Sunday, 13 September 2009

Cluny 2010

Today marks the start of celebrations of the millenium of the founding of the Monastery of Cluny located in Burgundy. The Monastery was destroyed by the French Revolution - the remnants of its Paris townhouse were subsequently turned into a (very nice) Museum of the Middle Ages. But from the time of its founding in 909 or 910 up until the Revolution it was a crucial force in Christendom.

The monastery was founded by William I of Acquitaine, and enjoyed the benefit of series of very long lived, saint-abbots (Pope Benedict XVI spoke about one of them in his last General Audience). It served as a force for reform both of monasticism (at its height the Cluniac Congregation included 825 monasteries, all directly dependent on the mother house), and the Church and society more generally. It was a particularly important support base for the reforms of Pope Gregory VII.

Cluniac monasticism stressed the moderation of St Benedict's Rule rather than ascetic extremes (though the Cistericans twelfth century critique of Cluny is clearly vastly exaggerated) - and its most well known feature was its strong liturgical focus. Central to its raison d'etre was the new emphasis in the earlier middle ages on the importance of the intercessory prayer of monks.

The Monastery itself became enormously wealthy - it accumulated perhaps the largest library in the West, and its Church was certainly the largest until the construction of the new St Peter's in the sixteenth century.

As for the celebrations of its foundation - the official "Cluny 2010" website states:

"In 909 or 910, a Benedictine abbey was founded at Cluny, in Burgundy. 250 years later, the abbey was at the head of approximately 1,400 Cluniac establishments in western Europe. This heritage network, now a cultural route of the Council of Europe, is to celebrate this anniversary in a variety of ways throughout the year.The 2010 programme for Cluny is made up of large events marking the whole period of celebrations and numerous smaller projects. They are to be held from September 2009 until December 2010 so as to establish a gradual build-up at Cluny and throughout the whole network of Cluniac sites in Europe.The majority of the larger events have a singular character: festive, popular, interactive and mainstream for some, more educational for others. They unite different forms of activities and entertainment specially conceived for the occasion."

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