Sunday, 7 February 2010

A Little Bit About Cluny (not George!)...

Pretty well everyone these days will have heard of the Knights Templar, those enormously wealthy and powerful knights who were arrested in France by Phillipe "Le Bel" and disbanded in the early 14th century.

But over two centuries earlier than the Templars, the most powerful religious order by far was the Monks of Cluny in Burgundy, France. Before the building of St. Peter's in Rome in 1505,the Abbey of Cluny was by far the largest ecclesiatic building in the known world.

Cluny Abbey was founded by William I, the Count of Auvergne in 910. He donated his hunting preserve for its lands and gave Cluny the very unusual privilege of releasing it from any further obligation to him, other than interceding on his behalf in prayer.

Normally, rich patrons who endowed monastic and religious communities expected at the very least to install their relatives as abbots and bishops, but William did not.

The Cluniacs followed the Order of St. Benedict and they were to produce several popes instrumental in the origins of the Cult of St. James, and Diego Gelmirez.

The Abbey was wealthy and the work was done by hired managers and workers instead of the brothers themselves which left them time to spend in almost constant prayer.

But despite vows of poverty, the monks enjoyed rich fare and fine wines on their tables and decorated their altars with cloth of gold and gemstones. There was nothing gloomy about Cluny.

The vast community required buildings to match. Ferdinand I of Leon-Castille, whom we have met before, personally donated a vast sum towards the abbey, and as if this were not enough, Alfonso VI doubled it in 1090. To set this in context, this would likely have been around the time that Diego Gelmirez left the cathedral school in Compostela and joined the court, to become Duke Raimundo's secretary a few years later.

Raimundo, you will remember, was French himself, from Burgundy. So was his relative Constance, the wife of Alfonso VI.

I am sure you can see where all this is leading to...

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