One of the most significant monastic movements of the high Middle Ages. It is necessary first of all to clarify the notion of "Cluny" and of the reform movement that sprang from it. Cluny as such is a mere abstraction, given different meanings at various times and places. If the reform is limited to the period extending from its foundation (909) to the death of St. hugh of cluny (1109), it denotes a monastic evolution (expressed by the various successive Customaries), and an administrative evolution brought on by rapid territorial expansion. The reform was centered in one place: the Abbey of cluny. It is a mistake to attribute to the Order of Cluny or to the Abbey of Cluny the reforming activity carried out by the great abbots of Cluny as individuals, and the reverse also is true.
History of the Reform. The Abbey of Cluny was not founded as a reforming agency. Originally, Cluniac monasticism drew its inspiration from the Rule of St. Benedict and the legislation of benedict of aniane. Because of specific historical circumstances, alien to the mentality of its founders, Cluny rapidly became the center of a vast movement of reform that continued until the 12th century. The popes and feudal authorities alike entrusted to the abbots of Cluny the reform of older monasteries and the foundation of new houses. There is, however, no trace of a "will to power" prejudicial to contemporary monastic congregations independent of the Cluniac movement. Following G. Tellenbach, J. Leclercq has noted that the influence of the Cluniacs, first in Aquitaine and later over a wider area, was the result of a flexible method of adaptation to various feudal milieus and to concrete circumstances at various monasteries, which interested princes and lay lords in monastic reform and reduced to a minimum the obstacle that political frontiers might have created. The spread of the Cluniac reform was spontaneous in most instances. Cluny did not try to gain possession of churches belonging to laymen. This fact is worth noting, since the feudal Church had fallen into lay hands. Beginning with odo of cluny (d. 949), the expansion of the Cluniac Order accelerated, and Cluny benefited from the changing conditions in feudal society. Enjoying temporal immunity from the time of its foundation, it received canonical exemption only in 931 (Bull of John XI), and exemption from episcopal authority, c. 998 to 999 (Gregory V granting the privilege confirmed and clarified by John XIX in 1027; later by his successors, notably Gregory VII). The monasteries attached to Cluny enjoyed the same temporal and spiritual independence, except in certain specific cases such as those of Saint-Martin-des-Champs and saint-bertin. Henceforth Cluniac monasteries were the property of the Apostolic See, which defended and protected them in jurisdictional conflicts, notably those instigated by the bishops of Mâcon, in whose territory Cluny was situated. The strong organizing personalities of odilo and Hugh assured a certain juridical unity among the monasteries, but the ties of each community varied from strict subjection to simple affiliation or mere adoption of the Cluniac Customary (which did not necessarily imply juridical dependence). This unity consisted in a federation, independent of sectionalism and of political and territorial structures, lay and ecclesiastic. Its members (abbeys and priories with their dependencies) were united to a central authority, the abbot of Cluny, by bonds of varying degrees of closeness and according to a meticulously ordered hierarchy.
Nature of the Reform. The Cluniac reform, without deviating from its initial purpose, dedicated itself also to tasks of the temporal and political order. The abbots, especially Odo, Odilo, and Hugh, gave to this objective the loyal support of personal service and moral influence, without loss of independence. This is evidenced in the diplomatic missions they carried out on behalf of German emperors, Capetian kings, and popes, notably during the investiture struggle. And yet the trust in Cluny engendered in the world's great leaders did not hinder its human and spiritual influence, of which there are abundant contemporary records.
The Cluniac reform consisted first of all in the establishment of a monasticism based on Consuetudines, to which Statuta were later added. Only secondarily did it lend support to the renovation undertaken by ecclesiastical and lay authorities regarding simony and unworthy clerics; and in so doing it promoted an effective and general recognition of papal supremacy. The Order of Cluny was never a specialized entity organized to combat the decadence of the Church or to withstand the Empire, even when Cluniac monks became popes, cardinals, and bishops. Other movements of reform received their inspiration from Cluny. Suffice it to cite the Ordo monasterii sancti Benigni of Dijon, organized before 1069, which was based literally on the Customaries of bernard (c. 1070) and Udalric (c. 1080–83). The Ordo of Dijon was later adopted at fÉcamp, as well as at fruttuaria, which introduced its reform into Germany.
The End of Reform. After more than two centuries of unparalleled expansion, Cluniac monasticism was weakened in part by its internal structure and by the order's excessive expansion, temporal power, and the absence of a centralized governing body. It has been calculated that at the height of its development the order had 1,184 houses, situated in several provinces. peter the venerable (d. 1157) understood the need for adaptation required by economic and social change; and at successive general chapters statutes were passed. But in the same era the new order of Cîteaux seemed to be a return to Cluny's primitive simplicity; and with the rapid development of the cistercian movement, the Cluniac reform came to an end. In the centuries that followed, Cluny itself was in need of reform.
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