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Merovingian, Carolingian and Cluniac Monasticism: Reform and Renewal in Burgundy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2011


Monastic renewal of the eleventh century used to be treated by scholars as essentially Cluniac : Cluny, as the head of an order totalling hundreds of houses, spread its reform across Europe as the tide spreads across a beach. More recently, since Kassius Hallinger demonstrated the existence of multiple centres of reform in his classic study of Gorze, it has become common to draw distinctions between ‘Cluniac’ and ‘young’ (or ‘second-generation’) Cluniac influences, and Cluny's ‘order’ has been redefined to include only priories directly dependent on Cluny's abbot, encompassing not hundreds of houses but only dozens. However, Cluny's order is still commonly treated as something new and unprecedented and Cluniac reform in the tenth and eleventh centuries as prefiguring the monastic renewal of the High Middle Ages.

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1 Hallinger, K., Gorze-Kluny. Studien zu den monastischen Lebensformen und Gegensätzen im Hochmittelalter, 2 vols, Rome 1950.Google Scholar The best recent historiographical discussion of Cluny is that of Rosenwein, B. H., Rhinoceros Bound: Cluny in the tenth, century, Philadelphia 1982, 329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2 By the tenth century, when Cluny was founded, the duchy of Burgundy was generally considered to be contained within these dioceses. ‘Burgundy’, of course, was used to mean several different areas between the fourth and ninth centuries, but for the purposes of this paper ‘Burgundy’ refers to the duchy (or what would become the duchy). For monastic foundations and reform in this region during the High Middle Ages, see Bouchard, C. B., Sword, Miter, and Cloister: nobility and the Church in Burgundy, 980–1198, Ithaca 1987.Google Scholar

3 Hourlier, J., ‘Cluny et la notion d'ordre religieux’, in A Cluny: Congrès scientifique, 9–11 juillet 1949, Dijon 1950, 219–26.Google Scholar

4 Here I disagree with Wollasch, J., Mönchlum des Mittelalters zwischen Kirche und Welt, Munich 1973, 146–58.Google Scholar For the Carta caritatis, see de la Croix Bouton, J. and Van Damme, J. B. (eds), Les Plus anciens textes de Cileaux, Achel 1974, 89106.Google Scholar

5 The basic reference work for French monasticism in Merovingian and Carolingian times is that of Prinz, F., Frühes Mönchlum im Frankenreich, Munich 1965.Google Scholar This is a work of unusual erudition, and though it has the sorts of slips inevitable in a work of such scope (the maps are especially unreliable for Burgundián monasteries), it is the indispensable starting point for the history of early monasticism in Gaul.

6 Concilia Galliae, a. 511-a. 695, ed. C. de Clercq, CCSL cxlviii A. 314 (references are to columns of the ‘instrumenta’); GC iv. 228 no. 9. See also Prinz, op. cit. 162. A ‘bishop Palladius from the city of Losne’ appeared at the 614 Council of Paris, CG, 282. This murky figure may be the abbot. It seems quite unlikely, as J. Marilier has tried to establish on the basis of this signature alone, that there was a separate diocese of Losne in the sixth and seventh centuries, ‘Les privilèges épiscopaux de l’église de Losne’, MS xxiv (1963), 247–68.

7 GC iv. 52 no. 13.

8 Even after a body of monks was established in a basilica, it is not certain that a monastic community continued there without a break. The abbot of St-Germain of Auxerre attended a council held at Auxerre in the second half of the sixth century, but a century later, when another council at Auxerre listed all the churches of the region, St-Germain was called a basilica, not an abbatta; only one church in Auxerre on that list was called a monaslerium. There is no way of telling whether St-Germain had temporarily lost its monks or whether the bishop just happened to call it a basilica, CG, 271, 324.

