William of Hirsau, Bl.
WILLIAM OF HIRSAU, BL.
Reforming abbot; b. Bavaria; d. Abbey of Hirsau, July 4, 1091. He was a child oblate at sankt emmeram in Regensburg. In 1069 he was appointed abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of hirsau, although he refused to take office before the death of his predecessor, Abbot Frederick (1071), who he thought had been unjustly deposed. He received full exemption for his monastery from Pope gregory vii in 1075, and became a zealous supporter of the Hildebrandine cause within the Empire during the investiture struggle.
Between 1076 and 1078 William introduced at Hirsau the practice of professing monastic servants, who were known as fratres exteriores. This practice became widespread and was adopted at Cluny, probably at the end of the century. It marks an important step toward the development in the Benedictine tradition of fratres conversi. Then, in 1079, Pope Gregory's legate Bernard, Abbot of saint-victor in Marseilles, and ulric of zell came to Hirsau and persuaded William to adopt the customs of cluny for his abbey. Abbot hugh of cluny then caused an adaptation of the customs to be made, and these—combined with customs from Sankt Emmeram—were implemented at Hirsau shortly before William's death, as the Constitutiones Hirsaugienses (Patrologia Latina 150:927–1146).
William attracted so many vocations that it became necessary to build a second monastery at Hirsau (1083–92), and colonies were sent to promote the work of reform in Styria and Carinthia, and at Magdeburg and Erfurt. Over 100 eventually came to observe the Constitutiones Hirsaugienses. William had sought to make Hirsau a learned community, and was himself the author of a work on musical theory (Patrologia Latina 50:1147–78) and one on astronomy (Patrologia Latina, 150:1639–42). His life was written by his disciple, Prior Haymo of Hirsau, who died in 1107 (Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores 12:209–225).
Feast: July 5.
Bibliography: p. giseke, Die Hirschauer während des Investiturstreites (Gotha 1883). m. fischer, Studien zur Entstehung der Hirsauer Konstitutionen (Stuttgart 1910). a. brackmann, "Die Anfänge von Hirsau," in Papsttum und Kaisertum (Munich 1926) 215–232. m. manitius, Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters, 3 v. (Munich 1911–31) 3:220–226. p. schmitz, Histoire de l'Ordre de Saint-Benoît, 7 v. (Maredsous, Bel. 1942–56) 1:202–203, 289; 2:250. k. g. fellerer, "Zum Musiktraktat des W. von H.," Festschrift Wilhelm Fischer zum 70. Geb. (Vienna 1956) 61–70. m. a. schmidt, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 6:1714.