Cluny III Case Study

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Cluny III is part of a Benedictine commune in Burgundy, France. Cluny is remarkable for several reasons, namely for the sheer size of its church. Its vast size secured it as the largest building in the world until the rebuilding of St. Peter’s, which was constructed to intentionally be a few inches larger than Cluny III. Due to its 1000-foot height, some even considered it to be the “angels’ courtyard” should the inhabitants of heaven “content themselves with our terrestrial dwelling.” Aside from its size, Cluny was the first monastery to enjoy the right of being its own autonomous state that only had to refer to the pope. “Cluny sought to implement the Benedictine program more fully by achieving independence from secular authorities,”
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Architecturally, the center of a building could be the section that is most captivating, houses the most activity, or has the most significance to the buildings purpose. In the case of Cluny III, the center is the eastern side of the church, specifically the chevet. Even though it is at the end of the building it is eye-catching in its beauty with its rounded walls, layers of windows, and assumed acoustic qualities. The roof was intentional constructed in a dome-like way to allow for better acoustic properties to enhance the beauty of the Benedictine chants that took place there. The cascading effect of the roofs make this end of the church particularly visually interesting and beautiful. One can only imagine how the sound of the monks chanting could entirely envelope a person in the church. The other area that I find particularly interesting in this part of the church is the ambulatory. There was a previous tragic incident in which pilgrims were trampled when trying to observe the holy relics housed in the particular church. This was in part due to the poor layout of the area that housed the relics. Cluny III sought to avoid this tragedy happening again, which resulted in the rounded ambulatory. This, paired with the aisles alongside the main nave allowed for unobtrusive and functional observation of the relics. This is just one of the many examples …show more content…
This was standard practice of church and cathedral building during medieval times, stemming from the belief that the Messiah will rise from that direction upon his return. The beautiful chevet was also built facing the east so that the light from the morning sun could pour in through the many windows, washing over the people as they recited their morning prayers. The transepts, however, interrupt the east/west orientation and instead hold a north/south position. They are constructed to form a cross shape, which was a common design of the basilica. Cluny III uniquely has two transepts on its east end, creating somewhat of a double cross shape.

Conclusion Cluny III was much more than merely the largest church in the world. This incredible abbey defied structural limitations of the time, provided an organizational structure to the scattered Benedictine priories all over the French countryside and utilized a seamless mix of Romanesque and Gothic architectural qualities, proving that styles are not merely frozen in time. “In itself it was no more than a small, enclosed world…yet its shadow reached out to the most distant corners of the continent, and even beyond.” It is a beautiful thing when architecture can pull of such an amazing

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