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History of the Christian Church, Volume V: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294.
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§ 63. The Monks of Cluny.


Literature.—See Lit. vol. IV, pp. 367 and 861; Mabillon: Ann. ord. S. Bened., III.-V., Paris, 1706–1708; Statuta Cluniacensia, Migne, 189, 1023–47.—Bernard et Bruel: Recueil des chartes de l’abbaye de Cluni, to 1300, 6 vols. Paris, 1876–93; Consuetudines monasticae, vol. I.; Consuet. Farfenses, ed. by Albers, Stuttgart, 1900. The consuetudines are statutes and customs which convents adopted supplementary to the Rules of their orders. These of Farfa, a convent in Italy, were taken down from Odilo of Cluny and enforced at Farfa.

The Lives of St. Bernard.—C. A. Wilkens: Petrus der Ehrwürdige, Leipzig, 1857, 277 pp.—M. Kerker; Wilhelm der Selige, Abt zu Hirschau, Tübingen, 1863.—Witten: Der Selige Wilhelm, Abt von Hirschau, Bonn, 1890.—Champly: Hist. de l’abbaye de Cluny, Mâcon, 1866.—L’Huillier: Vie de Hugo, Solesmes, 1887.—K. Sackur: Die Cluniacenser bis zur Mitte des 11ten Jahrhunderts, 2 vols. Halle, 1892–94.—H. Kutter: Wilhelm von St. Thierry, ein Representant der mittelalterlichen Frömmigkeit, Giessen, 1898.—Maitland: The Dark Ages, 1890, pp. 350–491.—Hauck, vol. III.—Art. Hirschau, in Herzog, VIII. 138 sqq.


The convent of Cluny,590590    The town now has four thousand inhabitants.ht of its influence in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Founded in 910 by Duke William of Aquitaine, and directed by a succession of wise abbots, it gained an eminence, second only to that of Monte Cassino among the monasteries of the West, and became the nursery of a monastic revival which spread over Europe from the Adriatic to Scotland.

No religious locality in the Latin church enjoyed a purer fame than Cluny. Four of its abbots, Odo, Majolus, Odilo, and Hugh, attained the dignity of canonized saints. Three popes were among its monks, Gregory VII.,591591    Hauck, III. 596, thinks there is no doubt Gregory was a Cluniac. Calixtus II., his successor, met at Cluny. Kings joined with popes in doing it honor.

The Cluniacs re-enforced the rule of St. Benedict in the direction of greater austerity. In Lorraine and Germany the Cluny influence began to be felt after the monastic reform, led by such men as Abbot Gerhard of Brogne in the tenth century, had run its course.592592    Hauck, III. 345 sqq.d were in full sympathy with Cluny. Hirschau in the Black Forest became a centre of Cluniac influence in Southern Germany and one of the chief centres of intelligence of the age.593593    A list of the German convents adopting the rule of Cluny, or a modified form of it, is given by Hauck, III. 863.ceived a thorough scholastic training at the convent of St. Emmeram, Regensburg. He was in correspondence with Anselm and visited Gregory VII. in Rome about the year 1075. The convent became a Gregorian stronghold in the controversy over the right of investiture. With the rule of Cluny before him William, in 1077, drew up a similar code for Hirschau, known as the Constitutiones Hirsaugienses, and introduced the white dress of the Cluniacs which gave rise to the sneer that the monks were cleansing their garments instead of their hearts.594594    William erected new buildings at Hirschau to accommodate the large accessions of monks and founded a scriptorum and a library. Among his writings was a work on music, de musica et tonis. Hirschau was turned into a Protestant school by Duke Christoph, 1556. Its buildings were destroyed by the army of Louis XIV. The ruins are among the most venerable monuments of Württemberg. The second house in England was the important establishment, St. Pancras at Lewes, set up by Gundrada and the Earl of Warren, the Conqueror’s son-in-law, 1077.595595    Gundrada had visited Cluny. On her tombstone was placed the inscription Intulit ecclesiis Anglorum balsama morum, "she brought the balm of good manners to the churches of England." See Stephens, p. 254. were called priories and their heads priors or deans.596596    When the monasteries were repressed by Henry VIII., there were thirty-two Cluniac houses in England. Gasquet, 218. Taunton, I. 27, speaks of thirty-eight houses and three hospitals in London belonging to the Cluniacs.he adjournment of the synod of Clermont. Hugo began the erection of the great basilica in 1089, which was dedicated by Innocent II. in 1131. It was the next greatest church after St. Peter’s in the West.

Under Pontius, the seventh abbot, 1109–22, the current of decay ran deep and strong. The convent had become rich in lands and goods. The plain furnishings had been discarded for rich appointments, and austerity of habits gave way to self-indulgence. Papal favors were heaped upon Pontius, and Pascal, his godfather, sent him the dalmatic.597597   The wide-sleeved over-garment stretching to the feet. The mitre, the distinctive cap of the bishop, was also frequently sent to abbots. One of the first instances was its presentation by Alexander II. to the abbot of St. Augustine of Canterbury. The abbot of Fulda received it and also the ring from Innocent II., 1137.e diocese.

Pontius gave way completely to worldly ambition, and assumed the title of archabbot, which was the exclusive prerogative of the head of the convent of Monte Cassino. Charges were made against him by the bishop of Macon and, forced to resign, he set his face towards Jerusalem as a pilgrim. The pilgrimage did not arouse any feelings of submission, and on his return the deposed abbot made an effort to seize his former charge. He forced the convent gates and compelled the monks to swear him fealty. The sacred vessels of gold and silver were melted down and divided among the wild intruders. The devastation was then carried beyond the convent walls to the neighboring estates. The anathema was laid upon Pontius by Honorius II., and, summoned to Rome, he was thrown into prison, where he died, impenitent, 1126. This was one of the most notorious cases of monastic malversation of office in the Middle Ages.

