Monasticism without frontiers : the extended monastic community of the Abbot of Cluny in England and Wales

Monasticism without frontiers : the extended monastic community of the Abbot of Cluny in England and Wales

By Christopher Pearce

PhD Dissertation, University of Wales – Trinity Saint David, 2017

Illustration of Bermondsey Abbey from 1894.

Abstract: Cluniac monasteries, so called because of their relationship to the abbot of Cluny in Burgundy, have been estimated to have numbered over seven hundred foundations at one time, distributed throughout France and in England, Wales, Scotland, Lombardy, and Spain. To date Cluniac studies have tended to concentrate on the abbey of Cluny, undoubtedly the fullest expression of Cluniac monasticism. Much work has been done on other individual Cluniac foundations but there has been little attempt to place the resulting information in the context of an organisational relationship between Cluniac monasteries and the abbot of Cluny, because this relationship is poorly understood.

This thesis redresses this neglect by for the first time providing a model for this relationship whereby all Cluniac monks are said to have constituted an extended monastic community under the authority of the abbot of Cluny whose purpose was the transmission and maintenance of a distinctive monastic observance. This model was developed from a comprehensive examination of evidence of a variety of types, viewed from specific perspectives, relating to all the Cluniac foundations in England and Wales.

This shows clear evidence of the involvement of centrally coordinated Cluniac administration in the regulation of these monasteries from the foundation process, the selection of their sites and their relationship with secular settlement and ecclesiastical and secular authority to provide optimal conditions for the following of a distinctly Cluniac monastic observance by their resident monks. It is argued on the basis of this model that future Cluniac research will be far more fruitful if it is reorientated towards the study of the extended Cluniac monastic community.

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