Richard and William Stories
There is no offense intended for both Mr. Richard Gutierrez, and the other Richard, Mr. Gomez, in the above-said paragraph. The confusion in their biographies demonstrate the similar but much more complicated mix-up in the life- histories of Saint William, Patron Saint of Dalaguete, and the other Williams, both sinners and saints. While it is very much easier to discern Richard Gutierrez from Richard Gomez, the Saint William case is a scholastic nightmare. Exaggeration aside, the life and death, (and almost everything in between), of our Saint William is shrouded with a concoction of myths, legends, and real history. The only certain things as of the moment are that he was not the son of Princess Diana, and that he did not write, Romeo and Juliet, at all.
The Roman Catholic faithful that shared a patron saint with us – from the churches of Catmon in Cebu, to that of Laoag in Ilocos Sur, and even that of Castiglione della Pescaia in Italy (to which according to tradition our Saint William breathed his last) – are one in the call that we cannot and must never allow this sort of a chopsuey biography of our patron saint to remain as it is, and hence, this humble research undertaking is being made.
THE AUGUSTINIAN CONNECTION
The above line-up of saints is displayed together for a reason. In one way or the other, they are all connected with the 13th-century group of friar-monks which we now come to know as the Order of Saint Augustine, or simply the Augustinians. A little review of history reveals that our Catholic faith is intertwined with the 1521 Fernando Magallanes and Pedro de Valderama stories. Having fought and lost the now famous April 27 Battle of Mactan, the first missionary priest and the expedition’s chaplain Father Pedro de Valderama found himself among the survivors of the First of May massacre that killed 27 of Magallanes’ remaining men. Being unable to continue his missionary work, he was one of those who hurriedly embarked and continued their voyage to the Moluccas. This is the reason why the glory of being the first missionaries of the Philippines was given to Fray Andres de Urdaneta and his other 4 companions, (Friars Martin de Rada, Diego de Herrera, Andres de Aguirre, and Pedro de Gamboa), all of the Augustinian Order who accompanied the 1565 expedition of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. This thus started the Augustinian influence in the ecclesiastical history of the island-province of Cebu, Dalaguete included.
Prior to the 1900s, Cebu simply did not have an effective means of transportation – which was, ironically, a blessing in disguise. The significant distance of Dalaguete from the central government had shielded our town from the intrigues and power struggles of the capital, and thus, with the exception of those feared but eventually subjugated Moro raiders, much of the town’s Spanish era history is a leisurely narrative of arrivals and departures of Augustinian friars assigned at the parish church. It is therefore not a surprise that the Augustinian community would put as a patron saint of Dalaguete a holy man among their ranks.
The first settlement at Castiglione della Pescaia in Maremma, Province of Grosseto in Italy, stood on the hill facing the outlet of Lake Prile (Prilis Lacus). On the banks of the lake, near the outlet, the Romans established fisheries, salt basins and a village. It is from those fisheries that Castiglione della Pescaia got its name. Tradition has it that sometime in September of 1155, a warrior-nobleman from Aquitania, having decided to leave the sword to devote himself to the hermit’s life, arrived alone and settled at the dreaded Stabulum Rodis (Stable of Rhodes) of the Castiglione. The region by then was so desolate and damned that its very sight would have made even the most resolute of would-be hermits to think twice. It was indeed one of the last places on earth that anyone would dare to go, and for this reason, it earned the name, Maleval (spelled in Italian as Malavalle, and which means wicked valley). Before settling at the Maleval, this penitent hermit went back and forth between two to three different places in frantic search of absolute poverty – the more uninhabitable the place was, the more fulfilling it would be to his self-imposed new lifestyle. The hermitic life is a painful struggle of trying to be in constant commune with God in an almost inaccessible place – amidst the harsh weather, intense hunger, and the constant temptation of returning to the mainstream world. So horrible were the ascetic practices of the hermits that premature deaths of so many almost always came in a hurry. Meanwhile, the warrior-turned-hermit’s existence in the Maleval area was virtually left unnoticed. Having lived in the icy confines of a cave, he ate nothing but herbs and roots and for four months in a row, had not seen a single trace of human life other than his own. Wearing a single outfit all throughout the rest of his Maleval life and with chains intertwined in his body for his ornament, one could no longer distinguish his rotten flesh from his rotten cloth.
