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Abbot of Hirschau, monastic reformer, born in Bavaria; died at Hirschau, 5 July 1091. He was educated and took the Benedictine habit at St. Emmeram, Ratisbon. In 1069 he was called to Hirschau to succeed the deposed Abbot Frederick. He at once assumed the management of the monastery, but would not accept the abbatial benediction till after the death of his unjustly deposed predecessor in 1071. Under William's abbacy, Hirschau reached the zenith of its glory and, despite the unusually strict monastic discipline which he introduced from Cluny, the number of priest-monks increased from 15 to 150. He was the first to introduce lay brothers (fratres laici, also called conversi, barbati, or exteriores) into the German Benedictine monasteries. Before his time there were, indeed, men-servants engaged at the monasteries, but they lived outside the monastery, wore no religious garb, and took no vows. In 1075 William went to Rome to obtain the papal confirmation for the exemption of Hirschau. On this occasion he became acquainted with Gregory VII, with whose reformatory labours he was in deep sympathy and whom he afterwards strongly supported in the great conflict with Henry IV. William had received an excellent education at St. Emmeram, and in the knowledge of the quadrivials he was unsurpassed in his time. He constructed various astronomical instruments, made a sun-dial which showed the variations of the heavenly bodies, the solstices, equinoxes, and other sidereal phenomena ("Bernoldi chronicon" in P. L., CXLVIII, 1404). He was also a skilled musician and made various improvements on the flute (Aribo Scholasticus, "De musica", in P. L., CL, 1334). Besides composing the "Constitutiones Hirsaugienses" (P. L., CL, 923-1146), he is the author of a treatise "De astronomia", of which only the prologue is printed (P. L., loc. cit., 1639), and "De musica" (P. L., loc. cit., 1147-78), of which a new critical edition with a German translation was prepared by Hans Müller, "Die Musik Wilhelms von Hirsau" (Frankfort, 1883). William also had a standard edition of the Vulgate made for all the monasteries of the Hirschau reform. He is commemorated in various martyrologies on 4 of 5 July.
KERKER, Wilhelm der Selige, Abt von Hirschau (Tubingen, 1863); HELMSDORFER, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Abtes Wilhelm (Gottingen, 1874); WITTEN, Der selige Wilhelm, Abt von Hirschau (Bonn, 1890); GISEKE, Die Ausgbreitung der Hirschauer Regel (Halle, 1877); ALBERS, Hirsau und seine Grundungen in Festschrift zum 1100-jahrigen Jubildum des deutschen Campo Santo in Rom (Freiburg, 1897), 115-129; SUSSMANN, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Klosters Hirsau (Halle, 1904). The earliest life of William was written shortly after his death by his contemporary HAYMO OF HIRSCHAU. Subsequently various legendary additions came to it (P. L., CL, 889-924, a more critical edition by WATENBACH in Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script., XII, 209-225).