A city (almost 100,000 inhabitants) in southern France, located on the left bank of the Rhône, a few kilometers above the mouth of the Durance River into the Rhône, 98 km northwest of Marseille , the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, 45 km northeast of Nîmes , 39 km northeast of Arles and 33 km south of Orange (➤
map)(➤ map). The largest city and capital of the Vaucluse department, an important cultural center; since 1947, the seat of the famous annual international theater festival - Festival d'Avignon. This festival and, on the other hand, the wonderful monuments preserved from the times when Avignon was, in the 14th century, the seat of the popes (and later the so-called anti-popes) make the city one of the most popular tourist destinations in southern France. Access: from the north or south-east via the A7 motorway (E714), from the south-west via the A9 motorway (E15). The airport - Caumont Airport - is located about 8 km southeast of the city.
view from the access road from the east
Avignon was founded as a Celtic settlement. In Roman times it was called Avenio. In the Middle Ages, it was subject to various rulers, remaining an important trading center in the Rhône valley. Since 1348, when Pope Clement VI bought the city and the surrounding areas from their then owner, Joan I of Sicily of the Angevin dynasty, Avignon formally belonged to the papal state; after the revolution, in 1791, the entire region was annexed to France.
The seat of the popes had been Avignon since 1309. Clement V, John XXII, Benedict II, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V and Gregory XI resided here, all of whom were French and preferred to reside in Provence with the support of the kings of France, although there were politically and militarily dependent on them. In 1377, Gregory XI decided to return to Rome: Avion then became for some time the seat of the so-called antipopes.
Place du Palais
in the background the clock tower of the town hall
Two of the most important monuments of Avignon have survived from the "papal" period: the defensive walls (les Remparts
) and the residence of the popes - Palais des Papes
. In the immediate vicinity of the square in front of the papal palace (Place du Palais
) there are also: the Romanesque cathedral Notre-Dame-des-Doms
from the 12th century, later rebuilt many times, the so-called Petit Palais
, a former bishop's palace from the 14th-16th century, and the mint, Hôtel des Monnaies
from the 17th century (today the seat of the conservatory). To the north of the palace and cathedral, on the Rocher des Doms hill, stretch the gardens
with an observation deck
offering extremely extensive views of the Avignon area.
The main square of the city, laid out in the 15th century, but with buildings mostly from the 19th century, is Place de l'Horloge
, taking its name from the Gothic clock tower
of town hall; from the square to the south runs the main street of Avignon, Rue de la République. Marker
stands for known to everyone from the French children's song Sur le pont d'Avignon"
the St. Bénézet bridge (Pont Saint Bénézet) from the 12th century. Bronze markers mark the museums in Avignon, see below
The total length of the well-preserved defensive walls (les Remparts
) surrounding the old town of Avignon, with eight gates, several narrow passages (poternes
) and several dozen towers of various shapes, is almost 4.5 km. The first fortifications were, of course, built in Roman times, then the defense system was developed in the 12th and 13th centuries. The papal walls date back to the 14th century; in the following centuries, up to and including the 19th century, they were restored and modified many times (according to some specialists, the 19th-century renovation was not very successful).
PALAIS DES PAPES
Palais des Papes
the cathedral in the background
The huge fortified papal palace (Palais des Papes) is considered one of the most outstanding works of Gothic architecture in the world. In one of the photos you can see the facade of the so-called The New Palace (Palais Nouveau), built on the orders of Clement VI, with the main entrance under two octagonal turrets. From the north and east, the building (not visible in this photo) is adjacent to the so-called The Old Palace (Palais Vieux), built during the reign of Benedict XII.
Inside, you can visit the courtyard, several large rooms (including the Consistory Hall - Consistoire
, the Audience Hall - Le Grand Tinel
, the so-called Chamber with the Deer - Chambre du Cerf
), several chapels and papal apartments; however, it is worth knowing that almost nothing has survived from the original equipment of the palace, because everything was destroyed or plundered in various circumstances.
Notre-Dame-des-Doms Cathedral, built from the 5th century, in its current Romanesque shape dates from the 12th century; the gilded statue of the Madonna at the top of the west tower has been standing since 1859. Inside, it is worth paying attention to the Romanesque altar from the 12th century, the 13th-century bishop's throne (at the entrance to the choir) and the tombs of John XXII and Benedict XII. In one of the chapels you can see the original altar from the 6th century.
Pont Saint Bénézet
The famous "pont d'Avignon" is a 12th-century bridge over the Rhône called Pont Saint-Bénézet, built between 1171-1185. It was originally 900 meters long and ran through the two arms of the Rhône, the Petit Rhône and the Grand Rhône, to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. Only four spans (out of twenty-two) of the bridge, which has been repeatedly damaged by floods, remain; on one of them Romanesque chapels have been preserved - Chapelle Saint-Bénézet and (above it) Chapelle Saint-Nicolas.
Churches in Avignon
- Of the numerous churches in Avignon, the most interesting, apart from the cathedral, is the Gothic church of St. Peter (Église St-Pierre ) from the 14th-16th century, less than 100 m east of Place de l'Horloge.
Museums in Avignon
The most important museums in Avignon are considered to be:
- Musée du Petit Palais (Place du Palais), in the former bishop's palace, exhibiting works of painting and sculpture, including the painting of the Avignon school and paintings by Simone Martini of Siena, from whom this school originated;
- Musée Calvet (65, rue Joseph Vernet), in an 18th-century building, the former residence of Villeneuve-Martignan, with a rich collection of works art from antiquity to the present day; this museum also exhibits the famous prehistoric sculpture called Stèle du rocher des Doms, found on Rocher des Doms;
- Musée Lapidaire (27, rue de la République), the archaeological branch of the Calvet museum, with a rich collection of Greek and Roman sculpture, as well as Egyptian, Etruscan, Gallic and Ligurian;
- Musée Angladon (5, rue Laboureur), in a 17th-18th century mansion, with a collection of 18th-20th century art from private collections, including in particular Impressionist and Modernist painting (e.g. Cézanne, Degas, Modigliani, van Gogh, Picasso);
- Musée d'Art Contemporain (5, rue Violette), at the Hôtel de Caumont, presenting works by contemporary artists collected by the art dealer and collector Yvon Lambert;
- Musée Louis Vouland (17, rue Victor Hugo), exhibiting the decorative art of the 17th-18th century.
Avignon Theater Festival
- The famous theater festival in Avignon - Festival d'Avignon - was first held in 1947. It includes music, dance and film events in addition to traditional theater performances, and is said to attract around 100,000 annually. viewers. Some performances take place in the Papal Palace, others take place in the streets.
- The British philosopher John Stuart Mill died in Avignon in 1873 and was buried in the local cemetery.
- By the papal bull of Boniface VIII, in 1303, the University of Avignon was established, operating until 1792.