In the Middle Ages, the founding of Cluny Abbey meant the rule of Saint-Benoît was imposed and then extended to a great number of congregations throughout Europe. The abbey at the origin of this major spiritual movement had to be an impressive one, and as such, became the biggest abbey ever to be built.
Even though most of it has now been destroyed, the remains are still impressive and the tour of Cluny with 3D special effects is unforgettable, as well as the summer evenings held there during the annual music festival. Make sure you stop off at this Abbey-Town, some great places await you!
Cluny Abbey: Brief history of this medieval treasure
In the 10th century, a monastic reform movement occurred and developed in Cluny, imposing the strict observance of the rule of Saint-Benoît. This reform movement then extended throughout Europe. The abbey began to thrive and soon became a spiritual capital!
In its heyday in around 1100, Cluny and its monastic order (Cluniac order) held authority over 10,000 monks and 1,500 monasteries across Europe. At that time, the church there was the biggest in the world, and remained as such until the construction of St-Pierre-de Rome in the 17th century.
The decline set in from the end of the Middle Ages. The French Revolution was a period of terrible waste in the history of France. The abbey became the target of an unscrupulous entrepreneur who used explosives to demolish the buildings, to sell on the stones as building materials.
Revival and virtual tour
Almost nothing remains of the biggest abbey ever built in the Middle Ages. Today, just one bell tower stands at the heart of this small town.
But you can still expect a moving and impressive tour of the one remaining bell tower and the few buildings that were saved from destruction!
And how about a (re)discovery in 3D? Equipped with a tablet and thanks to augmented reality, you can see the parts that are no longer there. The tour of the real ruins, combined with a virtual exploration of the missing parts is really impressive.
Bonus panoramic view: climb the steps of the Tour des Fromages for a fantastic view of Cluny, the abbey and the surrounding countryside.CluneTour – Digital tour of the Abbey-Town
Not only a monastic building...
You won't find any monks at Cluny Abbey. They left in 1794. But you are likely to run into the students of the prestigious Ecole des Arts et Métiers.
Since this school was created in 1901, engineers have been trained on the campus at the abbey. Every year, close to 200 students are enrolled here for a period of 2 years.
Visiting the town of Cluny
In Cluny, the town and the abbey come together as one! While you're exploring the town, you'll come across several ruins of the former abbey. Some are more visible than others and have been meticulously restored, such as the Palais Jean Bourbon which has been converted into the Musée d'Art et d'Archéologie (Museum of Art and Archaeology).
Wander around the Abbey-Town and just take in the charm of the medieval atmosphere: white and ochre stones, rounded pink tile roofing, winding cobbled streets, Romanesque houses decorated with capitals, and so much more. Don't miss the town's surrounding fortifications from where you'll get a great view of the town.
Why not take advantage of your time here to go and see the horses at the Haras National stud farm or even attend an equestrian show? You'll love watching the elegant and skilful horses galloping around this historic setting.
Why not stay a while longer? There are so many excursions and activities that depart from Cluny: you could cycle along the famous Greenway and explore the vineyards of the Maconnais and Chalonnais, admire the wooded landscapes, visit the châteaus and picturesque villages in the surrounding area, etc.
Les Grandes Heures de Cluny music festival
Every summer, the abbey is brought to life by a music festival. There are concerts held in the monks' flour storage room, the cloister, etc., as part of the fantastic programme of events for the Festival Musical des Grands Crus, an unmissable experience!