Cluny - Walking Holidays in Burgundy, France

Both our independent and guided walking holidays in the French region of Burgundy visit the historic town of Cluny.

Cluny grew up around the Benedictine Abbey founded by Duke William I of Aquitaine in A.D. 910 in the southern Burgundy region of France about 25km west of the town of Macon. From the 10th and 11th centuries a prosperous town grew up around the abbey. The quality of the architecture of the houses and the two parish churches of Saint Marcel and Notre Dame are witness to this. There are a number of fine Romanesque dwellings, such as the 12th century house at 25 rue de la République and the 13th century mint at 6 rue d’Avril. Other good examples can be seen along rue Lamartine. On our self guided walking holiday you can take advantage of a discovery trail through the medieval village centre of Cluny which is marked on the ground by studs bearing the effigy of the Easter lamb.

From the 12th century the urban area of Cluny was defined by the town walls, gateways and  towers, some elements of which remain today. After nine centuries of monastic life, the site now offers a prestigious heritage, including a number of monastic buildings, a Museum of Art and Archaeology housing major works of civil Romanesque sculpture, a Medieval City rich in Romanesque and Gothic houses, two churches, a magnificent Hôtel-Dieu (hospital), and a superb panorama from the top of the Tour des Fromages. With a National Stud Farm dating back to the 19th century and a number of equestrian events, Cluny has also become a National Horse-riding centre. This rich heritage can be explored on our independent walking holidays in France. We will also explore the town during our guided walking holiday in the southern Burgundy.

Cluny Abbey

The Benedictine Abbey of Cluny extended its influence throughout Mediaeval Europe. The abbey church was the largest in the Western Christian world before the building of St Peter’s of Rome. The height of Cluniac influence was from the second half of the 10th century through to the early 12th century.  At its height the Abbey had over 1,000 dependencies scattered across Europe including the UK.  These were mostly called Priories rather than Abbeys.  Each Priory was run by a Prior appointed by Head Office in Cluny, and all monks had to pledge allegiance to the Abbot of Cluny, not their own Prior.  Rich and powerful, the monks of Cluny slipped gradually into a luxurious way of life. The 14th century saw the decline of Cluny’s influence and power. By the 16th century the abbey had lost many of its possessions and was devastated during the religious wars. The abbey was closed after the revolution and much of it was sold as building material.

Today during your French walking holiday, it's still possible to admire the magnificent elevation of the transept of this huge abbey church, the cloisters and the 18th century monastery buildings. The Museum of Art & Archaeology in Cluny, admission to which is free with the ticket to the abbey, contains a number of remarkable mediaeval sculptures from the abbey church and monastery village. The tour ends with the “Flour store” where you will discover a series of capitals, evidence of the splendour of Cluny.

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