Avignon: Palais des Papes

Avignon is a walled city that sits on the banks of the Rhone River where it widens and splits into two branches. Construction of the Pope’s Palace began in the mid-1200s, and it became the seat of Pope Clement V when he moved way from Rome to escape from the city’s violence and chaos. The palace was greatly expanded and fortified over the course of about a hundred years by the seven Popes that resided there, until the Papacy returned to Rome in the mid-1300s. Near the end of the Papacy in Avignon, the Church and lay staff at the palace reached about 1,5oo. However, only the Pope and his chief treasurer were allowed in the Treasury. We were informed that there were three known robberies of the treasury. But only recently, as some of the preservation work was being done, several hidden compartments under the heavy stone floor of the treasury were discovered, with gold coins and other treasure.

The Pope’s return to Rome led to a  schism in the Church, with the French Court supporting several anti-popes in the Palace for about a hundred years. The Palace was besieged several times until in the 1700s it became a soldiers barracks following the Revelation and latter a prison. The Palace was not designated as a historical site until after 1900. Restoration is ongoing.

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The main entrance to the Palais des Papes has twin defense towers with spikes on their spires. The decorative looking crosses cut into the battlement are arrow slits.
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A Nos Morts: Memorial to France’s losses from World Wars I and II between the gardens and the Pope’s Palace.
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The Cathedral at Avignon is Notre-Dame-des-Domes. The original Cathedral was built in the 4th Century, but the present structure is though to date back to about 1160 and was reconstructed in 1822.
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The Calvary in the church yard includes four weeping angles whose faces show deep anguish.

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Statues of Kings and Cardinals in the North Sanctuary.
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The Grand Chapel, where coronations and grand dinners were held.

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Pont D’Avignon, also known as St. Benezet’s Bridge, was constructed in the late 1100s, and rebuilt several times, more significantly after the fall of Avignon in 1226. The bridge originally had 22 arches spanning both branches of the Rhone River. Only four spans remain today. A shepherd boy, Benezet, had the initial inspiration for the bridge and inspired the Bishop of Avignon and the community to build the bridge.
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The square outside the entrance to the Pope’s Palace at Avignon where, based on personal experience, you can get a light meal and wine.
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An accordion player working for tips in the courtyard. The perfect serenade for a light snack after our tour of Avignon.

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