It dates back to 1163, when it was established as a Cluniac Monastery- followers of a Benedictine order in France, who established a strict regime of austere living. Despite this however, there was also a tradition of giving the very best to God, particularly around worship, so alongside the extreme frugality of individual monks there was great opulence and wealth within the actual priories, hence this lovely building, which would have been decorated in the most colourful way with gold silver and the finest fabrics.
This contrast between simplicity/self denial and great wealth and power is one that always hits me when I attend the wonderful architectural survivors of the the former religious age. Such resources went into their construction- and continue to be tied up in their upkeep, and this seems at odds with the way of Jesus.
However- who can be in such places and remain unmoved?
Here are a few photos of some of the colour inside the place, taken with M’s little camera…