Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Fetish: Cluniac Edition

Elsewhere on this blog we have posted reconstructions of Cluny III and the original St. Peter's basilica. Here is the best video reconstruction of Cluny III that the Rad Trad has yet seen. As a note of interest, the image of Christ enthroned in the apse is very reliable. The same image graced the apse of the original St. Peter's and was copied by the pro-papacy Cluniac monks, who in turn copied the image in the apse of the chapel of the abbot's still extant retreat house. Cluny III was once the largest church in the world, larger than either the old St. Peter's or St. Paul outside the Wall. At one point Cluny housed over four hundred monks, but their rapid expansion during the reform papacies of the middle ages and the proliferation of more penitential monastic orders trimmed Cluny's numbers. When the church was destroyed during the time of the French Revolution, there were under a hundred monks in this impressive church.

The church itself was an interesting example of architecture in transition from the ancient Roman style into the medieval style. We see nascent arches, too round to be gothic, but too bold and dark to be Roman. There is a divider between the nave and choir, anticipating the Rood screen and succeeding the altar ciboria of the Roman basilicas. There is the long, narrow choir, clearly indicative of the emerging choir praxis that survived until the 1960s and which replaced the almost Byzantine existing praxis wherein the non-celebrating district subdeacons and deacons and full-time cantors would sing the proper chants from lecturns in the Roman churches. And above all, the Roman basilicas reflected the Roman approach to public gatherings: large, broad, and with an elevated place for those in authority—in this case, the Pope. In Cluny III, we instead find tall, narrow structure reflecting the dynamic between heaven and earth and a direct focus on the altar created by the preceding features and the small opening in the screen. Architecture was becoming more and more focused on the action of God.

What a place it must have been!


  1. Thank you so much, Rad Trad!!

    If it had had an iconostasis, it would have been the perfect church! The only thing that doesn't fit on the video is that, as far as I knew, the main altar did have a ciborium - and, behind it, there should have been the Altare matutinale, where a solemn requiem Mass was celebrated every day after Prime.

    It is also worth noting that the pontifical rite for the abbot, as it is written in the 1733 "Neogallican" edition of their Missal, is more solemn than the Tridentine one.

    Kyrie eleison

  2. St. Peter Damian, that indefatigable papal visitator and reformer, visited Cluny during their so-called decadence; his experience shows that "decadent" can be a relative term. After a few days of assisting at all the Offices--the canonical Hours, Office of the Dead, of Our Lady, of All Saints, etc.--he fell sick from exhaustion apparently and needed a good bit of bed rest to recover. The Cluniac regimen of the Hours may also explain why the good monks tended to eat well, i.e. gluttonously in the eyes of the Gregorian reformers.

  3. Cluny before and after the French Revolution; liberalism in action

  4. This is a tangential reference but M.J.and The Bride went to this farm years ago and this unknown-in-America Saint (Cluny Abbot) was solicited by many to agree to become chosen Pope but he declined.

    What was amasing was to discover how centuries ago the monks hand-dug trenches (more'n 20 kils away) from a lake in the Alps to feed their rice fields with water and the same trenches to day are used and maintained by a co-op which shares the same water source and maintains the trenches.

    As an aside, the risotto from this area is excellent, the goose sausages (Jewish made; they can't use pork) are decadent and the wine is earthy and fruity ; travel globally, eat & drink locally.

    If you are ever in the area...and what a great area; Italy is prolly the best country on earth