St William

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Several people called William have been canonized. Two relatively important ones are venerated in England:

  • St William of York (d. 1154); born William Fitzherbert some time not later than the 1090s. He was elected Archbishop of York in 1141, to succeed Archbishop Thurstan, but a series of power struggles both in the church (with the Cistercians) and in the court of King Stephen concluded with his deposition and the election of Henry Murdac (d. 1153) in 1147. On Murdac's death in 1153, William was re-installed as Archbishop, but died himself, allegedly from poison placed in the chalice with which he had celebrated Mass.
    • William appears to have been popular among the people of York. Their acclaim at his second enthronement was such that, it is said, the crowd on Ouse Bridge was so great that it collapsed into the river. That no one was killed is recorded as the first of his miracles. Many others followed, and his shrine became a goal of pilgrimage. His tomb may still be seen in the crypt of York Minster. He was formally canonized in 1227. He is commemorated in the name of St William's College in the environs of York Minster, founded in 1460 as a residence for priests in the Minster.
  • St William of Norwich was supposedly born in 1132 or 1123, just outside Norwich. In 1144 his body was found in a wood with signs of violent death. The story spread that he had been murdered by Jews - perhaps the earliest appearance of the blood libel. About 1150, Thomas of Monmouth became a monk at Norwich Cathedral, became interested in the story and wrote The Life and Miracles of St William of Norwich, finishing its seven volumes in 1172-3. That he became Sacristan of William's shrine may have been a motive.
    • William was alleged to have been ritually murdered by the Jews of Norwich. This accusation was not believed by the Bishop of Norwich (Everard of Calne), nor by the secular authority, the sheriff of Norfolk, who took the Jews under his protection. William Yurbe, then prior of Norwich Cathedral, who became its Bishop in 1146, believed the accusation, and in his episcopacy had 'little William's' body enshrined in the chapel of the Holy Martyrs. Here it attracted (a decreasing number of) pilgrims until the Reformation.
      • Other Saint Williams include Saint William of Gellone, a cousin of Charlemagne and a warrior (755-812 or 814); Saint William of Montevergine, abbot and hermit (d. 1142); Saint William of Maleval or Saint William the Great, hermit (d. 1157) - sometimes confused with William of Montevergine; Saint William of Perth (where he was born) (or Rochester, where he died), the patron saint of adopted children, killed by his adoptive son c. 1201 and regarded as a martyr because they were on pilgrimage; Saint William of Æbelholt, also known as William of Paris or William of the Paraclete - French ecclesiastic active in Denmark (c. 1125-1203); and Saint William of Donjeon, also known as William of Bourges, William the Confessor or William Berroyer - Archbishop of Bourges (c.1155 – 1209).