Papal Palace (Palais des papes d`Avignon)
About sight: Papal Palace (Palais des papes d`Avignon)

Although the Avignon Papal Residence is called a palace, in fact, it is a strong fortress built in the Middle Ages, in the time of so-called «Avignon papacy».

Bertrand de Goth was elected the Pope in 1305. This election was vividly described in a novel of Morris Druon. As in the time of cruel confrontation of different parties it was almost impossible to elect a new Pope, the College of Cardinals was closed in the council room with a promise to be kept there until they elect a new Pope. After a month of this «imprisonment» Bertrand de Goth feigned to be deathly sick, and the cardinals decided to elect him consider-ing that he wouldn’t last too long. However, after that Bertrand de Goth better known as Cle-mens V lived for 11 years.

It was him who decided to move the Roman Curia from Rome to Avignon thereby making the Pope fully dependable on the French kings. Pope Clemens V resided in a Dominican mo-nastery, but already under the following Pope they started construction of a separate papal residence.

In the time of Benedict XII there was built a severe fortress-like residence on the former site of bishop's palace. Later it was called the Old Palace. Almost at once they began to erect new buildings and defensive towers around it. And under Pope Clemens VI there was started construction of even larger New Palace. Also, about the same time there appeared the tallest clock tower (52 m) designed to offer up papal prayers.

Generally, the Papal Palace in its today appearance was finished by 1344. Its gross area amounted to 11 000 m2, which made it the largest palace of its time in Europe.

Four years later, in 1348, the Roman Curia bought out the city of Avignon with adjoining lands from the Count of Provence and so became their sole owner. So, Avignon became one of the most important cities of that time. After Italian bankers followed the papal court to Avig-non, it also became one of the most significant financial centers. Pope had a considerable influence on the political life of Europe, and, as is known, it was then a period of cruel fighting of different dynasties and noble families for lands and material resources.

In the time of papal sojourn in Avignon there lived the famous Italian poet Francesco Pe-trarca (his parents moved to Avignon when he was 9). He lived at the papal court under the patronage of the Colonna family. In 1327 he first met there Laura, and fell in love with her. But unfortunately, she didn’t love him back, and since then he wrote sonnets for her. In the course of time, apart from writing the sonnets, he began to strongly object to excessive luxury of papal court that sank into feasting and banqueting.

And all these banquettes were held in the midst of the Hundred Years' War between Eng-land and France (it broke in 1337). All hostilities took place on the territory of France leading to disruption of economy and famine of population. In 1377 the new Pope Gregorius XI was able to break the resistance of French cardinals and return the Roman Curia to Rome. Since that time both Avignon and the Papal Palace began to degrade.

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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