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Cluniac churches in Jura: History and heritage


Like Ducal Burgundy, a true land of Western medieval monasticism, Trans-Juran Burgundy also presents itself as a land of predilection where many monastic foundations developed from the time of the Burgundian kingdom. It is also in these lands that one should seek the historical sources of Cluny "lighthouse of the medieval West" with its first Abbot Bernon leading to the beginning of the Xe century a small group of monks from two Jura abbeys. The celebrations of the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Cluny give us the opportunity to go back to basics with a non-exhaustive overview of the rich and important Cluniac heritage of the Jura.

The abbey of Baume-les-Messieurs

Of the Cluniac abbeys of Jura, the most famous is certainly that of Baume-les-Messieurs. Ranked among the “most beautiful villages in France”, the site owes its charm above all to its topographical location. Located in a remote, true and picturesque end of the world, we can easily understand the choice of such a place for a monastic building which was with Gigny, the "mother" of Cluny. Indeed, from this abbey left in 909 six monks with six others from Gigny under the direction of Bernon to found Cluny thus giving birth to an order which played a preponderant role in the monastic renewal of the Xe and XIe century of the medieval West. It is thus from this place that the powerful Cluniac order was born, which at the beginning of the 12the century - its peak - had more than 1,100 monasteries across Europe.

However, the interest of Baume does not lie simply in its title of "mother" of Cluny, nor is it limited to its magnificent natural site but also goes through its architecture ranging from Romanesque art to a Flemish altarpiece of the XVIe century, recently restored and definitely not to be missed. Secularized in 1759, then sold as national property, the abbey now belongs to about fifteen owners, including the General Council of Jura, which organizes exhibitions in the abbey house, combining art and history to offer a significant new and cross-section of the site. and its history.

The abbey church of Gigny-sur-Suran

Often eclipsed by Baume "the majestic", the discreet and modest abbey of Gigny of which only the abbey church remains today is the true origin of Cluny. It was on this site that in 890, Father Bernon decided to apply a reform of Benedictine life while escaping from temporal power, placing the abbey under the protection of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The monks of Gigny are accountable only to their successor in the Holy See, namely the Pope. The experience will then be repeated successfully at Baume-les-Messieurs and especially at Cluny.

Somewhat isolated from tourist circuits, the site should not be neglected. On the contrary, charged with the history of the Cluniac order, the church is a precious testimony of the first Romanesque art like the octagonal pillars of the nave. While some modifications have naturally taken place over the centuries, the monument remains a very beautiful and interesting example of early XI architecture.e century, explained by panels inside the church.

Mièges and Nozeroy

If the Cluniac churches of the neighboring villages of Mièges and Nozeroy have a priori no interest in their exterior appearance - loss of their bell towers following fires - it would be a challenge to miss the visit of their interiors having benefited from the artistic influence of the court of the dukes of Burgundy in the 14th and 15th centuriese centuries.

The church of Saint Germain de Mièges, devenaked at the end of XIe century a priory dependent on Cluny, appears of a relatively impressive size for its very modest village especially as it is covered with ornaments mainly of the Flamboyant Gothic with in particular many vine leaves or even outside the building of sirens but also early Renaissance style column bases. The real jewel is the small chapel called Chalon located to the right of the choir with these dangling keystones representing Christ in the center, surrounded by the four Evangelists.

This small priory, however, left the Cluniac order at the end of the Middle Ages, torn off by the collegiate church of the neighboring village of Nozeroy, today classified among the "most beautiful villages in France", formerly a fortress and seat of the powerful lords of Chalon. The latter built in the early XVe, on the site of a 13th century chapele, a former dependency of the priory of Mièges, the collegiate church of Saint Antoine, whose interior features interesting elements of Flamboyant Gothic. But the main interest of this church lies above all in three 17th century straw embroideriese century, located on antependia (front of the altar). To replace gold, the nuns embroidered wheat straw on silk with "goldfish", thus constituting a work quite unique in Europe and certainly a curiosity worth seeing.

Romainmôtier, the oldest Romanesque church in Switzerland


In the Swiss Jura - region of Yverdon les Bains - is undoubtedly the oldest monastery in the country, founded around 450. In the 7the century, it is placed under the rule of Saint Columban, it is then a modest construction which passes to the IXe century under the ownership of the ephemeral kingdom of transjurane Burgundy. Around 928-929, the monastery was given to the order of Cluny. Begins a phase of development resulting in particular in architectural development until the XVIe century and the Reformation. The abbey then suffered the iconoclasm of the Bernese and saw the destruction of its cloister, the foundations of which remain.

The abbey remains nevertheless a formidable site above all for its Romanesque church, built according to a plan identical to the (destroyed) church of Cluny whereas a fire during the medieval period allowed the passage of the Romanesque art to the Gothic art thus giving rise to magnificent colored vaults, murals or even the strange pink and green wall decoration of the choir resembling “thumbprints”. The tithe barn, 18th century buildinge century now serves as a museum and hosts an exhibition in the wake of Cluny's 1100 years. This exhibition presents two main subjects: the first addresses iconoclasm through fragments of statues representative of Cluniac art that suffered the effects of the Reformation (destruction of faces or heads); the second theme focuses on the funeral monuments of the great priors of Romainmôtier. A very interesting computer generated film traces the history of the site from the Ve century, explaining the different stages of the construction of this high place of Cluniac heritage.

The Cluniac heritage of the Jura

The various Cluniac sites marked the architecture and life of the Jura. Through churches of the rare first Romanesque style such as Gigny or Baume-les-Messieurs, Gothic churches representative of the artistic development of the court of the Dukes of Burgundy such as Mièges or even abbey churches mixing Romanesque and Gothic such as Romainmôtier, the Jura both French and Switzerland preserves an important and considerable heritage of which we have only made a brief overview. Other sites such as the funeral chapel and the large cloister of the abbey of Saint Claude, the priory of Saint Christophe de Ruffey sur Seille (private but visitable during heritage days or by appointment), the church of Mouthier- Old man in Poligny, the priory of Vaux sur Poligny or the college Saint Jérôme de Dole are other buildings of art and history.


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