Monastery founded in 910 by William the Pious, duke of Aquitaine. Established as a pious donation for the cure of the souls of the duke and his wife and family, the monastery at Cluny came to offer a more austere reading of the Benedictine Rule. It was dedicated to the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, and in practice it came under the protection of the pope. William also established the independence of the monastery from all temporal rulers, religious or secular, and allowed the monks to elect the abbot. These liberties enabled the community to develop its emphasis on the liturgy and prayers for the dead, which inspired a reputation for holiness and attracted numerous benefactors. Cluniac monks were sent to reform monasteries throughout Europe and created a great web of related communities. Cluny's influence on the church in the 11th–12th century has been widely recognized, and its abbots were greatly esteemed. Its predominance was eroded by the rise of the Cistercian order, and in the later Middle Ages the monastery declined. It was suppressed during the French Revolution and closed in 1790. Its Romanesque Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul (largely demolished in the 19th century) was the world's largest church until the erection of Saint Peter's Basilica.
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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.