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France City  -  Avignon

Avignon Tourist Office

41, cours Jean Jaurès
BP 8,
84000 AVIGNON cedex 1



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AVIGNON, is situated on the left bank of the Rhône, in theAvignon, France, Coat of Arms Vaucluse département, about 400 miles south-south-east of Paris, and 50 miles north-north-west of Marseille

It  is a commune in southern France with some 88,300 inhabitants in the city itself and 155,500 in the Greater Avignon area. Here is the Coat of Arms


Avignon is the chief town of the department of Vaucluse and the seat of an archbishop, is one of the most fascinating cities in the South of France. Over and above its natural attractions and its romantic association with Petrarch and his Laura it claims the distinction of having been for a hundred years the papal capital, the rival of Rome itself, a period fittingly commemorated by the Palace of the Popes, foursquare on its commanding rock.

To-day the city, though no more than a departmental capital, is the prosperous centre of a fertile countryside, and full of the life and animation of the Midi. The old description of its climate is no truer than many similar proverbs : ' Avenio verbose, sine vento venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa.'

Highlight Tour of Avignon

The town is entered from the station by the Porte de la République, a gateway (I9th cent.) in the well-
preserved *Ramparts, which were constructed by Innocent VI and Urban V in 1355-65.

To the right are the fine 14-15th cent. cloister and chapel of the Celestine Convent, founded in 1393 by the Queen of Sicily. The main street goes straight on, passing (r.) the Square St-Martial and the Post Office, and ends at the PLACE CLEMENCEAU, the centre of the life of Avignon, with the principal cafés, the theatre, and the Hôtel de Ville, mainly notable for its clock-tower (1354), surmounted by a short crocketed steeple (15th cent.).

Hence the Rue des Frères-Brian leads up to the spacious Place du Palais, on the left of which is the Ecole de Musique in the old mint (1619), bearing the arms of Card. Borghese, a former legate.

At the farther end is the Petit-Palais, an old residence of the archbishops, rebuilt in the late 15th cent. by the legate Giulio della Revere, afterwards Julius 11. In the square stands a statue of Louis de Crillon (1543-1615), ' brave Crillon,' companion-in-arms of Henri IV, who called him the " premier capitaine du rnonde.".

Palace of the Popes

On the right is the Palace of the Popes, outwardly rather a fortress than a palace, a magnificent specimen of 14th cent. military architecture, covering an area of 3.5 acres. with lofty frowning walls of remarkable thickness. Here seven popes held their luxurious courts; here Petrarch was a guest, and here Cola di Rienzi was prisoner

The old bishops' Mace enlarged by John XXII, was demolished by his successor Benedict XII 1 who built the whole of the N. part of the palace between 1338 and 1341. His Work was completed by Clement VI, who added also the W. and S, Wing, including the great Audience Chamber. The Tour St-Laurent was added by Innocent VI, and the Great Court levelled and. its well dug by Urban V 1365)
Avignon - Palais des Papes - Palace of the Popes
Though Occupied by the legates until 1790and restored by Leo X in 1516, the palace gradually fell into disrepair. Converted into a prison and barracks saved it from destruction at the Revolution but wrought much havoc In the interior. A thorough restoration took place in 1925.

The vestibule leading into the Cour d'Honneur is curiously vaulted. The guard-room on the right is decorated with a wall-painting of Urban VIII. We pass through the Salle d’Audience des Contredites (appeals against the papal edicts), in the Tour de la Gâche, and enter the Salle de la Grande Audience, the vaulted hall of the papal court of justice, divided by a row of pillars into two aisles.

Traces of a modern floor, about the springing of the vault, are still visible. At the E. end are remains of wall-paintings; the vault-painting, by Matteo Giovannetti of Viterbo (c. 1340), was completed only as far as the first bay. Above the great hall is the *Pope's Chapel, with a porch lit by the great Window of the Indulgence. The chapel contains a collection of casts and other objects illustrating the history of the palace.