9 See also Wallace-Hadrill, J. M., The Prankish Church, Oxford 1983, 5574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10 Jonas, , ‘Vita Iohannis abbatis Reomaensis’, MGH SS rer. Mer. iii. 512–13.Google Scholar See also Prinz, , Frühes Mönchlum, 73–4.Google Scholar

11 Gesta ponlificum Autissiodorensium xxvi, MGH SS xiii. 394. See also Wallace-Hadrill, , op. cit. 135–9.Google Scholar

12 Pippin the Short gave a grant of immunity from royal judges and from taxation to the monastery of St-Marcel-lès-Chalon, which Charlemagne renewed in 779, MGH DD Kar. i. 171–3 no. 123. It is interesting to note that, in 779, the monastery was headed by a rector rather than an abbot, a magnificus vir named Hucbert, and there was no mention of monks or monastic life.

13 Ardo, , ‘Vita Benedict! abbatis Anianensis et Indensis’ ii, MGH SS xv. 201Google Scholar; Hugh of Flavigny, ‘Series abbatum Flaviniacensium’, MGH SS viii. 502. See also Wallace-Hadrill, , Frankish Churchy 205Google Scholar, 229.

14 Canon 22, MGH Concilia ii. 278.

15 MGH Concilia ii. 681–2.

16 Quantin, M. (ed.), Cartulaire général de l'Yonne i, Auxerre 1854, 47–9Google Scholar no. 24.

17 McKitterick, R., The Frankish Church and the Carolingian Reforms, 789–895, London 1977, 15.Google Scholar

18 GC xii. 301 no. 4; MGH DD reg. Ger. ii. 221–2 no. 138.

19 Monumenta Vizeliacensia. Texts relatifs à l'histoire de l'abbaye de Ve'zelay, ed. Huygens, R. B. C., CCCM xlii. 243–8Google Scholar nos 1–2; GC iv. 58–9 no. 18; Recueil des actes de Charles II le Chauve, roi de France ii, ed. Giry, A., Prou, M. and Tessier, G., Paris 1952, 342Google Scholar no. 378; Recueil des chartes de l'abbaye de Cluny i, ed. Bernard, A. and Bruel, A., Paris 1876, 124–8Google Scholar no. 112.

20 Chronique de l'abbaye de Sainl-Bénigne de Dijon, suivie de la Chronique de Saint-Pierre de Bèze, ed. Bougaud, E. and Garnier, J., Dijon 1875, 278Google Scholar, 282–3, 286–7. In 889, the bishop of Langres had King Odo confirm that Bèze was in the bishop's control, Recueil des actes d'Eudes, roi de France (888–898), ed. Bautier, R.-H., Paris 1967, 6872Google Scholar no. 15.

21 Recueil des actes de Charles le Chauve ii. 435–7 no. 420; Pflugk-Harttung, J. v. (ed.), Acta pontificum Romanorum inedita i, Tübingen 1881Google Scholar, repr. Graz 1958, 4–5 no. 6. In 879 and 883, Adalgar had Kings Boso and Carloman reconfirm that Flavigny was his, Recueil des actes des rois de Provence (855–928), ed. Poupardin, R., Paris 1920, 32–3Google Scholar no. 17; Recueil des actes de Louis II le Bègue, Louis III et Carloman II, rois de France (877–884), ed. Grat, F., de Font-Réaulx, J., Tessier, G. and Bautier, R.-H., Paris 1978, 178–9Google Scholar no. 68. For Adalgar, see also Bouchard, , Sword, Miter, and Cloister, 341.Google Scholar

22 GC iv. 64–5 no. 25.

23 Bulliot, J.-G. (ed.), Essai historique sur l'abbaye de Saint-Martin d'Autun, II: Chartes et pièces justificatives, Autun 1849, 22–4Google Scholar no. 9. Flavigny's association with St-Martin is recorded in the abbey's cartulary as having taken place in 894, described, however, as the ‘first year that Odo was king’, BM, MS vi, 520–2. St-Martin's charter is not dated except by a reference to King Odo.

