The Benedictines - Cluny

Bénédictin de Cluny
From the 8th century, Western monasticism tended to differentiate itself from Eastern communities by its dependence on temporal power.

At that time, the monasteries opened up to the world to participate in the evangelization of its populations.  Some establishments became centers of agricultural activity, and were closely dependent on the lay authorities who founded them, monitoring compliance with the Rule and essential precepts, which are obedience, continence, humility, and intervening if necessary to restore the quality of monastic life. More and more, the abbots were appointed by the royal power and not by the monks, lay people were put at the head of certain monasteries ... It is in this context that Benoît d'Aniane favored the return of the application of the Benedictine Rule within the Carolingian Empire. In this context of degraded monastic life, which was once again under the influence of the laity, Guillaume, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Mâcon, ceded to Father Bernon a domain in the Saône to found the monastery of Cluny in the year 909, under the patronage of the apostles Peter and Paul, and freed from all secular supervision.

Cluny expanded its influence and prospered to the point that Cluny's power was more and more ostentatious, which caused the monks to gradually move away from the rule of Saint Benedict.

The many gifts led them to invest in management instead of meditation. The poverty advocated by the Benedictines was no more than a memory ... indeed, Cluny, in its prosperous period, was truly inserted into the economy and feudal society, which was contrary to the principle of "closure" of the monasteries. Since its foundation, Cluny had acquired considerable prestige: the order was established everywhere in the West and even as far as Palestine thanks to the First Crusade; the basilica was the largest church in Christendom (in front of Saint Peter in Rome); Pope Urban II, who ordered the First Crusade, was a former Cluniac monk.

The order was freed from lay and episcopal tutelage by papal decision. It then became a very important landowner and wielded real seigneurial power. Its power was reinforced by the gradual appropriation of judicial authority and the desire to acquire military capabilities (at the end of the 10th century, Cluny was established as a stronghold).

At the end of the 11th century, voices were raised both inside and outside the order to denounce what seemed to be a diversion or even a perversion of the monastic ideal. The Cistercians were preparing to be born ... The future Saint Bernard, one of the most serious denouncers of the deviations of the monks of Cluny, wrote in particular: "O vanity of vanities, but even more insane than vain: the church shines on its walls and it lacks everything in its poor."