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.