Illuminating the night and its souls. Saint-Hilaire Abbey in Semur-en-Brionnais is an homage to the abbey of Cluny. Understandably so: Hugh of Semur, the 6th century abbot of the order that spread across all of Christian Europe in the Middle Ages, was born in Saint-Hugh’s castle, here in this southern Burgundy village.
© Denis Lathuiliere
In the middle of farming land, Semur-en-Brionnais and its pink-ochre shades, is the historic capital of Brionne region, in southern Burgundy, where Romanesque Art arose so magnificently. The abbey of Saint-Hilaire is one of its undisputed gems, with its exquisitely sculpted gate and tympanum representation of Christ in glory supported by two angels. As for the old village, one of France’s Loveliest Villages, it occupies the hill which is dominated by the imposing ruins of the former fortress of the town’s lords, and where the great abbot, Hugh of Cluny, was born in 1024. The future Saint Hugh began work on Cluny’s third abbey church, which was to become, from the 13th to the 16th century, the greatest Christian church, and the heart of a powerful order, with more than 10,000 abbey churches throughout Europe. Building on this extraordinary heritage, Semur-en-Brionnais has enjoyed a considerable influence across the Burgundy region. Now listed in the network of French Cluniac sites, it is a must see to discover Cluny’s religious history, continuing to make this small village shine beyond Burgundy.