24 Chronique de St-Bénigne, 106, ni, 116.

25 The separation after Berno's death of Cluny and other houses that had had the same abbot necessitated a division of the property he had acquired for his different monasteries. The monks of Cluny complained to the pope that Gigny's new abbot had appropriated some of the property meant for Cluny; the pope wrote to the French king and the Burgundian counts and bishops to ensure that the property was returned, Recueil des actes de Robert 1er et de Raoul, rois de France (922–936), ed. Bautier, R.-H. and Dufour, J., Paris 1978, 213–14Google Scholar no. 3.

26 Cowdrey, H. E. J., The Cluniacs and the Gregorian Reform, Oxford 1970, 815Google Scholar; Berlow, R. K., ‘Spiritual immunity at Vézelay (ninth to twelfth centuries)’, Catholic Historical Review lxii (1976), 573–88Google Scholar, at pp. 574–7; Fournial, E. (ed.), ‘Documents inédits des IXe, Xe, Xle et Xlle siècles relatifs à l'histoire de Charlieu’, in Actes des journées d'études d'histoire et d'archéologie organisées à l'occasion du Xle centenaire de la fondation de l'abbaye et de la ville de Charlieu, Charlieu 1973, 107–21Google Scholar, at pp. 107–21, no. 1. Pope John VIII also granted the monks of Tournus immunity from episcopal control in 878, Juénin, P., Nouvelle histoire de l'abbaïe de Saint-Filibert et de la ville de Tournus ii, Dijon 1733, 99100.Google Scholar Y. Sassier has tried to argue that several royal grants of immunity from the ninth century for Burgundian monasteries were forgeries, created after the monasteries were reformed under Cluniac monks around the year 1000, Sassier, , ‘Quelques remarques sur les diplômes d'immunité octroyés par les Carolingiens à l'abbaye de Saint-Germain d'Auxerre’, Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes cxxxxix (1981), 3754CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at pp. 46–8. He was misled by the common assumption that such immunities were unique to Cluny and overlooked the fundamental differences in style and content between these charters and Cluny's.

27 Recueil des chartes de Cluny ii, ed. Bernard, A. and Bruel, A., Paris 1880, 12Google Scholar no. 883. See also Bouchard, , Sword, Miter, and Cloister, 96.Google Scholar

28 For Duke William and his family, see Bouchard, C. B., ‘Family structure and family consciousness among the aristocracy from the ninth to the eleventh centuries’, Francia xiv (1986), 639–58Google Scholar, at pp. 656–8. For William's role at Cluny see Rosenwein, , Rhinoceros Bound, 42–3.Google Scholar For King Boso and his son Louis see Bouchard, C. B., ‘The Bosonids: or rising to power in the late Carolingian age’, French Historical Studies xv (1988), 407–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

29 Wollasch, J., ‘Königtum, Adel und Klöster im Berry während des 10. Jahrhunderts’, in Teilenbach, G. (ed.), Neue Forschungen über Cluny und die Cluniacenser, Freiburg 1959, 120–42.Google Scholar For Cluny's early foundations and reforms see Rosenwein, , op. cit. 4351Google Scholar, and the maps on pp. xiv-xv.

30 PL cxxxii. 1075–7 no. 8.

31 Recueil des actes de Louis IV, roi de France (336–954), ed. Lauer, P., Paris 1914, 78–9Google Scholar no. 33.

32 Bouchard, C. B., ‘Laymen and church reform around the year 1000: the case of Otto-William, count of Burgundy’, Journal of Medieval History v (1979), 110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

33 For the foundation of Marcigny see, most recently, Wischermann, E. M., Marcignysur-Loire: Gründungs- und Frühgeschichte des ersten Cluniacenserinnenpriorates (1055–1150), Munich 1986, 3457.Google Scholar

34 For the reforms of St-Marcel and Paray see Chauney, M., ‘Les origines du prieuré clunisien de Saint-Marcel-lès-Chalon’, in Mélanges d'histoire et d'archéologie offerts au professeur Kenneth John Conant, Mâcon 1977, 8196Google Scholar, at pp. 93–4; and Bouchard, , Sword, Miter, and Cloister, 106–10.Google Scholar

35 Roverius, P., Reomaus, seu Historia monasterii S. Joannis Reomaensis, Paris 1637, 174Google Scholar; Plancher, U. (ed.), Histoire générale et particulière de Bourgogne i, Dijon 1739Google Scholar, repr. Farnborough 1968, pp. xxiv-xxv no. 30; BM, MS vi. 493–6 no. 41.

