Thursday, 29 April 2010

Feast of the Holy Abbots of Cluny

Today the Benedictine calendar celebrates the feasts of four of the abbots of the monastery of Cluny, SS Odo, Majolus, Odilo and Hugh.

Founded in 910, as a result of its series of long-lived and holy abbots, Cluny was enormously influential, supporting the revival of the papacy after one of its darker periods, and the reforms of Pope St Gregory VII (a Benedictine with some ties to Cluny) including enforcement of clerical celibacy.

The importance of the legacy of Cluny to the Church has been emphasized by Pope Benedict XVI in a several of his General Audiences last year.  Two of these talks in particular are worth reading (or rereading) today, namely those on:
Cluniac mnasticism had a highly centralized structure (unlike some modern Benedictine congregations), and put an enormous emphasis on the liturgy, particularly emphasising its intercessory value, which consumed most of the day.
And if you think modern day religious wars within the Church are a little over-vigorous at times, have a read of the correspondence between St Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter the Venerable (then Abbot of Cluny), and the various tracts produced by their friends! Talk about propaganda (on both sides). Personally I tend to side with the Cluniacs, but...

Most of the original monastery, located in Bourgogne, including its fabulous library, was destroyed during the French Revolution. The name though stays alive in the remains of the 'Hotel de Cluny' in Paris, which has been turned into the Museum of the Middle Ages, known as the Cluny.

But in any case, to return to the four abbots in question, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
  • St Odo was the second abbot of Cluny, born circa 878, probably near Le Mans and he died on 18 November, 942. He reformed several monasteries in Aquitaine, northern France, and Italy, and was entrusted with some important political missions;
  • St. Majolus or Maieul was born in 906, and died in 994. Otto II desired to make him pope in 974 but he refused;
  • St Odilo was fifth abbot of Cluny, born around 962; d. 31 December, 1048. The number of monasteries in the Cluniac congregation (mainly by reforming existing monasteries) increased from 37 to 65 under his incumbency; we worked to achieve a truce system 'the peace of God' that restricted warfare; saved thousands during a time of famine through his charity; and he is primarily responsible for introducing the Feast of All Saints into the calendar;
  • St. Hugh the Great was born at Semur (Brionnais in the Diocese of Autun, 1024 and died at Cluny, 28 April, 1109. A friend of Pope St Gregory VII he played a key role in the reform of the clergy, and was widely recognized for his sanctity even during his lifetime.

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