On January of 1156, news went like wildfire to the four corners of the Castiglione about the discovery of this most holy man from Aquitania. They call him by the name depending on their nationality – for the Castilians, he was Guillermo; for the Italians, he was Guglielm; for the Germans, he was Wilhelm; and for the rest of the English-speaking world, he was William. Some of them correctly recognized him as the struggling leader of a group of hermits way back in another Italian town of Monte Pruno, who, having failed to establish order among his men, decided to live the hermitic life all alone. Others mistook him for one of the dukes of Aquitania who traveled his way three hundred miles to search for the God he could not find at home.
Meanwhile, at about the same time that William’s stay at Maleval was discovered, he was joined in on January 6, 1156 (Feast of the Epiphany), by an aspiring ascetic named Albert, (whom history would later fondly call as Albert of Maleval, chronicler of William, and founder of the Order of Saint William, also known as the Barefoot Friars, or simply the Williamites). More and more aspirants gathered at the small hermitage that William and Albert built. One of them, Renauld the physician, (to be known later as Renauld of Maleval, co-founder of the Williamites), came to stay and thereby completed the Malevalian Three, the founding pillars of the Order of Saint William. The hermitage at Maleval would become William’s final resting place on the 10th of February 1157, to the sorrow not only of the Castiglione but to the whole town of Maremma as well.
Following many reports of miracles wrought through the intercession of William, Pope Innocent III declared him a saint on May 8, 1202, via the Papal Bull Ex Littera. Then came the tentacles of destruction. In the 13th century, during the war with Siena, the hermitage was destroyed and the remains of our Saint William were scattered in neighboring countries. At the end of the 1500’s, the Venerable (and soon to be saint) John Nicolucci of Saint William, prior of the Augustinian monastery of Monte Cassiano retired to a hermit’s life there and oversaw the restoration of the place. In 1833, Castiglione della Pescaia was declared a town independent from Maremma and is now a seaside tourist attraction.
Twelve years later, four hermit groups participated in the Grand Union of 1256 summoned by Pope Alexander IV, namely – the Hermits of the Order of St. William (founded by Albert of Maleval), the Hermits of the Order of St. Augustine of Tuscany (founding members of the Little Union of 1243), the Hermits of Brother John the Good and the Hermits of Brettino – and from them, the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine has been created. By the passing time, the congregation gradually came to be known as the Order of Saint Augustine, or the Augustinian Fathers, or simply the Augustinians. As a consequence of the amalgamation of the Williamites into the Augustinians, our Saint William has thus become an Augustinian ninety-nine years after his death!
THE FOUR OTHER WILLIAMS: CLEARING OUT THE CONFUSIONS
In an age devoid of both the effective means of communication and an efficient compilation of historical data, (notwithstanding the writer’s tendency to romanticize the life story of his idolized saint), the rarity of reliable sources would often led historians to piece together several attributes of so many personalities into the life story of a single man. This is most especially true on hermit saints, as in our Saint William case. The Catholic archives and the written accounts of the Middle Ages’ rich and famous mentioned the following four other Williams.
A distant relative of Charlemagne, he was a great general and a nightmare to the Saracens, whom he decisively defeated at Orange. As a reward, Charlemagne made him Duke of Aquitania. However, in 806, having obtained the consent of his duchess, (who also renounced the world), and of Charlemagne, though with great difficulty, he received the habit at the hands of St. Benedict of Aniane and made his monastic profession at a monastery in Gellone, (since then referred to as St. William of the Wilderness), and remained there until his holy death in 812.
