Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Cluny Abbey. The Benedictine Powerhouse Of The High Middle Ages.

Text and Illustrations from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

Coat of Arms of Cluny Abbey:
"Gules, two Keys in saltire,
the Wards upwards and outwards, or.
Overall, a Sword in pale, argent. Hilt or".
Drawn by Orror, for Blazon Project
of French-speaking Wikipedia.
Source: Source: Brian Timmas.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Cluny Abbey (or Cluni, or Clugny), is a Benedictine Monastery in Cluny, Saône-et-Loire, France. It was built in the Romanesque Style, with three Churches built in succession from the 10th- to the Early-12th-Centuries.

Cluny was founded by William I, Duke of Aquitaine, in 910 A.D. He nominated Berno as the first Abbot of Cluny, subject only to Pope Sergius III. The Abbey was notable for its stricter adherence to the Rule of Saint Benedict and the place where the Benedictine Order was formed, whereby Cluny became acknowledged as the leader of Western Monasticism.

The establishment of the Benedictine Order was a keystone to the stability of European society that was achieved in the 11th-Century. In 1790, during the French Revolution, the Abbey was sacked and mostly destroyed. Only a small part of the original remains.

English: Cluny Abbey.
Deutsch: Ostflügel und Turm der Abtei von Cluny (Frankreich),
Photo: 9 Novmber 2004.
Source: Own work.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Dating around 1334, the Abbots of Cluny had a Town House in Paris, known as the Hôtel de Cluny, what is now a Public Museum, since 1833. Apart from the name, it no longer possesses anything originally connected with Cluny Abbey.

In 910 A.D., William I, Duke of Aquitaine, "the Pious", and Count of Auvergne, Founded the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny on a modest scale, as the Mother House of the Congregation of Cluny. In donating his Hunting Preserve in the forests of Burgundy, William released Cluny Abbey from all future obligation to him and his family, other than Prayer.

The Cloisters,
Cluny Abbey.
Photo: 12 July 2007.
Source: Own work.
Author: Jan Sokol.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Contemporary Patrons normally retained a proprietary interest and expected to install their kinsmen as Abbots. William appears to have made this arrangement (Editor: Freeing the Abbey from future obligation to him and his family) with Berno, the first Abbot, to free the new Monastery from such Secular entanglements and initiate the Cluniac Reforms.

The Abbots of Cluny were Statesmen on the International Stage and the Monastery of Cluny was considered the grandest, most prestigious and best-endowed Monastic Institution in Europe. The height of Cluniac influence was from the second half of the 10th-Century to the Early-12th-Century. The first female Members were admitted to the Order during the 11th-Century.

English: Clock Tower and Steeple of Cluny Abbey.
Français: Clocher de l'eau bénite et clocher de l'horloge de l'abbaye de Cluny.
Photo: 16 July 2005.
Source: Own work.
Author: TL.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Monastery of Cluny differed in three ways from other Benedictine Houses and Confederations:

Organizational structure;
Prohibition on holding land by feudal service;
Execution of The Liturgy as its main form of work.

While most Benedictine Monasteries remained Autonomous and Associated with each other only informally, Cluny created a large, Federated Order, in which the Administrators of Subsidiary Houses served as Deputies of the Abbot of Cluny and answered to him.

Romanesque Windows
(Open and Blind),
Cluny Abbey.
Photo: 30 September 2007.
Source: Own work.
Author: Rama.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Cluniac Houses, being directly under the Supervision of the Abbot of Cluny, the Autocrat of the Order, were styled Priories, not Abbeys. The Priors, or Chiefs of Priories, met at Cluny once a year to deal with Administrative Issues and to make Reports. Many other Benedictine Houses, even those of earlier formation, came to regard Cluny as their guide. When, in 1016, Pope Benedict VIII decreed that the Privileges of Cluny be extended to Subordinate Houses, there was further incentive for Benedictine Communities to insinuate themselves in the Cluniac Order.

