Today this is one of the 22 administrative regions of France, covering 5 % of the territory. It includes the departements of Yonne, Nièvre, Côte d’Or and Saône et Loire. The latter two constitute « Lower Burgundy ». With the rivers Saône et Loire flowing through it, Lower Burgundy is one of the endless ranges of the Burgundy landscapes with the meadows of the Charolais and the vineyards of the Mâconnais and Beaujolais constituting the Southern element. The Charolais, on the edge of the hills of the Morvan, combines hills and plains, the marly meadows, which favour the rearing of the white cattle ; you can count numerous herds of them as you travel across the area. Note that this land is most suited to the rearing of Charolais cattle, a breed appreciated by connaisseurs and which contributes to the fame of this region. The Mâconnais and the Beaujolais extend the wine growing lands of the Val de Saône ; they are now slowly but surely spreading their shoots on the western slopes of the hills of the region. The vineyards harmonise with the numerous pasturelands in the hinterland and are dotted with houses, whose tiled roofs give a Mediterranean look. They imbue this land with a soothing gentleness, which is the basis of its charm, allure and wisdom.
The founding of Cluny
To escape the grip of the feudal system, the monastic renewal is born in Cluny in 1910, directly under the responsibility of the Pope. Free from the influences of the Landlords, the marks return to the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict and are quickly urged to establish new bases throughout Europe. Paray-le-Monial will become one of them. The Benedictine monks of Cluny found a priory on the banks of the Bourbince.
Land of spirituality
Countless are the abbeys and priories, churches and steeples dotting the landscape of Saône et Loire. They reveal to us the work of the monks ,who worked this land. The whole world vocation of Burgundy finds one of its greatest supports in the monastic works of the Middle Ages. Cluny becomes the first spiritual , cultural and political centre. More than 10,000 monks will live under its aegis in 1450 houses spread throught Europe. Prayer, study and teaching forged the great political figures of the age ; several popes will come from here. Paray-le-Monial is the most significant architectural result.
Not far from Paray-le-Monial, the octagonal steeple of the Priory of Anzy-le-Duc invites pilgrims to cross its threshold guarded by Christ ascending and to let themselves be imbued by the light, which illuminates its liturgical space. This church was the prototype for the Basilica of Vezelay. Also , the parishes of Montceau l’Etoile, Marcigny or Semur-en-Brionnais can testify to the roots of this land. Today, these numerous churches, which have become parish churches are watched over by the Bishop of Autun. His Cathedral which is inspired by Cluny and Paray-le-Monial boasts its famous tympanium of Christ on Judgemend Day.