William IX (The Trobadour)
Born on October 22, 1071, William inherited the thrones of his father at the age of 15, and thus came to be known as William IX Duke of Aquitania, and concurrently William VII Count of Poitiers. An anonymous 13th-century biography of him remembered him thus: “He was one of the courtliest men in the world and one of the greatest deceivers of women. He was a fine knight at arms, liberal in his womanizing, and a fine composer and singer of songs. He traveled much through the world, seducing women.” He had such a rocky relationship with the Church that he was excommunicated by the Bishop of Poitiers at age 43. As the bishop was at the point of pronouncing the anathema, the duke threatened to kill him if he did not pronounce absolution. The bishop, surprised, pretended to comply, but when the duke, satisfied, released him, the bishop completed reading the anathema, before calmly presenting his neck and inviting the duke to strike. To this, the duke hesitated for a moment before sheathing his sword and replying, “I don’t love you enough to send you to paradise.” Duke William died on February 10, 1126, aged 55, after suffering a short illness.
One surviving legend narrated that Duke William X, after being wonderfully converted by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux to renounce his licentious life, had ingeniously faked his own death (via the high-profile poisoning incident), and was the very same person who lived and died a saintly hermit’s death at the Maleval in Castiglione twenty years later. It is for this reason that some sources would refer to him as the “Saint”. Meticulous and thorough review of the surviving literature of the age would however reveal that this is way too far from the truth. For one, taken for granted that Aquitania had buried a bogus Duke William X, it would be very illogical for the real Duke William, (after painstakingly engineering his own “death” to conceal his identity), to come out in the open in 1145, (roughly eight years after he “decided to die”), to once again ask for absolution from the new Pope Eugenius III.
The over-all picture of a hermit depicts him as an ascetic who, rejecting the modern world around him and facing a crisis of conscience, (often following a serious matter made by himself – perhaps committal of a crime or an experience of extraordinary vision), came to a conversion. He always chose a wild and lonely place (mountain, island, forest, if not wilderness), to live in solitary confinement or in small groups. Eating only raw herbs, wild fruits, and whatever else that were available in the area, he did not take anything for his appearance, which explains why the sacred writers generally describe him as a shaggy, bearded character wearing ragged clothes, and barefooted. And as a recompense for his rigid life, he was almost always reputed to have the gift of healing and the ability of knowing what was to come. And this was precisely our general impression of our Saint William. In order to paint a better picture of him, we sifted back more than eight centuries of world history, hopefully to separate the reality from the myth of his life and times, details of which were awfully intermingled with at least four other personalities of the same name.
William the Great of Gellone, the warrior-turned-hermit Duke of Aquitania, was born over two centuries too early to be the saint we are looking for. Duke William IX, other than their similarity of names with our Saint William, had also shared with our saint the same death anniversary of February 10. A careful review of his biography, though, would indicate that his saintly life was a classic case of the “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” – he was counted and weighed, and was found to be wanting. His son and successor to the throne, William X, was time and again called the Saint, when he was actually not, or shall we say not yet. Then there was William of Vercelli, who had practically lived a parallel life with our own Saint William – praying to the same God, under the same circumstance, under the same sun. But while the former was an Italian since birth and remained as such when he had slept for good, our Saint William was an Italian by choice, but an Aquitanian by blood.
Our Saint William. He might not be a Duke of Aquitania after all, but he must have been either a very important person or was such an infamous sinner or both, to get the audience of no less than Pope Eugenius III himself. Saint William – Warrior of Aquitania, Hermit of Maleval, Patron Saint of Dalaguete. Calling him Saint William of Aquitania is correct. Calling him Saint William of Maleval is more proper. However, calling him Saint William of Dalaguete is most appropriate. After all, being the oldest town in the country established under his tutelage, our peace-loving saint would not hesitate to once again take arms, (and a heavy cannon to that), to defend our beloved Dalaguete in times of war.