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Hugh of Cluny

1024-1109. Abbot of Cluny. Descended from Burgundian nobility. He rejected the knightly life for academic training under Bishop Hugh of Auxerre, his great-uncle, and entered the Cluny novitiate when fourteen. He took vows a year later, was ordained to the priesthood in 1044, appointed prior in 1048, and named successor to Abbot Odilo* in 1049. At the Council of Reims (1049) he eloquently advocated reforms before Leo IX. Thereafter enjoying the confidence of nine popes, several from Cluny ranks, he served them as personal adviser, diplomatic emissary, and executor of Vatican policy. His presence at numerous councils and synods contributed to significant decisions: condemnation of Berengar's heresy (Lateran, 1050), decree on papal elections (Lateran, 1059), implementation of reforms (Avignon and Vienne, 1060), defense of Cluniac privileges (Lateran, 1063), organization of the First Crusade (Clermont, 1095).

This capable disciplinarian governed Cluny for sixty prosperous years. Houses were added to the order in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and England. Civil and ecclesiastical privileges were gained. The magnificent abbey church of Cluny was erected and in 1095 its altar personally dedicated by Urban II. Concubinage, simony, and investiture were attacked. Hugh feared secular domination of the church. Diplomatic in his sympathy with Gregory VII against Emperor Henry IV, he remained a wise irreproachable mediator in a factional age, winning the tributes and friendship of both civil and ecclesiastical leaders. Most of his voluminous correspondence has been lost, as has his Life of the Blessed Virgin.