Jerusalem as lieu de mémoire and the shaping of collective identities at tenth- and early-eleventh century Cluny

01 October 2014 → 30 September 2016
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Other biological sciences
    • Other natural sciences
Project description

This project aims to study the process of shaping a collective identity at the tenth- and early-eleventh century abbey of Cluny and its subsidiary institutions. Founded in the early tenth century, Cluny presented itself as a new interpretation of Benedictine monasticism’s role in contemporary society, in that it refused to be incorporated into episcopal or lay systems of domination, and that it actively pursued a reputation of being a “Church within the Church” and a reflection of heavenly society. Scholars have long suspected that Jerusalem played a key role in this representational strategy, and indeed references to both earthly and heavenly Jerusalems and its key lieux de mémoire (sites of Christ’s preaching and passion, Salomon’s temple, and so on) are ubiquitous in Cluniac literature, liturgy, architecture, and even in urban planning that is known to have been influenced by the Cluniacs. So far, however, it has never been properly verified how the Cluniacs managed this strategy, in what theological and ideological principles it was grounded, and whether it actually reflected a pre-conceived, cohesive “programme” in pursuit of fostering a sense of shared purpose and identity among the abbey’s subjects. This project aims to fill that gap in scholarly discussions of collective identities in the Central Middle Ages, and relate the outcomes of its study of the primary evidence from Cluny to the growing interest in eleventh-century society for the Holy Land and the key sites of Biblical tradition. As such it will revise the common notion in scholarship that the Crusaders of the late eleventh century belonged to a generation that “discovered” Jerusalem as a lieu de mémoire.