saint william the hermit

Today’s celebration records the historical period of the eremetical life in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries which were considered the pre-history of the Order of Saint Augustine.

Saint William the Hermit by Mario Ferrari, Rome, Italy.Though little is known of Saint William’s early life, it is reputed that he was born in France of a noble family. After having made several pilgrimages to Spain, Rome, and the Holy Land, he attempted to reform some groups of hermits in Tuscany. When these efforts failed, he withdrew to a hermitage in the region of Malavalle, near Castiglione della Pescaia in Grosseto, to live a life of prayer and penance. His example attracted a sole disciple, Albert, who has left a description of his master’s life of asceticism, sometimes called the “Rule of Saint William.”

William died on 10 February 1157. His canonization by Innocent III in 1202 drew many pilgrims to visit his tomb, some of whom remained in Malavalle in order to follow the way of life of this saintly hermit. In time these disciples evolved into the Order of Saint William and spread widely into France, Belgium, Germany, and Hungary. In 1215, following the decrees of the Lateran Council, they adopted the Rule of Saint Benedict, but in 1256 they were among the groups summoned by Alexander IV to unite with the Order of Saint Augustine in the Grand Union. Though the greater number of Williamites withdrew from the Union within several months, ten of their foundations remained Augustinian.

The Augustinian Family celebrates his feast on 23 October.