Cluniac heritage is wide-ranging and diverse

What constitutes/makes a Cluniac site ? (Or what makes a site a Cluniac site ?) This question, which seems simple, is actually quite complex.

The Federation of European Cluniac Sites (FESC) was founded in 1994 and coined the term Cluniac sites. Before this there had been references to Cluniac priories, Cluniac monasteries, Cluniac abbeys- phrases used to describe a building inhabited by a monastic community. However, it was soon apparent that the landholdings of the monks of Cluny extended beyond monastery buildings.

So, the Federation, in consultation with historical experts, has adopted a wider definition for Cluniac sites to widen the definition beyond purely monastic buildings.
  • How many Cluniac sites are there ?

    Historians disagree as to the precise number of Cluniac sites there were in the middle of the 12th century, ,with estimates ranging from 800 priories and abbeys linked to Cluny to 1400 sites if all landholdings are included.

    The estimation of the number of sites also depends on the exact historical period considered and on the status of the sites in question : Was the site directly founded by Cluny ? Was the site an existing monastery reformed by Cluny ? A former Cluniac abbey which rejoined the Cluniac church ? A village ? A castle ? A vineyard ?

  • Cluniac sites- Monastic overlords

    Monasteries are not the only buildings in the Cluniac network : Sites include Abbeys and Priories and Parish churches which came under the patronage of the Abbey of Cluny. Cluny also controlled the land that provided the supplies needed by the monasteries. The monks were also given other landholdings by benefactors which they managed for profit.

    The monks of Cluny played an important role in the religious, political, economic, artistic and social life of medieval Europe and their network comprised a wide range of land, buildings and goods which supported these activities.

    This makes the calculation of a precise number of Cluniac sites difficult/problematic ? but we do know that there are Cluniac sites throughout Western Europe in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium and stretching as far as Poland and Jerusalem !

  • Cluniac sites recognised by the Federation

    The Federation has adopted the following definition for a Cluniac site : “a Cluniac site is any place that preserves the Cluniac heritage”. Under this definition the following sites are considered Cluniac.

    • Monasteries founded by Cluny;
    • Priories linked to Cluny but which also had their own dependencies (eg. La Charite sur Loire);
    • Priories operating according to the model and rules of Cluny (Romainmôtier);
    • Smaller priories under the control of their feudal lord (Vertemate);
    • Convents for women (Solden);
    • Existing monasteries adopted by Cluny where Cluniac practices were subsequently followed;
    • Abbeys which chose to ally themselves with the Cluniac network (Moissac);
    • Abbeys with strong connections to Cluny at a time in their history (Menat);
    • Abbeys whose connection with Cluny was short-lived (San Benedetto Po);
    • Monasteries with privileged/special ? links to Cluny (Saint-Benign Dijon);
    • Abbeys which adopted the Cluniac reforms and had particular links with the abbots of Cluny (Deols);
    • Abbeys which adopted Cluniac practices and assisted in the spread of the influence of Cluny throughout Europe (Hirsau);
    • Monastic estates overseen by the Cluniac monks;
    • Cluniac monastic estates surrounding a parish church (Saint Hyppolite);
    • Farming estates surrounding a Cluniac chapel (Berzé-la-Ville);
    • Administrative offices used by the monks at the heart of a centre of production (e.g. a winery or farm) (Blanot);
    • Administrative offices in judicial and political centres;
    • Hostelries run by the monks;
    • Educational institutions where the monks form Cluny studied(as the college Saint-Jerome de Dole);
    • The lodgings of the abbots of Cluny, in the capital (now the National Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris);
    • Areas where the Abbey of Cluny was the feudal lord. These could contain fortifications to protect the Abbey;
    • Vineyards owned by the Abbey(Gevrey-Chambertin, Monthelie);
    • Cluniac fortifications/defence ? with their associated villages and castles(Toulon-on-Arroux);
    • Places of significant Cluniac connection, including villages and monuments, such as the village of Semur-in-Brionnais. The castle in the village was the birthplace of St-Hugh and was subsequently bequeathed to Cluny…