January 1 : William of Dijon, abbot (1031)

William of Dijon, abbot (1031) (a.k.a. William of Saint Benignus)

Born near Nocera (Novara) in 962; died at Fécamp, Normandy, on January 1, 1031. William, son of Count Robert of Volpiano, was born in the family castle on San Giuglio Island in Lake Orta while his father was defending the island against the attacking Emperor Otto, who became his sponsor when he captured the island. At age seven, William entered the Benedictine abbey of Locadio near Vercelli, where he received his education. After becoming a monk there, William joined Saint Majolus at Cluny in 987.

William reorganized Saint Sernin Abbey on the Rhône, before being named abbot of Saint Benignus at Dijon with the mission of restoring it. In 990, William was ordained to the priesthood. Under his direction the abbey became a great center of spirituality, education, and culture, and the mother monastery of some 40 others in Burgundy, Lorraine, Normandy, and northern Italy. He travelled widely, spreading the Cluniac reform.

Saint William was famed for his great zeal for the Church. He demonstrated gentleness with and tender concern for the poor, but in his dealings with the great he showed remarkable firmness. Towards the end of his life he founded the abbey of Fruttuaria in Piedmont. He died at Fécamp Monastery in Normandy, which he had rebuilt (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).