36 Chronique de Si-Bénigne, 130.

37 Here I disagree with Bulst, N., Untersuchungen zu den Klosterreform Wilhelms von Dijon (962–1031), Bonn 1973, 7380.Google Scholar Bulst argues that William and the bishop of Langres worked together to gain control of the diocese, but it would be more accurate to say that the search for unified political control had been made in the late tenth century by the duke of Burgundy, who had assembled almost all these houses in his own hand but renounced control of them to William.

38 GC iv. 76–7 no. 40, misdated 1026/7.

39 GC iv. 78–9 no. 42. Corbigny seems to have been a haven for monks from Flavigny who did not want to follow a regular life; after being deposed by the bishop of Au tun c. 990, as a first step towards reform, the abbot of Flavigny — a relative of the count of Nevers - became abbot of Corbigny, Hugh of Flavigny, Chronicon, MGH SS viii. 503.

40 Chronique de Bèze, 317–18. Halinard had been William's prior at St-Bénigne, as Ulger had been his prior at Bèze, ibid. 182.


41 Ibid. 373–4, 380–3, 453. See also Bouchard, , Sword, Miter, and Cloister, 404.Google Scholar


42 Hugh of Flavigny, Chronicon 2, MGH SS viii. 417–18.

43 Quantin, , Cartulaire général de l'Yonne i. 166–7Google Scholar no. 87. For the always acrimonious relationship between the monks of Vézelay and the counts of Nevers, see Bouchard, , op. cit. 216–17.Google Scholar

44 PL cxliii. 883 no. 8. For the complex question of Vézelay's dependence on Cluny in the second half of the eleventh century, see Berlow, , ‘Spiritual immunity’, 583–5Google Scholar, and Sassier, Y., ‘L'expansion clunisienne en Nivernais et Auxerrois’, MS xliii (1986), 5775Google Scholar, at pp. 66–70. The privilege of Gregory VII for Vezelay from 1076, known from the abbey's cartulary, is incomplete; the description of how new abbots were to be elected has been missing since at least the thirteenth century, Monumenta Vizeliacensia, 296 no. 14.

45 Gesta pontificum Autissiodorensium, in Duru, L.-M. (ed.), Bibliothèque historique de l'Yonne i, Auxerre 1850, 406Google Scholar; Bouchard, C. B., Spirituality and Administration : the role of the bishop in twelfth-century Auxerre, Cambridge, Mass. 1979, 26–8Google Scholar; Sassier, art. cit. 71–2. In spite of Abbot Hugh's nephew's absolution from dependency on Cluny, St-Germain was listed as a Cluniac dependency in papal bulls from the first half of the twelfth century; it and Vézelay were the only Burgundian abbatiae to be so listed. See, for example, PL clxiii. 509–10, 1164–5.

46 PL clxiii. 103.

47 PL clxiii. 52.

48 Cartulaires de l'abbaye de Molesme ii, ed. Laurent, J., Paris 1911, 269Google Scholar no. 2. 17.

49 Bouchard, , Sword, Aliter, and Cloister, 429.Google Scholar Besides Aimo and Nivard, who were certainly promoted from St-Seine to St-Bćnigne, Henry, abbot of St-Seine at the beginning of the twelfth century, is probably the same Henry who became abbot of St-Bénigne around the time a new abbot appears in St-Seine's documents, ibid. 428. For ‘upward mobility’ among Cistercian abbots, see Bouchard, C. B., ‘Changing abbatial tenure patterns in Burgundian monasteries during the twelfth century’, Revue Bénédictine xc (1980), 249–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at pp. 252–6.


50 Consuetudines Cluniacensium antiquiores cum redactionibus derivatis, ed. K. Hallinger, Corpus Consuetudinum Monasticarum vii, ii.

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