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Saint William of Bourges

Saint William of Bourges
  • Century: 12th & 13th Century
  • Patronage: University of Paris
  • Feast Day: January 10th

St. William of Bourges was born in 1155, as William Berruyer, a French citizen.  He was the Archbishop of Bourges from 1200 – 1209.  He was a descendant of the family of the ancient Counts of Nevers.  He was educated under the care of Peter, the Archdeacon of Soissons, who was also his maternal uncle. 

At an early age he learned to elude the vanities of the world and to practice exercises of piety, and to the gaining of knowledge.  Upon entering the ecclesiastical state he became Canon of Soissons of Paris.  Later he resolved to abandon the world and entered the Order of Grandmount.  He lived in this Order for a period of time and practiced great austerities.  Because of dissensions between the Priests and Lay Brothers in this order, he decided to go over to the recently founded and more austere Order of the Cistercians.  Shortly after he entered and took the habit, he became the Abbot. 

He had a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and loved to spend much of his time at the foot of the Altar.  In the year 1200, the Clergy of the Church of Bourges elected him to succeed Henry de Sully, their Archbishop.  This caused him strong grief, and only a stern command from the general of the Cistercians could move him to accept with dignity, the Archbishop position.  As Archbishop, he continued his austerities, to the point of constantly wearing a hair shirt and never ate meat. 

He was instrumental in the on-going construction of the Gothic Cathedral of St. Stephen, which had begun under his predecessor in 1195.  In the early part of his ecclesiastical reign, the lower half of the Cathedral was completed and by December 1208, the choir was partially finished, at which time he was able to celebrate the Christmas Liturgy.  As he was preparing for a mission, he died kneeling at prayer, on January 10, 1209.  In his last will and testament he requested to be buried with his hair shirt and in ashes.  There are a recorded eighteen miracles during his life, and another eighteen after his death.  He is the Patron Saint of the University of Paris. 

Practical Take Away

St. William of Bourges was a very humble, servant of the Church, practicing heroic austerities.  He joined the Cistercian Order, and eventually entered the Order of Grandmount.  From there he was elected as the Archbishop of Bourges, and remained there until he died, in prayer, on his knees. He set an example to all those around him, and the Church he served, the virtues of holiness.