The appearance of Monastery of Cluny in the 10th century went almost unnoticed by contemporaries, but within only two centuries it would come to lead a true monastic empire. It was founded out of a sincere desire to return to the sound practice of the Rule of Saint Benedict of Nurcia, and disappeared from history under the blows of the French revolutionaries of 1789.
Situated in the north-west of the town of Macon in the Burgundy region of France, the monastery of Cluny was founded in 909-910 by William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Auvergne. The founding document states, contrary to the custom of the time, that the entire patrimony is subject to the interference of any authority, secular or ecclesiastical, the abbey thus coming under the direct protection of the Holy See. In this way, Guillaume entrusted the new abbey to the management of Bernon, a former abbot of Baume, who was known for the rigour with which he lived his monastic life.
The monastery grew in importance during the pontificate of Leo V (936-939), when there were already 300 monasteries under its jurisdiction. With the construction of the monastery of Cluny begins the period of Roman art, here being used both elements of this style, as well as elements of Carolingian and Byzantine art.
Where is the monastery of Cluny?
In the almost two thousand years of Christianity’s existence, monastic life has experienced periods of boom, flourishing, worrying collapses, marked abandonment, but it has never completely disappeared. It has not disappeared because monastic life is a dimension of human existence, a characteristic of any culture that has reached a certain degree of spirituality.
According to historians, the monastery of Cluny is 100km north of Lyon or 20km from Macon in the historic Burgundy region. Macon also has a TGV station, being located on the Paris – Lyon line.
There have been and always will be people who will organise their whole life around the contemplative dimension of the human being. This tendency was also present before Christian monasticism. Nearly two thousand years before Christ, when God commanded Abram to leave his country, Haran, and go to the land He would show him, the first known forms of monastic life appeared in pre-Vedic India.
Why was the Abbey of Cluny important?
Cluny is today one of the most attractive tourist spots in Burgundy. Lovers of the Roman arts will have the opportunity to admire the monastery’s ornaments, the town that preserves Roman monuments, because Cluny preserves the most important architectural ensemble of Roman houses in Burgundy. Also in Cluny are preserved the remains of the Roman chapel of Saint Odilon and the parish church of Saint Maieul.
The Abbey of Cluny was the most important center of Catholicism in Europe after the Vatican, and it is important because the church within the Abbey was the largest Christian church until the 17th century. 16th century when St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican was completed. The Abbey was directly subject to the Vatican, and some of the Abbots of Cluny even became Popes.
Cluny III also has a combination of large transepts, many apses and very high towers. Today only the southern arms of the large and small transepts can still be seen, as well as the octagonal belfry called “Blessed Water”. In the southern arms of the small transept is the Jean de Bourbon Chapel, dating from the 16th CE.
Why was the Cluny monastery so important to the church?
Abbot or Abbot Bernon is the one who lays the foundations of the first church called Cluny I, which he will dedicate to the Holy Apostles Petra and Paul and which will be completed during the time of his successor, Odon, in 927. The Cluny II monastic complex, known from descriptions in Liber Tramitis, was built during the reign of the fourth abbot, Maieul (954-994). It was consecrated in 981 and completed between 1002-1018, during the abbacy of Odilon (994-1049), who changed the wooden monastery into a marble one.
The Cluny monastery so important to the church because with its help, the priests and the church began to grow rich. In 1798 the lands of the monastery are divided and sold by lots. The government sends inspectors to order a halt to the demolition, but this order comes too late, leaving much of what was once the building untouched.
Odilon de Mercoeur is the true founder of the Cluniac Order, being the advisor of the princes, the unconditional support of the papacy and the reformer of church morals. The construction of Cluny III, the ruins of which can be seen today, was begun in 1088, during the reign of Abbot Hugues de Semur (1049-1109) and completed during the reign of Peter the Venerable (1109-1156). The main architect of this construction, completed in 1130, was Hezelon of Liege. Now the monastery becomes the largest religious edifice in the world until the construction of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1612.
What did the Cistercians believe?
One of the cleverest things and ideas the Cistercians believed and did was to promote religious tourism. They wrote the first travel guides for pilgrims. So Lonely Planet started with them. They promoted pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostella in particular.
In 1088 the construction of Cluny III Cathedral began. The largest church in Europe. The construction of the Church coincided with the economic problems and the emergence of new orders of monks who took over, if we may say so. Slowly, the Abbey of Cluny lost its power, and in 1562, the Huguenots destroyed the Library.
Key Verse related to The Monastery of Cluny
“Cluny Abbey is a former Benedictine monastery in Cluny, Saône-et-Loire, France. It was also dedicated to Saint Peter. The abbey was also constructed in the Romanesque architectural style, with three churches built in succession from the 4th to the early 12th centuries. The earliest basilica was the world’s largest church until the St. Peter’s Basilica construction began in Rome.”
Read also: What happened at the Council of Chalcedon?
What conditions are mentioned in the legacy of William of Aquitaine?
The Pope decides that any monastery wishing to follow the example of the application of the Rule of St. Benedict offered by Cluny, may join it by forming a network of monasteries generically called Ecclesia cluniacensis.
William of Aquitaine’s will contains three particular conditions for the foundation of the monastery:
- The monastery is defined as a house of prayer “where our prayers, petitions and also desires may be addressed to the Lord for myself and for all those whose memory I have evoked”.
- Also the monastery will take care of the poor and pilgrims.
- The monastery is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. The monastery is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. The monks are free to choose their own abbot.
In this way the monastery is removed from the jurisdiction of the secular power represented by the king or nobles and from the jurisdiction of the local ecclesiastical power. The dispensation is solemnly pronounced by Pope John XI in 932, specifying also the removal of the monastery from the influence of any descendants of Duke William.
- Christian monasticism has something in common (the contemplative dimension of the human being) with these forms of manifestation of monastic life, but it is radically different because it is a way of living the Christian life, of integrating into daily life the message of Christ that we find in the Gospels.
- The founder of Christian monasticism can be considered the Saviour himself when he says to the rich young man: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give them to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
- On 11 September 909 (or 910) Guillaume, Duke of Aquitaine and also Count of Mâcon, donates to Bernon, the first abbot, an estate at Cluny to build a Benedictine monastery that strictly observes the Rule of St Benedict of Nursia.
The monastery of Cluny became the beacon of monastic reform in France and its future area of influence. On the other hand, the spirit of the reform initiated at Cluny would support the Church in its struggle for emancipation from imperial tutelage, known as the ‘investiture struggle’.
Although the monastery was located far from the roads followed by European pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, the monastery’s fame grew rapidly and attracted pilgrims who followed the path through Mâcon. The influx of pilgrims soon led to the creation of a small village served by the neighbouring parish of Saint-Maïeul. Later, the settlement evolved.
Quiz about The Monastery of Cluny
- Leclercq, J. (1983). So. Prayer at Cluny. Therefore Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 51(4), 651-665.
- Pick, L. K. (2013). Therefore, Rethinking Cluny in Spain. Indeed Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, 5(1), 1-17.
- Rudolph, C. (1988). Bernard of Clairvaux’s Apologia as also a Description of Cluny, and the Controversy over Monastic Art. Also Gesta, 27(1/2), 125-132.
- So Graham, R., & Clapham, A. SO W. (1930). VI.—Also the Monastery of Cluny, 910–1155. Indeed Archaeologia, 80, 143-178.
- SO. Williams, J. (1988). So Cluny and Spain. also gesta, 27(1/2), 93-101.