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William of Saint-Bénigne of Dijon, St.


A reform abbot; b. Isola S. Giulio d'Orta, Novara, Italy, 962; d. Abbey of Fécamp, Jan. 1, 1031. The son of Robert, count of Volpiano, William was given as a child oblaté to the benedictine monastery of San Genuario at Locedio, near Vercelli, and was later professed there. He studied at Vercelli and at Pavia, and in 987 met Abbot majolus of cluny, with whom he returned to cluny. In 988 Majolus entrusted him with the reform of Saint-Saurin, Avignon, and in 989 with the reform of the Abbey of Saint-Bénigne of Dijon. In 990 the community of Saint-Bénigne elected him abbot; at the same time he was ordained priest by Bruno, bishop of Dijon.

William was an ardent proponent of the cluniac reform, and he founded (100103) the Abbey of fruttuaria in Lombardy with the help of his brothers and of his uncle, King Arduin of Italy. This became a center of Cluniac influence in northern Italy, and in the mid-11th century the reforms of Fruttuaria were adopted at Sieg-burg and sankt blasien, and spread thence into Germany. In 1001 Richard II of Normandy replaced the secular canons of La Trinité Fécamp with monks from Dijon, and fÉcamp became a center for monastic reform in Normandy. Among other monasteries there, William reformed jumiÈges and mont saint-michel. The observance of Dijon was introduced into Poland by Anastasius (or Astrik) of Hungary, a disciple of Bp. adalbert of prague, who became first abbot of Meseritz in 996997. By the time of his death William ruled 40 monasteries, and in all the houses reformed by him he had attempted to establish a tradition of learning. He also promoted the spread of Romanesque architecture in France, and rebuilt the abbey church of Saint-Bénigne. He was never canonized, but he is commemorated in the Benedictine martyrology. His biography was written by his contemporary, Rodulphus Glaber [Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne (Paris 187890) 142:697720].

Feast: Jan. 1.

Bibliography: l. É. gougaud, ed., Chronique de l' abbaye de Saint-Bénigne de Dijon (Dijon 1875), with a life. Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 187890) 141:869872, 115557. g. chevallier, Le Vénérable Guillaume, abbé de Saint-Bénigne de Dijon (Paris 1875), with seven sermons and a tract attributed to William. w. williams, "William of Dijon," Monastic Studies (Manchester, Eng. 1938) 99120. p. schmitz, Histoire de l' Ordre de Saint-Benoît, 7 v. (Maredsous, Bel. 194256) v.1, passim. j. marilier, Catholicisme. Hier, aujourd'hui et demain, ed. g. jacquemet (Paris 1947) 5:384385.

[b. hamilton]

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