'Charters of Crossraguel Abbey'

 

AYRSHIRE AND GALLOWAY ARCHÆOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION - 1886

INTRODUCTION

VI. THE ORDER OF CLUNY IN SCOTLAND.

THE Cluniac order was founded in the year 940, when the Due d'Aquitaine erected the Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy for a reformed order of Benedictine monks. The Duke Bernon and his brother Odo were the first Abbots. Their object was to perfect and renovate the order of S. Benedict, which had fallen into decay; and before long the Cluniacs became so celebrated that they fairly eclipsed the Benedictines. "In the twelfth century," writes Dr. Lees,{1} "they had nearly 2000 monasteries in allegiance to the Abbey of Cluny. It was the greatest of all abbatial churches, equal to Cologne in beauty, vaster than S. Peter's in magnificence; though three scanty fragments alone stand to attest the remains of what De Thou called the most beautiful monastery in Christendom. No bishop could intrude within the precincts of the monastery, or exercise any jurisdiction over it. At one time the Abbot of Cluny received £2000 from English Cluniac houses alone." The charters of the mother house are many thousand in number, and at the downfall of the monastery they were conveyed to the National Library at Paris, where they are now being edited by M. Bruel, the Archeviste Publique.

The Cluniacs were Benedictines according to the spirit of their Rule. Their chief peculiarities were:— Two solemn masses every day, and on private sacred days no labour was allowed except out of the hours of divine service. Every day each alternate choir offered their hosts. Communion extended to all three days before Easter. Constant silence was enforced in the daytime, and it was almost death to violate it before prime; hence we trace the use of signs among them. From the Ides of November the seniors attended meditation in the church; after matins the juniors studied singing in the Chapter. Manual labour was accompanied by a repetition of the Psalms. Strangers were not admitted after compline, nor was leave of refection granted to monks after that time, if absent from the common table. Their manual labour (says Udabrinus) was to shell unripe beans, to weed in the garden, and to bake bread in the bakehouse. They also differed from the Benedictine order proper in matters of ritual. They prepared the bread for Holy Communion differently,{1} washing the wheat carefully, and having the bread itself made by the priests. Their discipline was of the strictest nature, and one of their duties was to learn the Psalter by heart.{2} Guyot de Provins,{3} in his satire on the different religious orders, thus speaks of the Cluniacs :— "When you want to sleep they wake you; when you wish to eat they make you fast. The night is spent in praying in the church, the day in labour. No repose is taken save in the refectory; and what is to be found there? Rotten eggs, beans with their pods on, liquor fit for oxen (boisson des bcenfs). For the wine is so poor that one might drink of it for a month without intoxication."

And Brunellus alludes to their extreme asceticism in the same caustic vein :—{1}

"Esse niger monachus si forte velim Cluniaci,

Ova fabasque nigras cum sale srepe dabunt.

Surgere me faciunt mediâ, de nocte volentem

Amplius in calido membra fovere thoro;

Quodque magis nollem, vellent me psallere sursum,

Et geminare meos in diapente tonos."

Not many years after its institution the order relapsed greatly from its former severity, and Peter the famous Abbot of Cluny complained to the Pope that his brethren "despise God, and having passed all shame eat flesh all days of the week except Fridays; not only in secret but in public; and that one must beat the bushes for them with great multitudes of hunters, and chase pheasants and partridges and ringdoves, for fear the servants of God perish with hunger."{2} Yet the order of Cluny remained great and powerful until the last century, when it succumbed to the violence of the French Revolution. One of the largest houses of the order in France was the Monastery of La Charite. Thence there came a colony of monks to the Abbey of Wenlock in Shropshire, which was among the earliest of the English Cluniac houses. And when Walter, the first Steward of Scotland, determined to erect a monastery of the order at Paisley, on the banks of the River Cart, it was to Wenlock that he sent for those who were first to lead the religious life in the new monastery. We have already seen how the Abbey of Crosraguel practically owed its existence to the mother house of Paisley; and we are thus enabled to trace its direct descent from the Abbey of Cluny through the Monasteries of La Charité, Wenlock, and Paisley. A Scottish monk differed in no respect from those resident in other monasteries of the same order; and the monks of Crosraguel would closely resemble their brethren in England or in France. The monastic habit was a black gown with large wide sleeves and a black cowl, over a white garment.

There were only two other monasteries of the order in Scotland, namely, at Renfrew and Iona; the latter being a development of the early Christian brotherhood established by S. Columba.

The following were the services in the Church of a Cluniac monastery:— Matins at 12 A.M.; Prime at 6; Tierce at 9; Sext at 12 P.M.; Nones at 2 or 3; Vespers at 4; Complines at 7. The brethren retired to rest at 9 o'clock.

The community of a large Cluniac Abbey would include the following:— The Abbot, whose power extended over the whole community; the Prior, whose office appears to have been delegated to a sub-prior at Crosraguel; the Cellarer ; the Precentor; the Kitchener; the Seneschal; the Sacrist; the Almoner; the Novice Master; the Porter; the Refectioner; the Chamberlain; the Monks; the Novices; the Lay brethren.  

 

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1 Abbey of Paisley.

 1 Mabillon's Did. des ordres Religieuses, ii. 30G. 2 Maitland's Dark Ages, p. 33G. 3 Quoted by Fosbrooke, British Monachisms, p. 107.

 1 Maitland's Dark Ages, p. 294. 2 Lib. vi. Ep. 7, from Emillianne's History of the Monastical Orders, p. 91.

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