The enchanting medieval town of Cluny offers a prestigious heritage including its famous Abbey. But Cluny also offers visitors numerous monastic buildings, a Museum of Art and Archaeology housing exceptional works of Romanesque sculpture, a town centre full of ancient houses and buildings, two churches, a majestic Hotel- Dieu and a superb panorama from the top of the Tour des Fromages.
Combined with its centuries-old charm, Cluny has been able to preserve its historical and cultural wealth over the centuries. Cluny is a perfect destination for a quiet holiday away from the big cities.
With its medieval streets, small squares, fountains and beautiful residences, Cluny is a charming village. Take your time to explore the village unhurriedly and admire the authentic Romanesque houses that are dotted around the small town.
Founded in 910 by William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, who donated his land to the Benedictine monks, by the end of the 11th century, Cluny Abbey was one of the most important monastic poles in Christian Europe, at the head of a network of monasteries with almost 1,400 workers and around 10,000 monks scattered throughout the country.
The abbot in charge at the time, Hugues de Semur, decided to build an abbey church to represent God’s power on earth, but also the value of Cluny. In 1088, work began on the Maior Ecclesia, the largest Romanesque church ever built, whose vaults culminate at a height of 30 metres. After a century of work, Cluny would become the largest abbey in Christendom for the next 400 years.
Illustrious abbots followed over the centuries at its helm, such as Richelieu or Mazarin, but nothing would stop the gradual decline of the powerful abbey, which was seized and put up for sale after the French Revolution. The huge church was then bought by material merchants who used it as a stone quarry and gradually dismantled this masterpiece of Romanesque art.
Today, the remains that have come down to us, such as the south arm of the great transept or the small south transept, give us an idea of the immensity of this building. Many other elements have been preserved: the city walls and its towers, the 18th-century convent buildings, the Farinier, a 13th-century building that now houses the capitals of the choir rotunda of the Maior Ecclesia.
The Palais Jean de Bourbon, Museum of Art and Archaeology, is a rare example of a flamboyant Gothic mansion, with vast ceremonial rooms adorned with monumental fireplaces. It houses extraordinary works of medieval sculpture from Cluny, the city and the abbey.
The exact time of construction of Jean de Bourbon’s palace is unknown: probably between 1456, the date of the abbot’s election, and 1485, the date of his death. Departing from the precepts of the rule of St Benedict, the building was constructed away from the cloister, while remaining within the abbey enclosure. The former abbey residence was in fact difficult to access and visits by high dignitaries and foreign guests would have disturbed the silence that was supposed to reign in the cloister.
Today, the Museum of Art and Archaeology houses numerous sculptural remains of the church and monastic village, which testify to the great historical and artistic value of the abbey. Don’t miss the full-scale reconstruction of the Grand Portal of Cluny III (tympanum, architrave, arches, jambs), a masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture, and the ancient library, which houses rare printed books inherited from the Cluniac library. A tactile reader will allow you to leaf through some of the emblematic pages of the oldest volumes, dating back as far as 1492.
From the Palace, you can access the belvedere square of the large abbey church, the remains of its front aisle and its five naves, the large abbey courtyard, between the Hôtellerie Saint-Hugues (11th century) and the Palace of Pope Gelasius. A visit to the museum is included in the entrance ticket to the monastery.
One of the original remains of Cluny Abbey is its imposing tower, formerly known as the Tour des Fèves.
From the top of its 120 steps, you can admire an extraordinary panorama of the city-abbey and an exhibition of photographs. By downloading the CluneTour app on your smartphone, you will have access to a digital tour of the city of Cluny with unprecedented virtual reconstructions.
In 1625, an important bequest enabled the foundation of the Hospital Notre-Dame. This was replaced from 1703 by the current Hôtel-Dieu, whose construction was initiated by Cardinal de Bouillon, 55th Abbot of Cluny.
The visit allows you to discover the marvels enclosed in the different rooms such as the monumental chapel, its frescoed ceiling and abbey furniture, the sick room, its furniture, its showcases of religious ornaments, the pharmacy, its collections of pharmaceutical majolica (16th-19th centuries) and pewter, the administrators’ room.
In Cluny, interest in horses dates back to the Napoleonic Empire and the national stables are located at the foot of the famous abbey.
Guided tours and sightseeing circuits are organised to allow you to discover the emblematic places of the Haras, passing by the stables where the horses are housed. During the visit, you will learn about the history of these emblematic buildings, from the time of Napoleon to the present day, passing through the great period when the Haras were dedicated to horse breeding.
There are also wonderful shows, treasure hunts and activities for the whole family.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
In the heart of Burgundy, Cluny is easily accessible via a dense transport network.
The nearest airport to the village of Cluny is Lyon Airport, which is only 107 km away. Once you land, you can rent a car and drive to the medieval village and its enchanting vineyard-covered countryside.
Alternatively, you can continue by train to the Mâcon-Loché station in 25 minutes.
Cluny can be reached via the A6 motorway, exits no. 26 – no. 29:
For those coming from the A40 – A406 motorway, the times are:
To get to Cluny by train, the nearest TGV station is Mâcon-Loché and Mâcon-Ville station. The most important connections are:
What's the weather at Cluny? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Cluny for the next few days.
The medieval village of Cluny is located in the Burgundy region, about 2 hours from Dijon and Geneva and 4 hours from Paris.