Adjoining are the Pope's Vestry and the Cardinals' Vestry. Next come the Tour de la Garde-Robe, (14th cent. frescoes of country life) and the Tour des Anges, on the second floor of which is the Pope's Bedroom, with floral frescoes.

We next visit a long wing, traversed by a picturesque, vaulted passage and once occupied by the Pope's Private Apartments. On the 1st floor is the Banqueting Hall, to the right of which, in the Tour St-Jean, is the Chapelle St-Martial, with interesting frescoes of the saint's life, by Giovannetti.

Avignon, square below the Palace of the Popes

At the end of this wing and preceded by the enormous Kitchen, is the Tour de la Glacière, which was the scene of the massacre of Oct. 1791, when 60 persons of all ages and sexes were hurled, dead or alive, into an oubliette and buried beneath a load of quicklime.

In the adjoining Tour de Trouillas was most likely the cell of Cola d! Rienzi, the ' Last of the Tribunes,' imprisoned in 1352 by Clement VI. We descend to the Cour d'Honneur, and visit the Consistory Court (beneath the Banqueting Hall) and the Chapelle St-Jean (below the Chapelle St-Martial), decorated with frescoes from the lives of St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.

Notre Dame des Doms

Outside the palace the Escalier du Pater ascends to Notre Dame des Doms, the cathedral of Avignon and the most interesting church in the city. The present building, on the site of a much older church, dates from the 12th cent., but much of its architectural interest has been destroyed by uninspired alterations, mainly in the 17th century. The Notre Dame des Doms cathedral is located in the heart of Avignon, near the Palais des Papes.

The Romanesque tower, restored in 1431, is surmounted by a modern Virgin

In the porch are dilapidated frescoes by Simone Martini. In the 5th chapel of the S. aisle is the Tomb of John XXII (1384), a Gothic table-tomb surmounted by a canopy, originally in the middle of the nave.

The restorations of 1840 did little to conceal the mutilations of 1791, and the present recumbent statue is not that of the pope. In the choir are the marble chair of the popes and the cenotaph of Louis de Crillon, who died at Avignon.

In the 2nd and 3rd chapels of the N. aisle is the supposed Tomb of Benedict XII (d. 1342) The view from the toweris magnificent, but little better than that from the Rocher des Doms.

The Rocher des Doms

The Rocher des Doms, the summit of the hill and the site of the earliest settlement, is laid out as a garden, embellished with the' Departure of the Swallows' ' (a graceful bronze by P. Charpentier), a statue of the Persian Althen, who introduced the cultivation of madder into the Comtat in 1766, and other sculptures.

To the N. a terrace, falling steeply away to the Rhône commands perhaps the most wonderful *View in the Midi. Beyond the Rhône with its ruined bridge and the lle de la Barthelasse, rises the tower of Philippe-le-Bel, behind which is Villeneuve with the twin towers of the Fort St-André.

To the right extends a bold line of hills, culminating in the precipitous peak of Mont Ventoux. From the terrace a flight of steps descends to the Quai de la Ligne near the picturesque remnant of the Pont St-Bénézet

Pont St-Bénézet

The Bridge was built in 1177-85 by St. Bénézet and his disciples. Only four arches of the original 22 remain, the rest were destroyed by flood and war, and the last attempt to replace them was abandoned in 1680. Above the second pier is the Chapelle Si-Nicolas, Romanesque in its lower part, 13th and 16th cent. above.

The famous rhyme about the dancing " sur le pont d'Avignon " should probably run " sous le pont," i.e. on the Ile de la Barthelasse, which is still a pleasure-ground of the Avignonnais.

From the bridge we may skirt the outside of the ramparts to the Porte de l'Oulle just within which (opposite No. 21 Place de Crillon) Marshal Brune was assassinated.

