A Visit to Cluny

Eric and I have been doing a lot of traveling lately, and I am way behind on posting about all of our adventures. Hopefully I will catch up one of these days, but that’s probably just wishful thinking. One of these adventures was to the town of Cluny, a rural Burgundian town that is steeped in history in a grand way. Cluny is notably home to the Abbaye de Cluny as well as the Haras National (the national stud farm), but on this visit we primarily kept to the abbey.

Upon arriving in town on a Saturday morning, we found a pleasant market with a good number stands selling the usual fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. I recognized some of the vendors as the same ones that come to the Chalon market on Fridays and Sundays. We bought some white mulberries to try in our morning oatmeal, and they turned out to be unique addition with a strong floral quality. They were a nice alternative to the standard raisins or cranberries we usually mix in. Unfortunately, I haven’t found these anywhere else yet.

For lunch, we ate at the Café du Nord, close to the entrance of the abbey. Our meals were adequate and the price was fair, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the food. It did seem popular though and the service was reasonable.

After lunch we moved on to the abbey and spent two or three hours visiting it and wandering the grounds. The history of the abbey makes this a fascinating place, but visiting requires one to use a great deal of imagination in the process. The abbey was founded in 910, and over they centuries it developed into the epicenter of the powerful Cluniac order of the Benedictine monks and the largest church in all of Christianity until St. Peter’s Basilica was constructed. The order began to decline in the 12th century, but the church remained intact until the French Revolution. Sadly, during the French Revolution the abbey was seized as public property and was largely dismantled. All that remains today is a small part of the transept. There are some augmented reality screens throughout the grounds that will help you imagine what it used to be like, and for more context you should try to find the remains of the church that extend into the present-day town. The grounds of the abbey and the cloisters are also delightful and will give you an impression of just how large and important this place once was.

After the abbey we visited the abbey’s archaeological museum, which is free with a ticket from the abbey. It displays some of the remains of the church, including the abbey’s carved emblem. Another site in town worth visiting is La Tour des Fromages, or the Cheese Tower. It has a good view over the abbey as well as the town. We also discovered other churches in town and saw some examples of Roman houses.

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