English Monastic Life – Cluniacs

Benedictine Monk of the Cluniac CongregationArticle

The Cluniac adaptation of the Benedictine Rule took its rise in A.D. 912 with Berno, abbot of Gigny. With the assistance of the Duke of Aquitaine he built and endowed a monastery at Cluny, near Macon-sur-Saone. The Cluniac was a new departure in monastic government. Hitherto the monastery was practically self-centred; any connection with other religious houses was at most voluntary, and any bond of union that may have existed, was of the most loose description. The ideal upon which Cluny was established was the existence of a great central monastery with dependencies spread over many lands, and forming a vast feudal hierarchy of subordinate establishments with the closest dependence on the mother-house. Moreover, the superior of each of the dependent monasteries, no matter how large and important, was not the elect of the community, but the nominee of the abbot of Cluny; and in the same way the profession of every member of the congregation was made in his name and with his sanction. It was a great ideal; and for two centuries the abbots of Cluny form a dynasty worthy of so lofty a position. The first Cluniac house founded in England was that of Barnstaple. This was speedily followed by that of Lewes, a priory set up by William, earl of Warren, in A.D. 1077, eleven years only after the Conquest. The last was that of Stonesgate, in Essex, made almost exactly a century later. On account of their dependence upon the abbot of Cluny, several of the lesser houses were suppressed as “alien priories” towards the close of the fourteenth century, and those that remained gradually freed themselves from their obedience to the foreign superior. At the time of the general suppression in the sixteenth century there were thirty-two Cluniac houses; one only, Bermondsey, was an abbey; the rest were priories, of which the most important was that which had been nearly the first in order of time, Lewes.

MLA Citation

  • Dom Adrian Gasquet. “Cluniacs”. English Monastic Life, 1904. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 November 2018. Web. 23 April 2021. <>