Partly due to the Order's opulence, the Cluniac Nunneries were not seen as being particularly cost-effective. The Order did not have interest in Founding many new Houses for women.

Abbey of Cluny III (reconstruction).
English: Source: This image is taken from Georg Dehio/Gustav von Bezold: Kirchliche
Baukunst des Abendlandes. Stuttgart: Verlag der Cotta'schen Buchhandlung 1887-1901,
Plate No. 212. Due to its age, it is to be used with care. It may not reflect the latest
knowledge or the current state of the depicted structure.
Deutsch: Quelle: Diese Abbildung stammt aus Georg Dehio/Gustav von Bezold: Kirchliche Baukunst des Abendlandes. Stuttgart: Verlag der Cotta'schen Buchhandlung 1887-1901, Tafel 212. Aufgrund ihres Alters ist sie mit Vorsicht zu benutzen. Sie entspricht nicht notwendigerweise dem neuesten Wissensstand oder dem aktuellen Zustand des abgebildeten Gebäudes.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The customs of Cluny represented a shift from the earlier ideal of a Benedictine Monastery as an agriculturally self-sufficient unit. This was similar to the contemporary Villa of the more Romanised parts of Europe and the Manor of the more feudal parts, in which each Member did physical labour, as well as offering Prayer.

In 817 A.D., Saint Benedict of Aniane, the "second Benedict", developed Monastic Constitutions, at the urging of Louis the Pious, to govern all the Carolingian Monasteries. He acknowledged that the Black Monks no longer supported themselves by physical labour. Cluny's agreement to offer Perpetual Prayer (laus perennis (literally "Perpetual Praise") meant that it had increased a specialisation in roles.

The Musée national du Moyen Âge, in the Hôtel de Cluny,
which was, originally, the Town House of the
Abbots of Cluny in the Early-14th-Century.
Photo: 25 August 2012.
Source: Own work.
Author: Pline.
(Wikimedia Commons)

As perhaps the wealthiest Monastic House of the Western World, Cluny hired managers and workers to do the labour of Monks in other Orders. The Monks devoted themselves to almost constant Prayer, thus elevating their position into a profession. Despite the Monastic ideal of a frugal life, the Abbey in Cluny commissioned Candelabras of Solid Silver, and Gold Chalices, made with precious gems, for use at the Abbey Masses.

Instead of being limited to the traditional fare of broth and porridge, the Monks ate very well, enjoying roasted chickens (a luxury in France, then) and wines from their vineyards and cheeses made by their employees. The Monks wore the finest Linen Habits and Silk Vestments at Mass. Artifacts, exemplifying the wealth of Cluny Abbey, are today on display at the Musée de Cluny in Paris.

English: The Consecration of Cluny III, by Pope Urban II.
Français: Consécration de Cluny III par Urbain II.
Source: Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Author: Odon de Cluny.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Cluniac Prayer.

"O God, by whose grace thy servants, the Holy Abbots of Cluny, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became burning and shining lights in thy Church, grant that we also may be aflame with the Spirit of Love and discipline, and may ever walk before Thee as Children of Light. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who, with Thee, in the Unity of The Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever."

Cluniac Houses in Britain.

All of the English and Scottish Cluniac Houses, which were larger than Cells, were known as Priories, symbolising their Subordination to Cluny. Cluny's influence spread into the British Isles in the 11th-Century, first at Lewes, and then elsewhere. The Head of their Order was the Abbot at Cluny. All English and Scottish Cluniacs were bound to make the crossing to France, to Cluny, to consult, or be consulted, unless the Abbot chose to come to Britain, which he did five times in the 13th-Century, and only twice in the 14th-Century.

At Cluny, the central activity was the Liturgy; it was extensive and beautifully-presented in inspiring surroundings, reflecting the new personally-felt wave of piety of the 11th-Century. Monastic intercession was believed indispensable to achieving a State of Grace, and Lay Rulers competed to be remembered in Cluny's endless Prayers. This inspired the endowments in land and benefices that made other arts possible.

