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§ 84. The Convent of Cluny.


Marrier and Duchesne: Bibliotheca Cluniacensis. Paris 1614 fol. Holsten.: Cod. Regul. Mon. II. 176. Lorain: Essay historique sur l’ abbaye de Cluny. Dijon 1839. Neander III. 417 sqq. 444 sq. Friedr. Hurter (Prot, minister in Schaffhausen, afterwards R. Cath.): Gesch. Papst Innocenz des Dritten (second ed. Hamb. 1844), vol. IV. pp. 22–55.


After the decay of monastic discipline during the ninth and tenth centuries, a reformation proceeded from the convent of Cluny in Burgundy, and affected the whole church.384384    Cluny or Clugny (Cluniacum) is twelve miles northwest of Macon. The present town has about four thousand inhabitants. Its chief interest consists in the remains of mediaeeval architecture.

It was founded by the pious Duke William of Aquitania in 910, to the honor of St. Peter and St. Paul, on the basis of the rule of St. Benedict.

Count Bruno (d. 927) was the first abbot, and introduced severe discipline. His successor Odo (927–941), first a soldier, then a clergyman of learning, wisdom, and saintly character, became a reformer of several Benedictine convents. Neander praises his enlightened views on Christian life, and his superior estimate of the moral, as compared with the miraculous, power of Christianity. Aymardus (Aymard, 941–948), who resigned when he became blind, Majolus (Maieul to 994), who declined the papal crown, Odilo, surnamed “the Good” (to 1048), and Hugo (to 1109), continued in the same spirit. The last two exerted great influence upon emperors and popes, and inspired the reformation of the papacy and the church. It was at Cluny that Hildebrand advised Bishop Bruno of Toul (Leo IX.), who had been elected pope by Henry III., to seek first a regular election by the clergy in Rome; and thus foreshadowed his own future conflict with the imperial power. Odilo introduced the Treuga Dei and the festival of All Souls. Hugo, Hildebrand’s friend, ruled sixty years, and raised the convent to the summit of its fame.

Cluny was the centre (archimonasterium) of the reformed Benedictine convents, and its head was the chief abbot (archiabbas). It gave to the church many eminent bishops and three popes (Gregory VII., Urban II., and Pascal II.). In the time of its highest prosperity it ruled over two thousand monastic establishments. The daily life was regulated in all its details; silence was imposed for the greater part of the day, during which the monks communicated only by signs; strict obedience ruled within; hospitality and benevolence were freely exercised to the poor and to strangers, who usually exceeded the number of the monks. During a severe famine Odilo exhausted the magazines of the convent, and even melted the sacred vessels, and sold the ornaments of the church and a crown which Henry II. had sent him from Germany. The convent stood directly under the pope’s jurisdiction, and was highly favored with donations and privileges.385385    The wealth of the abbey was proverbial. Hurter quotes from Lorain the saying in Burgundy:
   “En tout pays ou le, rent vente,

   L’ Abbaye de Cluny a rente.”
The church connected with it was the largest and richest in France (perhaps in all Europe), and admired for its twenty-five altars, its bells, and its costly works of art. It was founded by Hugo, and consecrated seventy years afterwards by Pope Innocent II. under the administration of Peter the Venerable (1131).

The example of Cluny gave rise to other monastic orders, as the Congregation of the Vallombrosa (Vallis umbrosa), eighteen miles from Florence, founded by St. John Gualbert in 1038, and the Congregation of Hirsau in Württemberg, in 1069.

But the very fame and prosperity of Cluny proved a temptation and cause of decline. An unworthy abbot, Pontius, wasted the funds, and was at last deposed and excommunicated by the pope as a robber of the church. Peter the Venerable, the friend of St. Bernard and kind patron of the unfortunate Abelard, raised Cluny by his wise and long administration (1122–1156) to new life and the height of prosperity. He increased the number of monks from 200 to 460, and connected 314 convents with the parent institution. In 1245 Pope Innocent IV., with twelve cardinals and all their clergy, two patriarchs, three archbishops, eleven bishops, the king of France, the emperor of Constantinople, and many dukes, counts and knights with their dependents were entertained in the buildings of Cluny.386386    Hurter, l.c. p. 45. This was the end of its prosperity. Another decline followed, from which Cluny never entirely recovered. The last abbots were merely ornamental, and wasted two-thirds of the income at the court of France. The French Revolution of 1789 swept the institution out of existence, and reduced the once famous buildings to ruins; but restorations have since been made.387387    The material of the church was sold during the Revolution for not much more than 100,000 francs. When Napoleon Bonaparte passed through Macon, be was invited to visit Cluny, but declined with the answer: “You have allowed your great and beautiful church to be sold and ruined, you are a set of Vandals; I shall not visit Cluny.” Lorain, as quoted by Hurter, p. 47. The last abbot of Cluny was Cardinal Dominicus de la Rochefaucauld, who died in exile a.d.1800.

A similar reformation of monasticism and of the clergy was attempted and partially carried out in England by St. Dunstan (925-May 19, 988), first as abbot of Glastonbury, then as bishop of Winchester and London, and last as archbishop of Canterbury (961) and virtual ruler of the kingdom. A monk of the severest type and a churchman of iron will, he enforced the Benedictine rule, filled the leading sees and richer livings with Benedictines, made a crusade against clerical marriage (then the rule rather than the exception), hoping to correct the immorality of the priests by abstracting them from the world, and asserted the theocratic rule of the church over the civil power under Kings Edwy and Edgar; but his excesses called forth violent contentions between the monks and the seculars in England. He was a forerunner of Hildebrand and Thomas à Becket.388388    See Dunstan’s life in the Acta Sanct. for May 19; and in Butler’s Lives of the Saints, under the same date. Comp. Wharton, Anglia Sacra, II.; Lingard Hist. of the Anglo-Saxon Church; Soames,Anglo-Saxon Church; Lappenberg, Gesch. von England; Hook, Archbishops of Canterbury; Milman, Latin Christianity, Bk. VII., ch. 1; Hardwick; Robertson; also Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy.




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