Conant and Assistants Excavate Ruins of Old Abbey of Cluny In Burgundy--Monastery Center of Middle Age Monasticism

Gradually yielding its splendor and dignity of archaic. Romanesque architecture to the picks of Kenneth John Conant '15, associate professor of Architecture and a corps of student assistants, the Abbey of Cluny, once the center of Middle Age Monasticism in historic Burgundy reveals again its age-old beauty.

Tourists and scholars generally pass the abbey by in their ramblings for broader education, though the ruins at Cluny were once the center of the Western Church and exerted a powerful influence on the history and art of the period. It is one of the least known of famous places.

The main building, a church, built about the year 1080, was sold to contractors and partially wrecked for the building material between 1798 and 1823; while the old abbey buildings were razed to make room for encroaching modernity.

Conant's report to the Medieval Academy of America, which institute is sponsoring the work, two paragraphs in particular depict the extent of this historic splendor:

"The fabric (rubble and cut stone) of Cluny carried on the tradition of the archaic Romanesque, while giving the promise of the typical fabric of the twelfth-century Romanesque and suggesting more vaguely an articulated structure of the Gothic period. The splendid decoration of the building centered upon a great frescoed Christ in the principal apse--a painting probably inspired by Italy and more remotely Byzantine and Early Christian work, but there was in addition a marvelous profusion of sculpture, representing the Romanesque tradition newly formed under the auspices of the monks.


"This structure deserves the first place among early medieval buildings by reason of its size and dignity as the head church of the congregation of Cluny, and it is hard to doubt that it stood very high as an aesthetic achievement. It is entitled to take its place in the first rank as the major enterprise of the great period, of the Romanesque, an edifice richly endowed by the past, precocious in its time, and boldy anticipating the future."

A series of drawings of the buildings for Radcliffe has been completed by Mr. Conant and the series is to be included in the complete building program of that institution.