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L’Abbaye de Cluny

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Abbaye de Cluny, Burgundy, France
L'Abbaye de Cluny

There can be no getting away from the importance of the Abbey of Cluny in the history of Burgundy. But if you visit this popular site, keep past glories in the forefront of your mind. Only about a tenth of the great monastery of Cluny remains and a visit is rather a 'virtual' tour. The advice of a professional guide is to watch the excellent audio visual presentation when you arrive to set the scene of events.

For it was here in the 12th C that Gregorian chants filled the air. There were grandiose ceremonies, glorified with gold and incense, magnificent paintings and mosaics, and hundreds of Benedictine monks worshipped. They believed that praising God in such a setting was preparation for the life hereafter.
Such was the might of Cluny that it controlled the lives of multi thousands of people in affiliated monasteries throughout Christendom from Scotland to Poland. The abbey was able to start crusades, and punished offenders with excommunication.

The wealth of the monastery was unimaginable and the abbey, Cluny III which resulted from it, was the largest in the world and the pinnacle of Romanesque architecture. Through Divine Office, devotion to the dead was magnified, and all those who associated themselves, through donations, benefited from the perpetual prayers of the monks. All Souls’ Day on November 2nd resulted, still celebrated by the Catholic Church today.

Abbaye de Cluny, Burgundy, France
Choir capital built circa 1275

Cluny III, initiated by St Hugues of Semur (1049-1109) took 40 years to complete. It had five altars, four major steeples, two towers and double aisles. It was the longest building in Christendom until St Peter’s in Rome was rebuilt. The Order of Cluny continued through ups and downs, counting Cardinal Richelieu amongst its abbots. Rome became more powerful, the King of France eroded the powers of the Church and the Revolution finally put an end to Cluny in 1791. The building survived this onslaught but unbelievably, the magnificent abbey was demolished for building materials in the early 19th C. What was left of the monastic buildings became an arts and crafts college, still in existence today.

The section of the abbey still remaining is the great transept which shows the enormous height of the original building. The atmosphere of past glory however has disappeared and you are left with computer graphics to piece together the history.

For anyone interested in Romanesque architecture Autun, Vézelay and St-Philibert’s Abbey in Tournus are probably more rewarding.

L’Abbaye de Cluny is open every day except Jan 1, May 1, Nov 1 & 11 and Dec 25
There is a museum of archaeology and art on the site.

the route to Santiago de Compostela

One of the pilgrimage footpaths to Santiago de Compostela in Spain leaves from Cluny to reach Le Puy-en-Velay, starting point of the “Via Podiensis”, the oldest of the 4 roads leading to Santiago de Compostela. From Cluny Abbey to Le Puy-en-Velay, the 315 km are divided into 14 stages to guide the pilgrims to the busiest of the 4 historic routes. The attractiveness of these roads comes first from the beauty of its route, the architectural treasures that mark it out, but also the presence of a strong hospitality and accommodation facility.

Burgundy Holiday Homes direct from owner

  • Cluny, sleeps 10, ref: 893560a
  • Taize, sleeps 4, ref: 415200


See Also: Towns - Cluny