The Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy

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  • Topic: Odo of Cluny, Romanesque architecture, Abbot
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  • Published : November 15, 2011
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The Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy was the center of a major monastic movement in the Middle Ages. Its church was the largest Christian building in the world until St. Peter's Basilica was rebuilt in Rome in the 16th century.

Today, one transept of the 12th-century abbey church remains, along with 15th-century abbots' residences and 18th-century convent buildings. The site also includes pleasant gardens and a museum with Romanesque artifacts. History

Founded in 910, the Abbey at Cluny was the center of a monastic reform movement that would spread throughout Europe. The abbey was built on a forested hunting preserve donated by William I the Pious, duke of Aquitaine and count of Auvergne.

Unlike most monastic patrons, William relieved the monks of Cluny of all obligations to him except for their prayers for his soul. It was much more common for patrons to retain some proprietary interest in the abbey and they usually expected to install their relatives as abbots. Thus Cluny was able to avoid the secular entanglements that plagued many other monasteries. Cluny answered to the Pope alone, and would come to develop very close ties with the papacy.

The Abbey of Cluny was founded by Benedictine monks who wished to observe closer adherence to the Benedictine rule. One distinction was their commitment to offer perpetual prayer, emphasizing liturgy and spiritual pursuits over labor and other monastic activities.

At Cluny the liturgy was extensive and beautiful in inspiring surroundings, reflecting the new personally-felt wave of piety of the 11th century. Monastic intercession appeared indispensable to achieving a state of grace, and lay rulers competed to be remembered in Cluny's endless prayers, inspiring the endowments in land and benefices that made other arts possible.

Another uniqueness of Cluny was in its administration. Before Cluny, most monasteries were autonomous and associated with others only informally. But when new monasteries were founded in...
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