Albert Lagrange was born on 7 March 1855 in Bourg-en-Bresse, in the Ain department. He obtained his doctorate in law before entering the Dominicans of the province of Toulouse, where he received the name of Brother Marie-Joseph. We are in 1879, and Marie-Joseph will be ordained a priest in 1883.
Professor of ecclesiastical history and Holy Scripture, he was sent to the University of Vienna (Austria) to improve his studies in Oriental languages. There he received, on February 5, 1889, the order to leave for Jerusalem. He immediately sketched out a program and, on 15 November 1890, in a former Turkish slaughterhouse where the rings were still hanging for animals, he opened what he called the École Pratique d’Études Bibliques.
Father Lagrange did not hesitate: founding of the École biblique in 1890, the Revue Biblique in 1892, the collection of Biblical Studies in 1898, the development of archaeological research. All these “creations” become references that put the school in contact with scientists all over the world.
From his lectures on the “historical method”, given in 1902 in Toulouse, the beginnings of the difficulties encountered by Fr. Lagrange are part of what will later be called the modernist crisis.
Father Lagrange adhered to the encyclical Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII inviting to seek the solution of the difficulties raised by the rationalist analysis of the Bible by an exegesis at once traditional and progressive. But his scientific method was repugnant to some, and while he worked hard to refute those who questioned the essential data of the Christian faith, he was censured and had to leave Jerusalem for a year in 1912 .
Throughout this period of suspicion, which will last almost until the 1930s, and which will lead him among other things to renounce the publication of his commentary on Genesis, or to exile himself for a year in 1912, Father Lagrange will always remain d An absolute fidelity to the Church.
In the aftermath of the Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) and the War, the work and personality of Father Lagrange are now recognized as exemplary.
Aged 83, Marie-Joseph Lagrange died on March 10, 1938, in Saint-Maximin, where his poor health had forced him to return in 1935. His remains were buried in the conventual cemetery and then transported to Jerusalem and buried in the Basilica of St. Stephen, where they now rests.
His body was transported to the choir of St. Stephen’s Basilica in November 1967. His trial in beatification was opened in 1988, and it is hoped that a recognized miracle will finally lead him to the altars.