A thousand years ago the French abbey of Cluny was the hub of one of the most powerful empires of the Middle Ages, and the spiritual heart of Europe. Nearly 1,500 religious houses were subject to its authority, and it was the seat of immense political power throughout the Christian world. The abbots of Cluny were among the most formidable men of their day; they were friends and advisers to successive popes and Holy Roman Emperors, as well as to the kings of England, France and Spain. They were also among the greatest builders the world has known, responsible for some of the finest mediaeval architecture, painting and sculpture. This book tells the story of the abbey from its humble beginnings as a hunting-lodge given to a Benedictine monk by the local duke, through its centuries of glory, to its long decline until the French Revolutionary mob vandalized the buildings and it was auctioned to local entrepreneurs as a stone quarry. It also tells the story of the men involved in this vast enterprise, individuals of exceptional determination and single-mindedness, whose faith co-existed with extraordinary political acumen.
Reconstructing the lives, beliefs and ambitions of Cluny's abbots, Edwin Mullins puts the abbey and its network of dependent monasteries at the centre of medieval European history. He examines its vital contribution to the Reconquest of Spain from the Saracens, its role in organizing the First Crusade to the Holy Land and its conciliatory part in the violent struggles between popes and the Holy Roman Emperor. He also considers Cluny's relationship to England and William the Conqueror following the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the bitter conflict with St. Bernard of Clairvaux and rival Cistercian monasteries. Much of Cluny's enduring legacy lies in the cultural innovations that the abbey sponsored, and In Search of Cluny traces the institution's influence on the great mediaeval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, as well as its contribution to the magnificent carved churches of Moissac, Autun and Vezelay.
EDWIN MULLINS is a writer, journalist and filmmaker, who has written widely on the visual arts and architecture. The author of the acclaimed The Pilgrimage to Santiago (Signal, 2001), he lives and works in London and in France.