Peter the Venerable had been elected abbot of Cluny during Pontius’ absence in the East and filled the office for nearly forty years, 1122–57. He was the friend of St. Bernard, one of the most eminent of the mediaeval monks and one of the most attractive ecclesiastical personages of his age. Born in Auvergne and trained in a Cistercian convent, he was only twenty-eight when he was made abbot. Under his administration Cluny regained its renown. In addition to the study of the Bible, Peter also encouraged the study of the classics, a course which drew upon him bitter attacks. He visited the Cluniac houses abroad in England and Spain.

On the tenth anniversary of his official primacy, Peter welcomed two hundred priors and twelve hundred and twelve members of the order at Cluny. Four hundred and sixty monks constituted the family of the mother house. No less than two thousand convents are said to have acknowledged the Cluniac rule, two of which were at Jerusalem and Mt. Tabor. In 1246 Peter introduced through a General Chapter seventy six new rules, re-enforcing and elaborating the Benedictine code already in force.598598    See Migne, 189, 1026 sqq. The volume contains Peter’s works.

To the labors of abbot Peter added the activity of an author. He wrote famous tracts to persuade the Jews and Mohammedans, and against the heretic Peter de Bruys. His last work was on miracles,599599    Liber duo illustrium miraculorum. A translation of the Koran was made under Peter’s patronage. A revised edition by Bibliander was published at Basel, 1543. These works are contained in Migne, vol. 189, 507-903, which also prints Peter’s letters and sermons, and the hymns which are ascribed to him.

It was while this mild and wise man held office, that Abaelard knocked at Cluny for admission and by his hearty permission spent within its walls the last weary hours of his life.

During Peter’s incumbency St. Bernard made his famous attack against the self-indulgence of the Cluniacs. Robert, a young kinsman of Bernard, had transferred his allegiance from the Cistercian order to Cluny. Bernard’s request that he be given up Pontius declined to grant. What his predecessor had declined to do, Peter did. Perhaps it was not without feeling over the memory of Pontius’ action that Bernard wrote, comparing600600    Apologia ad Guillelmum. Migne, 182, 895-918.

This tract, famous in the annals of monastic controversial literature, Bernard opened by condemning the lack of spirituality among his own brethren, the Cistercians. "How can we," he exclaims, "with our bellies full of beans and our minds full of pride, condemn those who are full of meat, as if it were not better to eat on occasion a little fat, than be gorged even to belching with windy vegetables!" He then passed to an arraignment of the Cluniacs for self-indulgence in diet, small talk, and jocularity. At meals, he said, dish was added to dish and eggs were served, cooked in many forms, and more than one kind of wine was drunk at a sitting. The monks preferred to look on marble rather than to read the Scriptures. Candelabra and altar cloths were elaborate. The art and architecture were excessive. The outward ornamentations were the proof of avarice and love of show, not of a contrite and penitent heart. He had seen one of them followed by a retinue of sixty horsemen and having none of the appearance of a pastor of souls. He charged them with taking gifts of castles, villas, peasants, and slaves, and holding them against just complainants.601601    To this charge Peter replied that such property was much better in the hands of the monks than of wild laymen. In spite of these sharp criticisms Peter remained on terms of intimacy with Bernard. He replied without recrimination, and called Bernard the shining pillar of the Church. A modification of the rule of St. Benedict, when it was prompted by love, he pronounced proper. But he and Bernard, he wrote, belonged to one Master, were the soldiers of one King, confessors of one faith. As different paths lead to the same land, so different customs and costumes, with one inspiring love, lead to the Jerusalem above, the mother of us all. Cluniacs and Cistercians should admonish one another if they discerned errors one in the other, for they were pursuing after one inheritance and following one command. He called upon himself and Bernard to remember the fine words of Augustine, "have charity, and then do what you will, "habe charitatem et fac quicquid vis.602602    Ep., I. 28; Migne, 189, 156. A number of Peter’s letters to Bernard are preserved, all of them laying stress upon the exercise of brotherly affection. In strange contrast to his usual gentleness, stands his sharp arraignment of the Jews. See § 77 on Missions to the Jews.

After Peter’s death the glory of Cluny declined.603603    The election of the abbot was taken out of the hands of the monks. During the Avignon captivity the popes, and later the French king, claimed the right to appoint that official. The Guises had the patronage of the abbey for nearly a hundred years. In 1627 Richelieu was appointed abbot.ater, 1790, the order was dissolved by the French Government. The Hotel de Cluny, the Cluniac house in Paris, once occupied by the abbot, now serves as a museum of Mediaeval Art and Industry under the charge of the French government.604604    The Hotel de Cluny was a stopping place for distinguished people. There Mary, sister of Henry VIII. of England, resided during her widowhood and there James V. of Scotland was married, 1537, to Madeleine, daughter of Francis I. The municipality of Cluny purchased the abbey buildings and in part dismantled them.

The piety of Western Christendom owes a lasting debt to Cluny for the hymn "Jerusalem the Golden," taken from the de contemptu mundi written by Bernard of Cluny, a contemporary of Peter the Venerable and St. Bernard of Clairvaux.605605    See Schaff, Christ in Song, and Julian, Hymnology.


Jerusalem the Golden,

With milk and honey blest,

Beneath thy contemplation

Sink heart and voice opprest.

I know not, oh, I know not

What social joys are there,

What radiancy of glory,

What light beyond compare.



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