English: Mediaeval Roof of Cluny Abbey.
Français: Abbaye de Cluny, France.
Photo: 22 November 2009.
Source: Own work.
Author: Calips.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The fast-growing Community at Cluny required buildings on a large scale. The examples at Cluny profoundly affected architectural practice, in Western Europe, from the 10th-Century through to the 12-Century. The three successive Churches, at Cluny, are conventionally called Cluny I, Cluny II and Cluny III. In building the third and final Church at Cluny, the Monastery constructed what was the largest building in Europe before the 16th-Century, when Saint Peter's in Rome was rebuilt. The construction of Cluny II, circa 955 A.D. - 981 A.D., begun after the destructive Hungarian raids of 953 A.D., led the tendency for Burgundian Churches to be Stone-Vaulted.

The building campaign was financed by the annual census established by Ferdinand I of León, Ruler of a united León-Castile, some time between 1053 and 1065. (Alfonso VI re-established it in 1077, and confirmed it in 1090.) Ferdinand fixed the sum at 1,000 Golden Aurei, an amount which Alfonso VI doubled in 1090. This was the biggest Annuity that the Order ever received from King or Layman, and it was never surpassed.

Henry I of England's annual grant, from 1131, of 100 Marks of Silver, not Gold, seemed little by comparison. The Alfonsine census enabled Abbot Hugh (who died in 1109) to undertake construction of the huge third Abbey Church. When payments, in the Islamic Gold Coin, later lapsed, the Cluniac Order suffered a financial crisis that crippled them during the Abbacies of Pons of Melgueil (1109 – 1125) and Peter the Venerable (1122 – 1156). The Spanish wealth, donated to Cluny, publicised the rise of the Spanish Christians, and drew Central Spain for the first time into the larger European orbit.

English: Interior of the destroyed Cluny Abbey.
Italiano: L'interno dell'abbazia di Cluny nel 2005 fonte
Date: 23 August 2005 (original Upload Date).
Source: Originally from it.wikipedia; description page is/was here.
Author: en:User:Baku. Original uploader was Fluctuat at it.wikipedia.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Cluny Library was one of the richest and most important in France and Europe. It was a storehouse of numerous very valuable Manuscripts. During the religious conflicts of 1562, the Huguenots sacked the Abbey, destroying or dispersing many of the Manuscripts. Of those that were left, some were burned in 1790 by a rioting mob related to the excesses of the French Revolution. Other Manuscripts were stored away in the Cluny Town Hall.

The French Government worked to relocate such treasures, including those that ended up in Private Hands. They are now held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France at Paris. The British Museum holds some sixty or so Charters originating from Cluny.

Notable burials at Cluny Abbey included: Herman I, Margrave of Baden; Philip I, Duke of Burgundy; Pope Gelasius II.

In the fragmented and localised Europe of the 10th Century and 11th-Century, the Cluniac network extended its reforming influence far. Free of Lay and Episcopal interference, responsible only to the Papacy, which was in a state of weakness and disorder, with rival Popes supported by competing Nobles.

(Name taken: Callixtus II).
This illustration is from The Lives and Times of the Popes
by Chevalier Artaud de Montor, New York: The Catholic Publication
Society of America, 1911. It was originally published in 1842.
Date: 15 June 2013.
Author: Artaud de Montor (1772–1849).

The Papal Election at Cluny Abbey, from 29 January to 2 February 1119,
was, by an order of magnitude,
the smallest Papal Election of the 12th-Century
currently considered legitimate

Pope Gelasius II had died in Cluny Abbey, having been expelled from Rome by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, as a result of the Investiture Controversy. Probably only two Cardinal Bishops, four Cardinal Priests and four Cardinal Deacons participated in the Election. The Election took place in Cluny Abbey, in France, while the rest of the College of Cardinals remained in Rome. A Non-Cardinal, Guy de Bourgogne, the Archbishop of Vienne, France, was Elected Pope Callixtus II, and Crowned in Vienne on 9 February 1119. Pope Callixtus II reached Rome on 3 June 1120.

