Cluniac Reforms

Cluniac Reforms

The Cluniac Reforms (also called Clunian Reforms) were a series of changes within medieval monasticism of West focused on restoring the traditional monastic life, encouraging art, and caring for the poor. The movement is named for the Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy, where it started within the Benedictine order. The reforms were largely carried out by Saint Odo (c. 878 – 942) and spread throughout France (Burgundy, Provence, Auvergne, Poitou), into England, and through much of Italy and Spain.[1]



The impetus for the reforms was corruption within the church, particularly simony and concubinage. These abuses were thought to be a result of secular interference in the monasteries and of the Church's tight integration with the feudal and manorial systems.[2] At the same time, the Papacy wished to reassert control of all clergy and to stop the investiture of bishops by secular rulers.[3] Since a Benedictine monastery required land, it needed the patronage of a local lord. However, the lord would often demand rights and assert prerogatives that interfered with the operation of the monastery.[4] The Cluny reform was an attempt to remedy these practices in the hope that a more independent abbot would better enforce the Rule of Saint Benedict.


William of Aquitaine formed the first Cluny monastery in 910 with the novel stipulation that the monastery would report directly to the pope rather than to a local lord. This meant the monastery would be essentially independent, since the pope's authority was largely theoretical at any significant distance. Further, the Abbot of Cluny retained authority over the daughter houses his order founded. By the twelfth century the Congregation of Cluny included more than a thousand monasteries.[5]

Among the most notable supporters of the Cluniac reforms were Pope Urban II,[6] Lambert of Hersfeld, and Richard of Verdun. The reforms encouraged the Church in the West to be more attentive to business and gave wish to papacy to attempt to assert control over the Eastern Church.[7]


During its height (c. 950–c.1130), the Cluniac movement was one of the largest religious forces in Europe.[8] At least as significantly as their political consequences, the reforms demanded greater religious devotion. The Cluniacs supported the Peace of God, and promoted pilgrimages to the Holy Lands.[4] An increasingly rich liturgy stimulated demand for altar vessels of gold, fine tapestries and fabrics, stained glass, and polyphonic choral music to fill the Romanesque churches.[5]

In 1098 Robert of Molesme led a band of 21 Cluniac monks from their abbey at Molesme to establish a new monastery. The group hoped to cultivate a monastic community in which monks could live in stricter observance of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monks acquired a plot of marsh land just south of Dijon called Cîteaux (Latin: "Cistercium"), and so founded the Cistercian order.[9]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "900 - 1100". Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  3. ^ "Papal Monarchy". Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  4. ^ a b Cluny and Ecc. Reform
  5. ^ a b Chambers, Mortimer (1974). The Western Experience. Knopf. pp. 269–283. ISBN 0394317335. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Crusades
  8. ^ The Columbia Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Tobin, pp 29, 33, 36.
  • R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages, London: Penguin Books, 1970.

See also

External links

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