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William de Gellone, Count of Toulouse

Male Abt 753 - 812  (~ 59 years)


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  • Name William de Gellone, Count of Toulouse 
    Suffix Count of Toulouse 
    Born Abt 753  , , France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    _UID 1725761B5CE64DACBCED40F0316494A0AAF1 
    Died 28 May 812 
    Notes 
    • Saint William of Gellone (755 Ė 28 May (traditional) 812/4) was the second Count of Toulouse from 790 until his replacement in 811. His Occitan name is Guilhem, and he is known in French as Guillaume d'Orange, Guillaume Fierabrace, and the Marquis au court nez.

      He is the hero of the Chanson de Guillaume, an early chanson de geste, and of several later sequels, which were categorized by thirteenth-century poets as the geste of Garin de Monglane. Another early product of oral traditions about William is a Latin Vita ("Biography"), written before the 11th century, according to Jean Mabillon, or during the 11th century according to the Bollandist Godfrey Henschen.

      William was born in northern France in the mid-8th century. He was a cousin of Charlemagne (his mother Aldana was daughter of Charles Martel) and the son of Thierry IV, Count of Autun and Toulouse. As a kinsman and trusted comes he spent his youth in the court of Charlemagne. When William was made Count of Toulouse in 790, Charlemagne placed his young son Louis the Pious, who was to inherit Aquitaine, in his charge. As Count he successfully subdued the Gascons.

      In 793, Hisham I (called by the Franks Hescham), the successor of Abd ar-Rahman I, proclaimed a holy war against the Christians to the north. He amassed an army of 100,000 men, half of which attacked the Kingdom of Asturias while the other half invaded Languedoc, penetrating as far as Narbonne.

      William met this force and defeated them. He met the Muslim forces again near the river Orbieux, at Villedaigne, where he was defeated, though his obstinate resistance exhausted the Muslim forces so much that they retreated to Spain. However, Narbonne was garrisoned and remained under Muslim control. In 803, William took part in the campaign that took Barcelona from the Moors.

      In 804, he founded the monastery of Gellone (now Saint-Guilhem-le-D‚esert) near LodŠeve in the diocese of Maguelonne, which he placed under the general control of Benedict of Aniane, whose monastery was nearby. He retired as a monk there in 806 where he eventually died on the 28 May 812 (or 814). His feast is on that date.

      Among his gifts to the abbey he founded was a piece of the True Cross, a present from his cousin Charlemagne, who reportedly wept at his death. Charlemagne had received the relic from the Patriarch of Jerusalem according to the Vita of William. When he died, it was said the bells at Orange rang on their own accord. He mentioned both his family and monastery in his will. [1]. He granted property to Gellone and placed the monastery under the perpetual control of the abbots of Aniane. It became a subject of contention however as the reputation of William grew. So many pilgrims were attracted to Gellone that his corpse was exhumed from the modest site in the narthex and given a more prominent place under the choir, to the intense dissatisfaction of the Abbey of Aniane. A number of forged documents and assertions were produced on each side that leave details of actual history doubtful. The Abbey was a major stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Its late 12th century Romanesque cloister, systematically dismantalled during the French revolution, found its way to The Cloisters in New York. The Sacramentary of Gellone, dating to the late 8th century, is a famous manuscript.

      William's faithful service to Charlemagne is portrayed as an example of feudal loyalty. William's career battling Saracens is sung in epic poems in the 12th and 13th century cycle called La Geste de Garin de Monglane, some two dozen chansons de geste that actually center around William, the great-grandson of the largely legendary Garin.

      One section of the cycle, however, is devoted to the feats of his father, there named Aymeri de Narbonne, who has received Narbonne as his seigniory after his return from Spain with Charlemagne. Details of the "Aymeri" of the poem are conflated with a later historic figure who was truly the viscount of Narbonne from 1108 to 1134. In the chanson he is awarded Ermengart, daughter of Didier, and sister of Boniface, king of the Lombards. Among his seven sons and five daughters (one of whom marries Louis the Pious) is William.

      The defeat of the Moors at Orange was given legendary treatment in the 12th century epic La Prise d'Orange. There, he was made Count of Toulouse in the stead of the disgraced Chorso, then King of Aquitaine in 778. He is difficult to separate from the legends and poems that gave him feats of arms, lineage and titles: Guillaume FiŠerebras, Guillaum au Court-Nez (broken in a battle with a giant), Guillaum de Narbonne, Guillaume d'Orange. His wife is said to have been a converted Saracen, Orable later christened Guibourc.
    Person ID I262  Ireland
    Last Modified 5 Mar 2012 

    Father Theuderic, Duke of Toulouse,   b. 710,   d. 793, , , France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 83 years) 
    Mother Aude Aldane,   b. 732, , , Swabia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Unknown 
    Family ID F2421  Group Sheet

    Family Mrs. William,   b. Abt 555, Of Lombardy, , Italy Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married Abt 574  Of, , , Italy Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
    +1. Bertha Bernard Mantel, Queen of Italy,   b. Abt 777, Of Lombardy, , Italy Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 1 Feb 2012 
    Family ID F239  Group Sheet