Hence we ascend via the Rue joseph-Vernet and the Rue St- Agricol to the dark church of St-Agricol, said to have been founded in 680 by its patron saint. The present building (1320-1420) contains some interesting paintings, and (just beside the entrance) a marble holy-water vessel (both cent.).

In the little Rue du Collège-du-Roure, near the upper end of the Rue St Agricol, is a good 16th cent. doorway of the old Hôtel du Roure (,della Rovere').

The Rue Joseph-Vernet, beyond the Rue St-Agricol, leads S. past the 18th cent. Chapelle de I'Oratoire, to the *Musée Calvet.

Musée Calvet

This museumoccupies the Hôtel de Villeneuve-Martigny (1742). It contains artistic treasures taken from churches and monasteries at the Revolution, with important additions made in 1814 by Dr. Calvet, a learned physician of Avignon.

Beyond the museum the Rue Joseph-Vernet crosses the Rue de la République and passes the church of St-Martial '(late 14th cent.), now a Protestant Church

This street is continued by the Rue des Lices to the Collège St-Joseph which incorporates the scanty remains of the Church of the Cordeliers, in which Petrarch's Laura was interred in 1348. No trace of the tomb remains. and an inscription placed on the supposed spot in 1823 by an Englishman has been removed to the garden of the Musée Calvet.

The first turning on the left leads from the Rue Joseph Vernet to the church of St-Didier (rebuilt in 1336). The altarpiece by Fr. Laurana (1478), in the 1st S. chapel, is among the oldest examples of Renaissance art in France. The 3rd S. chapel and 3rd N. chapel contain paintings on wood by Simon de Châlons.

The Hôtel Crillon, No. 7 rue de. la Masse, opposite the E. end of St-Didier, has a good 17th cent. facade. We go on N. by the Rue des Fourbiers and across the Rue Rouge to reach the Place Carnot and the church of St-Pierre, built in 1358-1525, -with a fine W. front of 1512.

The *Doors date from 1551. At the E. end of the S. aisle is a 15th cent. monument with a good Entombment with life-sized figures. Between the 2nd and 3rd chapels of the N. aisle is a 15th cent. pulpit, with statues said to have been brought from the tomb of John XXII (p. 105). Pope Urban V died before the high Altar of this church in 1370.

In the neighbouring Place Pie stands the tower of St-Jean-le-Vieux, a former commandery of the Knights of St. John. The Rue Carnot leads E. to the 14th tent. Cl~ des Augustins, and the church of St-Symphorien M D 2), with another 14th cent. tower and a 15th cent. portal.

Famous Avignonnais

  • The Parrocel family of painters (17-18th cent.),
  • Antoine Le Moiturier (1425-1500), the sculptor,
  • Joseph Vernet (1714-89), the marine painter,
  • Théodore Aubanel (1829-86), the félibre.
  • John Stuart Mill lived at Avignon after his retirement from public life in 1868 until his death in 1873 and is buried in the cemetery.
  • Petrarch (1304-74), who came to Avignon as a child in 1313, is said to have first seen the beautiful Laura in 1327, in the church of St. Clara, (now vanished).

    The identity of this lady of Avignon, the object of his fervent but respectful passion and the theme of his famous Canzoniere, is uncertain, but tradition asserts that she was Laure de Noves (d. 1348), wife of Hugues de Sade.

    Avignon was Petrarch's chief residence until he retired in 1337 to Vaucluse with ' few servants and many books," to devote himself to solitary study and cornmunion with nature; and though after 1341 he spent much of his time in Italy, Vaucluse remained his frequently visited ' transalpine Parnassus' until he quitted Avignon for the last time in 1353.
  • Jean Alesi, race car driver
  • Pierre Boulle, author of The Bridge on the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes
  • Alexandre de Rhodes (1591-1660), Jesuit missionary
  • Mireille Mathieu, singer
  • Bernard Kouchner, politician
  • Henri Bosco, writer
  • Joseph Vernet, painter

Credits : This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Avignon".

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