Avignon is a commune in southern France with an estimated mid-2004 population of 89,300 in the city itself and a population of 290,466 in the metropolitan area at the 1999 census.
Avignon is the capital of the Vaucluse département.
It is situated on the left bank of the Rhône, a few miles above its confluence with the Durance, about 580 km (360 m.) south-south-east of Paris, 143 m. south of Lyon and 85 km (55 m.) Avignon occupies a large oval-shaped area, not fully populated and covered in great part by parks and gardens.
Avignon is the préfecture (capital) of the Vaucluse département in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur.
It forms the core of the Grand Avignon metropolitan area (communauté d'agglomération), which comprises twelve communes on both sides of the river.
The site of Avignon was settled very early on; the rocky outcrop (le Rocher les Doms) at the north end of the town, overlooking the Rhône, may have been the site of a Celtic oppidum or hill fort.
Avignon, written as Avennio or Avenio in the ancient texts and inscriptions, takes its name from the Avennius clan.
Founded by the Gallic tribe of the Cavares or Cavari, it became the centre of an important Phocaean colony from Massilia (present Marseilles).
Under the Romans, Avenio was one of the most flourishing cities of Gallia Narbonensis, the first Transalpine province of the Roman Empire, but very little from this period remains (a few fragments of the forum near Rue Molière).
Avignon and the Avignon Papacy
In 1309 the city was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence when the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily from the house of Anjou, and from 9 March 1309 till 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Eternal Rome.
French King Philip the Fair, who had inherited from his father all the rights of Alphonse de Poitiers, the last Count of Toulouse, made them over to Charles II, King of Naples and Count of Provence (1290).
Nonetheless, Phillip was a shrewd ruler. Inasmuch as the eastern banks of the Rhone marked the edge of his kingdom, when the river flooded up into the city of Avignon, Phillip taxed the city since during periods of flood, the city technically lay within his domain.
Regardless, on the strength of the donation of Avignon, Queen Joanna I of Sicily, as countess of Provence, sold the city to Clement VI for 80,000 florins on 9 June, 1348 and, though it was later the seat of more than one antipope, Avignon belonged to the Papacy until 1791, when, during the disorder of the French Revolution, it was reincorporated with France.
Seven popes resided there:
Pope Clement V
Pope John XXII
Pope Benedict XII
Pope Clement VI
Pope Innocent VI
Pope Urban V
Pope Gregory XI
The period from 1309-1377 - the Avignon Papacy - was also called the Babylonian Captivity of - exile, in reference to the Israelites' enslavement in biblical times.
The walls built by the popes in the years immediately succeeding the acquisition of Avignon as papal territory are well preserved.
As they were not particularly strong fortifications, the Popes relied instead on the immensely strong fortifications of their palace, the "Palais des Papes".
This lofty Gothic building, with walls 17-18 feet thick, was built 1335-1364 on a natural spur of rock, rendering it all but impregnable to attack.
After being expropriated following the French Revolution, it was used as barracks for many years but is now a museum.
Avignon, which at the beginning of the fourteenth century was a town of no great importance, underwent a wonderful development during the residence there of seven popes and two anti-popes, Clement V to Benedict XIII.
To the north and south of the rock of the Doms, partly on the site of the Bishop's Palace, which had been enlarged by John XXII, rose the Palace of the Popes, in the form of an imposing fortress made up of towers, linked one to another, and named as follows: De la Campane, de Trouillas, de la Glacière, de Saint-Jean, des Saints-Anges (Benedict XII), de la Gâche, de la Garde-Robe (Clement VI), de Saint-Laurent (Innocent VI).
The Palace of the Popes belongs, by its severe architecture, to the Gothic art of the South of France; other noble examples are to be seen in the churches of St. Didier, St. Peter and St. Agricola, in the Clock Tower, and in the fortifications built between 1349 and 1368 for a distance of some three miles, flanked by thirty-nine towers, all of which were erected or restored by popes, cardinals and great dignitaries of the court.
On the other hand, the execution of the frescoes which are on the interiors of the papal palace and of the churches of Avignon was entrusted almost exclusively to artists from Siena.
The papal return to Rome prompted the Great Schism, during which the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII continued to reside at Avignon.
The former lived there during his entire pontificate (1378-1394), the latter until 1403, when he fled to Aragon.
Altitude 10 m-122 m (avg. 23 m)
Land area 64.78 km²
Population (1999) 85,935
Postal code 84007/ 84000
For a more information about Avignon see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avignon) December 2005
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).
This information was correct in December 2005. E. & O.E.
In 2006 Hui Chin and I visited the beautiful city of Avignon.
We are devout Catholics so Avignon held a special interest for us as there were seven Popes that resided here in Avignon, until the French Revolution, when the Papacy returned to Rome.
We were fortunate enough to take part in some re-enactment and were befriended by the local "Pope" or Bishop (We never found out).
That befriending might have been the other way around, but who cares?
If you do, do not read these lines. (Democracy rulez). Very interesting and beautiful place.
You can click on these photos for an enlargement.
Thanks for coming, I hope you
have enjoyed it, will recommend
it to your friends, and will come
back later to see my site developing