Cluniac Reform

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Cluniac Reform


the reforms carried out in the late tenth and 11th centuries for the purpose of strengthening the Catholic Church.

The Benedictine abbey of Cluny in Burgundy (France) became the center of the movement for the reform of the church. The fundamental demands of the Cluniacs were the reform of the monasteries and the introduction of a stern rule based on the principles of strict asceticism and obedience, rigid control over the observance of celibacy by the clergy, prohibition of simony (the sale and purchase of church appointments), proclamation of the complete independence of reformed monasteries from any secular authority and bishops, and the direct subordination of these monasteries to the pope.

Under the supremacy of Cluny there emerged a powerful congregation that included hundreds of monasteries, mostly in France but also in Germany, England, northern Italy, and Spain. Practically speaking the Cluniac reform removed the monasteries from the control of the bishop but made them dependent on the local secular feudal lords (who often founded these reformed monasteries, gave them land, and appointed the abbots). On the whole the Cluniac reform movement represented in its social essence an attempt at adapting church institutions (in a state of serious decline by the tenth century) to the new conditions created by feudalistic fragmentation; it was directed at replacing the episcopal church by a new, seignorial one. The political and economic interest that the entire feudal class had in this (and not the rebirth of a “religious spirit” as many bourgeois historians assert) explains the rapid success of the reform.

The Cluniac reform movement played a great role in the sociopolitical life of 11th-century Western Europe. The papacy was the first to benefit from the program of the Cluniacs, turning it into a tool in its struggle with the emperors over investiture. Hildebrand (the future Pope Gregory VII) was one of the leaders of the reform. The Cluniac reform led to the formation of the powerful stratum of the new monasticism, a significant strengthening of the Catholic Church, and a tremendous increase of papal authority in the 12th and 13th centuries.


Chaikovskaia, O. G. “Kliuniiskoe dvizhenie X-XI vv., ego sotsial’nyi i politicheskii kharakter.” In the collection Voprosy istorii religii i ateizma, [vol.] 8. Moscow, 1960.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In particular, three key points are stressed throughout the volume: the embedding of Benedictinism in secular politics; the institutional and societal development of Benectinism, together with issues of monastic leadership and autonomy; and the roots of the Cluniac reforms in longstanding institutional processes seeking a restoration of associations with highly placed patrons, particularly the counts of Flanders.