Williamites an order of monks deriving their name from a hermit, who, after conversion from a licentious life, had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by the advice of hermits and pope Eugenius III, and had then, in 1153. established a hermitage in a desert of Tuscany, near Pisa. Disorderly followers destroyed all prospect of retirement here, and he sought a new refuge in the depths of a forest on Monte Pruno. New disciples gathered about him, who, in time, became offended with him and expelled him from their society. He returned to his original retreat on the island of Lupocavia, but found the community unimproved, and therefore journeyed until he discovered a stony vale containing a cave, in the bishopric of Grosseto, in Siena. Here he settled in 1155 and began all ascetical life, whose rigor was somewhat relieved by the lord of Buriano, who built him a cell. In the following year Albert became his associate, and a year later Rainald arrived, though only in time to assist at the burial of William, who had died February 10, 1157., These two men remained at the place, which was at first called Stabulum Rhodis, and afterwards Malavalle, and which became the original of all the congregations of hermits which adopted the name of Williamites. Such congregations extended over the whole of Italy and beyond, to Germany, the Netherlands, and France. The institutions of their founder, together with a description of his life, had been transmitted from Albert. They maintained a perpetual fast. Gregory IX gave them the rule of Benedict, and permitted them to wear shoes. Innocent IV issued a bull in 1248 touching the election of a general prior, and conferring privileges on the order. Alexander IV ordered its incorporation with an order of Augustinian eremites, but recalled his bull of April 13, 1256, in view of the violent protest raised against the scheme, though matters had progressed so far as to occasion serious difficulties in the order, which involved the loss of a number of monasteries in 1266. In 1435 the Couficil of Basle confirmed the privileges possessed by the order, which then covered the three provinces of Tuscany, Germany, and Flanders and France. At the beginning of the 18th century only twelve convents remained to the order, all of which were in Flanders, and by the end of the century they too were extinct. An order of knights of St. William has been spoken of, but is entirely apocryphal. See Bolland, Acta Sanctorum, February 10, with Henschen's Diss.; and Helyot, Hist. d. Ordres Monast. Relig. et Militaires, 1:250; 3:13; 6:142-152; also Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.

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