Popes Palace Avignon

Photo of Popes Palace Avignon, France

Visit the Popes Palace Avignon in Vaucluse, Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azur

Neither a chateau (no wine production here!) or a castle, the Pope's Palace in Avignon has been included in this section because of its great importance and interest as a historical monument.!

By 1309 Rome became a violent and unwelcoming city and it became impossible for the incimbent Pope - Pope Clement V - to remain in the city. As a result the Pope and his entourage relocated to Avignon. The 'Pope's palace' was subsequently constructed by Clement V successor, Pope Benedict XII, and further developed by Pope John XXII who had the Old Palace constructed.

Set in an impressive position on the 'Rocher des Domes' wich looks out over the Rhone River, the building of this magnificent gothic building and the Old Palace continued through well into the 14th century.

The wealth of the Catholic church meant that no expense was spared on the project, which has 15,000 sq. metres of floor area, and both the exterior and the interior decoration were lavishly decorated. In all likelihood there was no more impressive building in the western world at the time of its completion.

From 1377 onwards the Popes were able to return to Rome - hence the palace lost its important role as centre of the Catholic world. However the return caused a major rift within the organisation of the church, due to disagreement over who was actually the true pope. As a consequence the Pope's palace found a use as the base for the 'opposition', referred to as the antipopes. This dual-position carride on into the first decades of the 15th century, during which time the Catholic church tried unsuccessfully to resolve its problems.

The position resolved, the palace returned to papal control in 1433 and became surplus to requirements. It became neglected and fell into disrepair. This decline continued for several centuries, with both neglect and vandalism contributing to the poor condition in which the Pope's palace found itself.

After the French revolution, like several French castles, the palace at Avignon was pressed into use as a military prison. The damage to the interior continued.

From the start of the 20th century the fortunes of the palace have been reversed. The importance of the monument has been recognised and a great deal of time, effort and money spent on restoring the palace to its former glory.

A visit to the pope's palace is now a fascinating experience, both to admire the remarkable gothic facade and to pass through the beautifully renovated state rooms, chambers, chapels and cloisters of the interior. Another highlight is the important frescoes that can be seen in the Papal apartments.

The historical centre of Avignon, which includes not only the palace but also the famous Pont d'Avignon, the original city ramparts, and the cathedral, are now listed as a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Map showing location of Popes Palace Avignon


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