). These texts from Section II are mostly additions which had been attached to the life by Philippe de Mézières which forms the major part of Henschen's Dossier.

Finally, Section III is a major new feature in the Revised Dossier. In it, Henschen has collected and listed all the writings on St. Peter Thomas by earlier authors that he has managed to discover. This Section includes some other details of the life of St Peter Thomas which Henschen had found in manuscript copies of Philippe de Mézières' life as well as some brief entries on Peter Thomas in the writings of other Carmelite historians such as John of Hildesheim, Giovanni Grossi, and Arnold Bostius. Section III concludes (Chapter 5) with a valuable edition of 27 papal bulls which were addressed to Peter Thomas during his life.

Patrick Mullins has arranged his translation of the Revised Dossier with great care, giving the original Latin text in the footnotes. Alongside the English text, he includes Henschen's comments, together with the text of his notes from his earlier 1643 Dossier where these differ. Patrick Mullins' English is a careful literal translation of the Latin text which follows the word order of the original Latin very closely. In fact, the translation not only follows the Latin word order but also copies the same layout and use of capitals, etc. This makes it very helpful for anyone with little knowledge of Latin and gives a good glimpse of the elegance and flowery nature of Henschen's Latin.

One welcome new element in Section I of the Revised Dossier is the text of Henschen's address to the Carmelite Chapter of the Belgian Province on the 8th May 1659 which is printed at the beginning of the Revised Dossier. This address reveals Henschen's appreciation of the Order and its ideals. He singles out the noted Carmelite historian Juan Bautista de Lezana for high praise, and especially the 4th volume of his Annales which had appeared in 1656. Henschen's courtesy, his learning and his warm appreciation of the Carmelites reveal another side of his character which gives an extra dimension to his Revised Dossier.

It is difficult to decide for whom the two versions of Henschen's Dossier are intended. Joachim Smet's edition of The Life of Saint Peter Thomas by Philippe de Mézières remains the definitive Latin text of Mézière's work. [4] This work has recently been re-issued but, sadly, an English translation of the life is still awaited. Patrick Mullins' translation of the life in Henschen's Revised Dossier is very helpful but Henschen did not have access to the wide range of manuscripts which were available to Joachim Smet. If Henschen had been asked which version of his Dossier should be used, then it is clear that he would have had no hesitation in recommending the Revised Dossier which represents the most complete and developed compilation of his researches. On the other hand, for anyone studying the process by which the Bollandists approached their task of compiling the Acta Sanctorum, a comparison of the two versions of the Dossier could be very illuminating.

Certainly, by publishing his translation and the helpful notes by Henschen on the two versions of the Dossier, Patrick Mullins has made available a wealth of material on St Peter Thomas which will be welcomed by other historians, especially those who lack a good knowledge of the Latin language. However, for those primarily interested in the life of Peter Thomas, this edition of Henschen's Revised Dossier with its helpful notes on the changes from the first Dossier will be a more than adequate introduction to one of the most significant Carmelite saints of the 14th century and Patrick Mullins' careful edition of Henschen's Revised Dossier will give a valuable insight into the dedicated scholarly labours of the Bollandists in their production of the Acta Sanctorum.


[1] (i) St Albert of Jerusalem and the Roots of Carmelite Spirituality (Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana; 34), Rome 2012. (ii) The Carmelites and St Albert of Jerusalem. Origins and Identity (Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana; 38), Rome 2015. (iii) The Life of St Albert of Jerusalem. A Documentary Biography. Part 1 (Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana; 42), Rome 2016. (iv) The Life of St Albert of Jerusalem. A Documentary Biography. Part 2 (Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana; 43), Rome 2017. Nos. (ii)-(iv) have been reviewed in sehepunkte.

[2] Daniel Papenbroeck, SJ: The Bollandist Dossier on St Albert of Jerusalem (Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana; 39), ed. & trans. by Patrick Mullins, O. Carm. Rome 2015.

[3] Reviewed in sehepunkte 19 (2019), Nr. 4.

[4] Joachim Smet, O.Carm.: The Life of Saint Peter Thomas by Philippe de Mézières (Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana; 2), Rome 1954 (repr. 2016).

Richard Copsey