Chapter #1

William of Maleval and William the Hermit: two names, one person

William of Maleval, now the patron saint of Castiglione della Pescaia and known as William the Hermit, was born in France to a wealthy ducal family of Aquitaine between the 10th and 11th centuries AD. He never wrote a biography or a journal of his deeds, so any information we have about his life comes to us from his first disciple, Albert. William was a knight of his time, to whom life had placed two choices before him: that of following an immoral and unruly life and that of following common morality and the good. Willem chose the first.

Chapter #2

William and the condemnation of excommunication

It was precisely this life that drew upon him the wrath of the Catholic Church, which led to his excommunication. We do not have much information about these frictions with the Church of Rome: certainly, a knight with a dissolute life would have been nothing new in the early Middle Ages; therefore, the excommunication must have concerned very important political issues about which, unfortunately, we have no certain information. He could have supported antipope Anacletus II, also endorsed by influential Bernard of Clairvaux, that is the one who brought William closer to religion.

Chapter #3

Towards redemption

The excommunication fell on William’s head like an axe: being banished by the religious world at the time had religious and political significance of immense power. It was exactly when he found himself excluded from the religious community that Willem started the path that would have led him to holiness. He undertook the three main pilgrimages: Santiago de Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem; and after he withdrew as a hermit in the Tuscan countryside, precisely in Malavalle (Maleval), in Castiglione della Pescaia.

Chapter #4

The fight with the dragon

Once in Castiglione della Pescaia, biography and popular legends are inextricably intertwined since Willem would have found inside a cave a dragon that had long haunted those places. The fight with the dragon was conducted in the name and according to the will of God: after making the sign of the cross, the saint killed the dragon with a touch of a stick and freed the territory of Castiglione and all its inhabitants from the terror.

Chapter #5

The monastery, the religious life and the holiness

L'Eremo di San Guglielmo a Castiglione della Pescaia
L'Eremo di San Guglielmo a Castiglione della Pescaia
L'Eremo di San Guglielmo a Castiglione della Pescaia

Saint Willem undertook in Maleval the strictest asceticism: he dedicated the last years of his life to silence, prayer and penitence for the life lived. He did not find, indeed, any religious order and did not write any rule, but welcomed only a disciple: Albert, who then transmitted his deeds. It was Albert himself who transcribed the teachings of Willem and set the Willem Rule. The rule of the order of Saint Willem was approved later, in 1211 by Pope Innocent III and the cult soon spread throughout much of Tuscany, the Marche and Lazio. 19 years later, in 1230, in the place of burial of Saint Willem in Maleval, a monastic complex, which is still possible to admire today, was built.