English: Saint-Maurice Cathedral, Vienne (Isère), France.
Pope Callixtus II, who was Elected Pope at Cluny Abbey,
in February 1119, 
was the Archbishop of Vienne.
He was Crowned Pope Callixtus II
in Saint-Maurice Cathedral, Vienne, on 9 February 1119.
Français: Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Vienne (Isère), France.
Photo: 2 February 2006.
Source: Own work.
Author: Arnaud-Victor Monteux.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Cluniac spirit was felt revitalising the Norman Church, re-organising the Royal French Monastery at Fleury and inspiring Saint Dunstan, in England. There were no official English Cluniac Priories until that of Lewes, in Sussex, founded, circa 1077, by the Anglo-Norman Earl, William de Warenne. The best-preserved Cluniac Houses in England are Castle Acre Priory, Norfolk, and Much Wenlock Priory, Shropshire. It is thought that there were only three Cluniac Nunneries in England, one of them being Delapré Abbey at Northampton.

Until the Reign of King Henry VI, all Cluniac Houses in England were French, governed by French Priors and directly controlled from Cluny. Henry's act of raising the English Priories to Independent Abbeys was a political gesture, a mark of England's nascent national consciousness.

The early Cluniac establishments had offered refuges from a disordered world, but, by the Late-11th-Century, Cluniac piety permeated Society. This is the period that achieved the final Christian-isation of the heartland of Europe.

Pope Callixtus II was Elected Pope at the
Papal Election, 1119, at Cluny Abbey.
From the "Liber ad honorem Augusti" of Petrus of Ebulo, 1196.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Well-born and educated Cluniac Priors worked eagerly with local Royal and aristocratic Patrons of their Houses, filled responsible positions in their Chanceries, and were appointed to Bishoprics. Cluny spread the custom of Veneration of the King as Patron and Supporter of The Church, and, in turn, the conduct of 11th-Century Kings, and their Spiritual outlook, appeared to undergo a change.

In England, Edward the Confessor was later Canonised. In Germany, the penetration of Cluniac ideals was effected in concert with the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry III of the Salian Dynasty, who had married a daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine. Henry was infused with a sense of his Sacramental Role as a Delegate of Christ in the Temporal Sphere. He had a Spiritual and Intellectual grounding for his leadership of the German Church, which culminated in the Pontificate of his kinsman, Pope Leo IX. The new pious outlook, of Lay Leaders, enabled the enforcement of the Truce of God Movement to curb aristocratic violence.

Within his Order, the Abbot of Cluny was free to assign any Monk to any House. He created a fluid structure, around a Central Authority, that was to become a feature of the Royal Chanceries of England and France, and of the bureaucracy of the great Independent Dukes, such as that of Burgundy. Cluny's highly centralised hierarchy was a training ground for Catholic Prelates. Four Monks of Cluny became Popes: Gregory VII; Urban II; Paschal II; and Urban V.

An orderly succession of able and educated Abbots, drawn from the highest Aristocratic Circles, led Cluny Abbey, and three were Canonised: Saint Odo of Cluny, the second Abbot († 942 A.D.); Saint Hugh of Cluny, the sixth Abbot († 1109); and Saint Odilo, the fifth Abbot († 1049). Saint Odilo continued to reform other Monasteries, but, as Abbot of Cluny, he also exercised tighter control of the Order's far-flung Priories.

English: Vaulted Undercroft of Cluny Abbey.
Deutsch: Abtei Cluny.
Français: Abbaye de Cluny.
Photo: 20 August 2012.
Source: Own work.
Author: Rillke.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Cluny and the Gregorian Reforms.

Cluny was not known for its severity or asceticism, but the Abbots of Cluny supported the revival of the Papacy and the Reforms of Pope Gregory VII (Editor: Previously a Monk of Cluny). The Cluniac establishment found itself closely identified with the Papacy. In the Early-12th-Century, the Order lost momentum, under poor government. It was subsequently revitalised under Abbot Peter the Venerable († 1156), who brought lax Priories back into line and returned to stricter discipline. Cluny reached its apogee of power and influence under Peter, as its Monks became Bishops, Legates, and Cardinals throughout France and The Holy Roman Empire. But, by the time Peter died, newer and more austere Orders, such as The Cistercians, were generating the next wave of Ecclesiastical Reform.

