2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.
William the Great
Thought to have been a Frenchman by birth, William of Malevalle was a soldier with a reputation for licentiousness. He is said to have repented and gone on a pilgrimage to Rome. He undertook a second pilgrimage, thought to have been officially penitential, to the Holy Land, and on his return to Tuscany in 1153, he was named abbot of a monastery near Pisa; unable to maintain discipline among the monks, he retired to a hermitage on Mt. Bruno that developed into a monastery, where William was again unsuccessful as an abbot. He returned to the solitary life in 1155 at Malevalle, near Siena. He attracted two disciples, Albert and Renaldo, who continued to follow William's rule after his death in 1157.
Followers of his strict rule became known as Guillemites, or barefoot friars. William's cult was approved in 1202, and the order spread through Italy into France and Germany. Gregory IX replaced the harsh rule with the Rule of St. Benedict, and the order, now extinct, was divided among the Benedictines and the Augustinian canons.
Karen Rae Keck
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