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Cluny (Municipality, Saône-et-Loire, France)

Last modified: 2016-04-02 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Cluny]

Flag of Cluny - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 17 September 2015

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Presentation of Cluny

The municipality of Cluny (4,712 inhabitants in 2014; 2,371 ha) is located in Burgundy, between Châlon-sur-Saône and Mâcon.

Cluny is the cradle of the Benedictine order of Cluny, founded on 11 September 910 by William the Pious (875-918), Duke of Aquitaine. Established by Abbott Berno (c. 850-927), the monastery of Cluny was granted in 931 the right to exercise justice and to rule every monastery that would ask for its protection. The pillars of the Cluniac rule were perpetual adoration, help to the poor and cult of the death, which soon became a main source of income for the monastery. Based on feudal and aristocratic traditions, the monastery formed a stronghold, including a small fortified town, and a domain spreading far beyond the town's wall. The monastery was defended by allied lords, and, subsequently (12th century), by the burghers of the town.

The 5th abbot of Cluny, St. Odilo (994-1049), obtained the "exemption", which placed Cluny under the direct rule of the Holy See, releasing the monastery from the supervision of the local bishop and feudal lords. Granted in 998 to the monastery, the exemption was extended in 1024 to all its dependencies. Odilo progressively established a congregation of monasteries, organized according to precise, juridical rules. Under his leadership were redacted hagiographies of the abbots, the history of the monastery and chartularies. Cluny soon attempted to reform the church and the whole society, promoting God's Truce, which prohibited any kind of violence from Wednesday's evening to Monday's morning.
Cluny peaked during the rule of the 6th abbot, St. Hugh of Semur (1049-1109), increasing its influence all over Europe and up to the Holy Land. The monastery boosted the Gregorian reform and the emerging pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Pope Urban II (1042-1099; enthroned in 1088), who preached the First Crusade and set up the modern-day Curia, was a prior from Cluny. In the early 12th century, the Order of Cluny counted 1,400 monasteries and 10,000 monks, being presented as a body whose head would be the Cluny monastery; conflicts between the head and the members were arbitrated by the Pope.

The foundation of the Order of Cîteaux (1098) as a reaction against the wealth of Cluny, deemed not compliant with the original Benedictine values, initiated the decline of the Order of Cluny. The 9th abbot of Cluny, Peter the Vénérable (1122-1156), facing the attacks of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), attempted to reform the Order. Abbot Hughes V (1199-1207) issued new Statutes, which prescribed the meeting of a yearly Chapter General. Like the Cistercian Order, the Order of Cluny was consumed with the opposition between the partisans of the strict observance and of the old observance. In spite of the efforts of Richelieu and Mazarin to reunite the two observances, dualism was eventually recognized to settle the dispute. The Order of Cluny was suppressed during the French Revolution.
[L'ordre clunisien]

The three successive abbey churches of Cluny are known as Cluny I, Cluny II, and Cluny III, respectively. Achieved in 927, Cluny I was succeeded by Cluny II, consecrated in 981 to house the relics of Sts. Peter and Paul, and achieved in 1002/1018. In a dream, the monk Gunzo was ordered by St. Peter to tell abbot Hugh of Semur that a new church was needed to properly display his relics. The apostle drafted the plan of the new church, aimed at accommodating 1,000 monks. The dream was most probably a convenient invention preventing accusations of excessive arrogance. The building of the church was partially funded by Ferdinand and Alfonso of Castile. Designed by Hézelon de Liège and consecrated in 1130, Cluny III was then the biggest church in Christendom, being outgrown only by the basilica of St. Peter in Rome. The church was 187 m in length, made of a nave (68 m, 11 bays and double side aisles) and a narthex (37 m, equipped with towers and an upper chapel where the cult of the dead was celebrated). The main transept was 75 m in length, with four small apses, while the smaller transept was of 59 m in length, with only two small apses. A cloister was erected in 1120-1122, with little decoration, probably to answer Bernard de Clairvaux' bitter critics of the Cluniac decorated capitals.
Following the suppression of the Order, the abbey was sold in 1798 by plots. The church was used as a stone quarry, so that nearly nothing has remained from Cluny III: the southern arm of the two transepts and the octagonal church tower erected over the southern crossing of the greater transept, remains of towers and the lower parts of the narthex.
[L'abbaye de Cluny]

Ivan Sache, 17 September 2015

Flag of Cluny

The flag of Cluny (photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms, "Azure a key argent".

The arms of Cluny registered with the Armorial Général (image) are "Or a key argent in pale". They were derived from the arms of the abbey of Cluny, known since the Middle Ages and registered with the Armorial Général (image) as "Gules two keys argent in saltire pierced by a sword of the same in pale hilted or". These arms feature the attributes of the abbey's patron saints, St. Peter's keys and St. Paul's sword.
La Planche's Armorial (1669 - therefore three decades older than the Armorial Général) shows the arms of Cluny, "town and abbey", as "Gules a key or and a sword argent in saltire" (image). These appears to be a composite representation of the arms of the town and of the abbey.

The modern arms of Cluny have the Cross of War appended. This most probably recalls that the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers of Cluny was awarded the Cross of War on 16 May 1927, together with the five other Écoles Nationales Supérieures des Arts et Métiers of the time. The Cluny school was established in 1891 and formally labelled "Arts & Métiers" in 1901; in 2007, all the Écoles Nationales Supérieures des Arts et Métiers were grouped under the new brand Arts & Métiers Paristech. The Cluny campus (website) currently caters 500 students, with a strong emphasis on sustainable building.

Ivan Sache, 17 September 2015