DIARY ENTRY, BROTHER HUBERT, CLUNY MONASTERY, c. AD 1096 Copyright © 03/11/1999
I am Brother Hubert, one of the 225 monks who serve the Lord here at Cluny in this year, 1096, Anno Domini. I am 26 years old and came to this abbey in 1085 when I was 15 and a young man. Unlike many of my brethren who at age six or seven were offered to the church as oblates, or “precious possessions”, by often well-to-do parents, I had to convince my father, the Lord de Clary of Romford in England, to send me. I am the second oldest of his four sons and he had work and position for me on his manor. It was my mother who unintentionally, through her love of travel and books, instilled in me the dislike of becoming an administrator and go-between for my father and his serfs. My mother was born in Westminster, not far from Romford, and when I was old enough to understand the significance, she took me to see Westminster Abby. The abbey was completed in 1065, five years before my birth; to see its soaring, brilliant beauty spellbound me as a boy. The church is as it was built to be, Edward the Confessor’s tomb and reliquary, a repository for relics; it combines the finest architectural designs the Normans brought back from Venice, Southern Italy, Alsace, Aquitaine, and Byzantium. But it was in discussions with the monks that I learned of the religious revival-taking place at Cluny Monastery, in Southeastern France. So by some fair amount of pleading and skillful intervention of my mother, I came to Cluny. I still, after all the years, feel the magnificence and austerity the dignity and discipline of this church every day as I perform the traditional rituals based on the
rules of St. Benedict. I took my vows early, but I do not plan to take the Holy Orders soon. Although I am ashamed to admit these selfish thoughts, I am not yet ready to become a priest to some poor, remote village and be the only means of salvation for the peasants who know nothing of the world beyond their one-room hovel and a poor bowl of gruel at meal time. Though my fingers are blue from cold in the winter and I sometimes fall asleep as I stand, my whole world is contained inside the walls of this abbey. Through discipline and faith, my soul reaches beyond these walls until it seems almost to touch the realm of God. But that is enough of my thoughts and dreams. Let me talk of the daily affairs here at Cluny. All of us have a little extra excitement now because of the building of the new third Church of Cluny, which was started in 1088. Our Lord Abbot Hugh secured funding from King Alfonso of Spain to start the new church. It is said it will not be finished for at least another 30 years, but the architects have let me look at the plans. The arches in the nave or central area are to be modeled after Montecassino, home of St. Benedict. The fluted pilasters are of roman design. Painters are being sought to decorate the inner walls with paintings copied from Byzantine manuscripts. The roof will be a thick stone barrel vault supported by heavy walls with small windows. The tapestries, jewels, gilding, chalices, and reliquaries that belong to Cluny in time will brighten their new home. Despite our infrequent peeps into these worldly activities, most of our days are spent honoring the rules of St. Benedict. He said, “Seven times a day will I praise you.” And this we do, not as a test of willpower, because most of us are past this point, but as
thought-less discipline. Our entire day is controlled by the ringing of a bell for every hour or two we are summoned to prayer, psalms, or readings from the Bible. We are wakened to dress and go down at midnight for Mattins, before dawn we are summoned to Lauds, and at approximately dawn we attend Prime. Two hours later we have Terce and sung mass. At noon is Sext; mid afternoon is None; at dusk is Vespers; and in the late evening, Compline. I usually try to sleep the hours between Compline and Mattins, an hour or so before Lauds, and sometimes, if I am able, an afternoon nap after Sext. Between the calls to worship, my time is taken up with reading and meditation, strangely scheduled meals, insufficient sleep, and very little else. While our lack of physical labor leads to at time some ennui, our meals exactly reflect our quiet style of life. In winter and during Lent we eat only one meal a day, in winter at early afternoon, during Lent in the early evening. During summer we eat towo light meals, at noon and at dusk. We are allowed a variety of sorts in food which consists of bread, wine, eggs, fish cheese, beans, leeks, onions, milk, and honey. Meat, except fowl and fish, is forbidden. St. Benedict has said red meat may be taken by the ill and I know of some of my brethren who have extended their stay in the infirmary although symptoms were well past. There is no privacy in the church for monks. Unlike the hermits of Camaldoli or La Grande Chartreuse, my brethren and I sleep together in a long, open vaulted dormitory, as well as eat, work in the cloister, and worship together. We do not own pritave possessions. The Abbot has issued to each of us a mattress, a woolen blanket, an under-blanket, and a pillow. We also receive a hood, tunic, shoes, long socks, belt, knife, pen, needle, and a handkerchief.
Our simple personal needs are met. Once each week the chamberlain’s assistants provide razors and, to the accompaniment of a psalm, we form two rows and in turn shave our brethren. Our tonsures, the bald crown of the head, which show our humility as they did on the slaves of Rome, are also shaved. Bathing is reserved for the special occasions of Christmas and Easter. Meals are preceded by a formal ceremony of hand-washing in the lavatorium. We eat in the refectory and always have a selected book read to us as we eat in complete silence. From our comprehensive and large Cluny library we have listened to yhe Bible, writings of St. Augustine, Cassian, Gregory the Great, and St. Isidore of Seville, as well as many others. Brother Jerome, the precentor informed me he has Livy’s History of Rome, but such an unimportant person as I am is unlikely ever to see or touch it. Within the monastery, each of us is assigned a particular responsibility. Since Abbot Hugh is so often away to visit our many daughter houses and serve the pope, we have two sub-priors who attend the matters of Cluny and its houses in his absence. My friend Brother Jerome, who I have mentioned before, organizes the liturgy, which is the arrangement of services, and keeps the key to the book cupboard. The chamberlain and his helpers tailor the already dyed and woven cloth into habits and see to their laundering, another operation almost as rare as our baths. The cellarer, or steward, organizes all the foodstuffs for the abbey. The refectorer plans the meals and supervises the kitchen. The sacrist is in charge of the church and its belongings. Charity and care for the poor are administered by the almoner; as all tithes, church taxes, pas through his hands, I am sure he knows the burden of responsibility. Lastly, though not in the eyes of God, I suppose, are the circatores, supervisors, who wander the abbey making sure all the rest of us are
doing what we are supposed to doing. But I should be thankful, for St. Benedict praised discipline and, alone, one may become weak. We monks are always curious of the happenings in the outer world. I have been often tempted, since I heard of Pope Urban’s call for the crusades last year, to go on the journey. From an itinerant merchant we heard of the history-maling Council of Clermont. On 27 November 1095, Pope Urban urged, “Brother must help brother – the Western Church must go to the rescue of the Eastern.” The announcement was heard by thousands, and the message was passed further until by this spring, half of Western Europe seems to be packing their baggage and families for the journey East. The Church has promised to care for the lands of crusaders while they are gone, to suspend taxes, and forgive debts. If the crusader returned in success, he has been promised entry into heaven, or at least reduced time in purgatory. Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of the East, was told to expect a disciplined army, led by nobles, to arrive in Constantinople after the fall harvest. Instead, a massive people’s army of 15,000, led by Peter the Hermit is sweeping the land, while another army led by Walter Sans-avoir is moving East with men, women, and children, and camp followers, huchsters, and fugitives. But this crusade may be Gods way of reminding all of us here of our responsibilities, too. The infirmary has been filled by those wandering religious warriors who have become sick or fallen to accident on their journey. Prehaps for all my seeking of the knowledge of the world, I will find knowledge here in this place and leave Cluny only by way of the abbey cemetery.
Clayton THE END