Outside Monastic structures, the rise of English and French nationalism created a climate unfavourable to the existence of Monasteries autocratically Ruled by a Head residing in Burgundy. The Papal Schism, of 1378 to 1409, further divided loyalties. France, recognising a Pope at Avignon, France, and England, a Pope at Rome, interfered with the Relations between Cluny and its Dependent Houses. Under the strain, some English Houses, such as Lenton Priory, Nottingham, were naturalised (Lenton in 1392) and no longer regarded as alien Priories, weakening the Cluniac structure.

By the time of The French Revolution, the Monks were so thoroughly identified with the Ancien Régime that the Order was Suppressed in France in 1790, and the Monastery at Cluny almost totally demolished in 1810. Later, it was sold and used as a quarry until 1823. Today, little more than one of the original eight Towers remains of the whole Monastery.

English: Sextartite Mediaeval Vaulting.
Interior of Cluny Abbey.
Deutsch: Abtei Cluny.
Français: Abbaye de Cluny.
Photo: 20 August 2012.
Source: Own work.
Author: Rillke.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Modern excavations of the Abbey began in 1927, under the direction of Kenneth John Conant, American architectural historian of Harvard University, and continued (although not continuously) until 1950.

Decline and destruction of the buildings.

Starting from the 12th-Century, Cluny had serious financial problems, caused mainly by the construction of The Third Abbey. Charity given to the Poor increased the expenditure. The influence of the Abbey weakened gradually as other Religious Orders arose (Cistercians in the 12th-Century, then Mendicants in the 13th-Century). Bad management, of the grounds and unwillingness of the Subsidiary Companies to pay the annual taxable quota, helped to lessen Cluny's Revenue. Cluny raised Loans and ended up being involved in Debt to its Creditors, who were Merchants of Cluny or Jews of Mâcon.

The conflicts with the Priories multiplied and the authority of the Pope became heavier. Until the 14th-Century, the Pope frequently named the Abbots. The crises at the end of the Middle Ages, and the Wars of Religion in the 16th-Century, weakened the Cluny Abbey a little more. The Monks lived in luxury and there were not more than about sixty Monks in the Middle-15th-Century. With the Concordat of Bologna, in 1516, overseen by Antoine Duprat, the King gained the power to appoint the Abbot of Cluny.

English: Cluny Abbey.
Interior of a destroyed Side-Chapel
Deutsch: Abtei Cluny.
Français: Abbaye de Cluny.
Photo: 20 August 2012.
Source: Own work.
Author: Rillke.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The years following The French Revolution were fatal to all the Monastic buildings and its Church. In 1793, its Archives were burned and the Church was delivered to plundering. The Abbey estate was sold in 1798 for 2,140,000 Francs. Until 1813, the Abbey was used as a stone quarry to build houses in the Town.

Today, there remain only the buildings built under the Old Mode, as well as a small portion of Cluny III. Only the Southern Transept and its Bell-Tower still exist. The remaining structure represents less than ten per cent of the Floor Area of Cluny III, which was the largest Church of Christendom, until the construction of Saint Peter's Basilica, in Rome, five Centuries later.

In 1928, the site was excavated and recognised by the American archaeologist Kenneth J. Conant with the backing of the Medieval Academy of America.

English: Roof Bosses, at Cluny Abbey,
depicting the Abbey's Coat of Arms (see the top of this Article).
Français: Clé de voûte avec les armoieries de l'abbaye de Cluny. Les clés entrecroisées
sont le rappel des clés de saint Pierre, donc des liens étroits entre l'abbaye
et la papauté; le glaive est le rappel de saint Paul.
Photo: 30 September 2007.
Source: Own work.
(Wikimedia Commons)

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