Cluniac order (klōō´nē-ăk´), medieval organization of Benedictines centered at the abbey of Cluny, France. Founded in 910 by the monk Berno and Count William of Aquitaine, the abbey's constitution provided it freedom from lay supervision and (after 1016) from jurisdiction of the local bishop. With its independence thus guaranteed, Cluny became the fountainhead of the most far-reaching religious reform movement in the Middle Ages. During its height (c.950–c.1130) it was second only to the papacy as the chief religious force in Europe. Hundreds of priories were attached, and many Benedictine abbeys were reformed, some joining the Cluniac obedience. In all, nearly 1,000 houses located in many countries were under obedience to the abbot of Cluny. Many Cluniac monks became bishops and through provincial synods were thus able to spread reform in church life throughout Europe. Churches were built, the liturgy was beautified, and schools were opened. Cluny stoutly supported the popes (and was itself under papal protection) and served vitally in the great reform program of Pope Gregory VII. Cluniac zeal diminished in the 12th cent., and the monastic reforming initiative was taken up by the Cistercians. The French Revolution suppressed the remnants of the order and partially destroyed the abbey at Cluny.
See C. H. Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism (1984).