William I of Aquitaine, Duke of Aquitaine and count of Mâcon, nicknamed William the Pious, (...) asked the abbot Berno (850-927) of the monastery of Baume, near Besançon, for advice on the foundation of a small new abbey, where twelve monks would enter. This became the abbey of Cluny.
Uniquely, William, as founder, renounced all his rights, which, according to the then popular practise accrued to him. Cluny was forbidden to hold lands by feudal service. A donor to this foundation had to make his gift in free alms, that is, the only service owed was prayers for his soul.
According to the founding charter, the abbey was only under the protection of the Pope (exemplo). This limited guardianship was only later accepted by the popes, but Cluny could count on a far-reaching autonomy, This Romana libertas, Roman freedom, gave the monastery a great prestige.
Cluny adopted a modiﬁed form of the Benedictine rule. St. Benedict had directed his monks to spend long hours at manual labor, but once a monastery grew rich in land and peasant labor, it was impossible to get the monks to work in the ﬁelds. The Cluniac rule greatly extended the hours to be devoted to performing the services of the church in the hope of keeping the monks occupied in that way.
By the eleventh century Cluny had many daughter houses. (...) With the support of the (German TN) emperor Henry III Cluniac monks reformed many German monasteries and men inspired by Cluny revived English monasticism.
This blog is a combination of quotes form Baldwin, M. W. (ed.): The first hundred years (1969) and sections of the Wikipedia entry on Cluny Abbey; source illustration .khanacademy.org, showing William of Aquitaine addressing two monks of Cluny, historiated initial, from the Miscellanea secundum usum Ordinis Cluniacensis, late 12th – early 13th century, folio 85r (Illuminated Manuscript no. 17716, Bibliotheque National de France, Paris)