About city: Avignon

In XIV century the old city of Avignon on the south of France became one of the most im-portant centers of Europe thanks to a Frenchman Bertrand de Goth who moved there the Roman Curia in 1309, just after his election as the Pope.

And after return of the Papal Court to Rome in 1377 many things changed. Avignon regained the atmosphere of a provincial town of Provence, however, the period of so-called «Babylonian captivity of popes» still didn’t pass without a trace. The walled historical center was almost completely preserved, making Avignon one of the most beautiful cities in France.

Of course, the Papal Palace is the domineering construction of the entire Avignon. In the time of Pope Benedict XII the was erected a papal residence resembling a severe castle, which later was called the Old Palace. Almost at once they began to surround it with new buildings and defensive towers. Under Pope Clement VI there was built even larger New Pa-lace. Generally, construction of the Papal Palace that we can see today was finished by 1344. Gross area of all palace rooms amounted to 11 000 m2, making it then the largest palace in Europe.

Notre-Dame de Domes is the other not the least wonderful sight of Avignon. The cathedral was built in XII century on Roc-de-Domes, near the bishop's palace instead of which the Papal Palace would be built a hundred years later. The bell tower of Avignon cathedral now dominates the Papal Palace forming a single architectural ensemble. The cathedral houses many works of art dating back to the time of Popes. Also, you should visit the mausoleum of Pope John XXII.

Having seen all the main sights on the rock, you may go to the bank of Rhone to have a look at the famous Avignon Bridge (or Pont St.Benezet) built in 1177. Every French child knows the words of the song about the bridge (Sur le pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse, l'on y danse – On the bridge of Avignon they dance, they dance).

And indeed, merry festivities, that were often arranged in the Papal Palace, accompanied by dance parties on the bridge, or more exactly on the island beyond the bridge. And that was in the time of Hundred Year's War between France and England, which have led to complete impoverishment of population. There have been restored only 4 spans of the bridge.

The old walled quarters fully preserved the charm of a small provincial town. You may long saunter along the narrow, winding alleys of the town, among its ancient buildings, many of which were built in the Middle Ages, enjoying the quiet beat of its life. Certain sections of the walls are also open for visiting, and you should climb them if only to see the town from above.

The annual theatre festival held on July 5 – 27 is one of the most important events of to-day's Avignon. All the neighborhood of Papal Palace, as well as the enclosed historical part of the city, are temporarily converted into the stages where hundreds of actors, musicians, conjurers, and dancers from all over Europe give their performances. If you schedule your vacations on the Azure Coast to that time, you should reserve at least 1-2 days for a trip to Avignon to understand the peculiar atmosphere of French backwater. 

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