Hermits of Saint William

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The Hermits of Saint William was a monastic order founded by Albert, companion and biographer of William of Maleval, and Renaldus, a physician who had settled at Maleval shortly before the saint's death. It followed the practice of that saint, and quickly spread over Italy, Germany, France, Flanders and Hungary.

The great austerity of the rule was mitigated by Gregory IX in 1229; at the same time many of the monasteries adopted the Benedictine Rule and others that of St. Augustine.

When, in 1256, Pope Alexander IV founded the Hermits of St. Augustine, many of the Williamites refused to enter the union and were permitted to exist as a separate body under the Benedictine Rule. In 1435 the order, which about this time numbered fifty-four monasteries in three provinces of Tuscany, Germany and France, received from the Council of Basle the confirmation of its privileges.

The Italian monasteries suffered during the wars in Italy. The last two (French and Flemish) houses at Cambrai and Ypres were suppressed by the Congregation of Regulars, while in Germany the greater number came to an end at the Revolution. The chief house at Grevenbroich (founded in 1281) was united to the Cistercians in 1628; the last German house ceased to exist in 1785. The habit was similar to that of the Cistercians.

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