The town grew up around the Benedictine Cluny Abbey, founded by Duke William I of Aquitaine in A.D. 910. The monastery became the grandest, most prestigious and best endowed monastic institution in Europe. The height of Cluniac influence was from the second half of the 10th century through the early 12th.
The Cluny library was one of the most important in France and Europe during the Middle Ages. The abbey was sacked by the Huguenots in 1562 and many of the valuable manuscripts were destroyed or removed.