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Coordinates: 43°57′00″N 4°49′01″E / 43.95°N 4.817°E / 43.95; 4.817

Ville d'Avignon
Avignon sans pont.jpg
Avignon is located in France
Time zone CET (GMT +1)
Country France
Region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Department Vaucluse
Arrondissement Avignon
Intercommunality Grand Avignon
Mayor Marie-Josée Roig
Elevation 10–122 m (33–400 ft)
(avg. 23 m/75 ft)
Land area1 64.78 km2 (25.01 sq mi)
Population2 94,787  (2006)
 - Density 1,463 /km2 (3,790 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 84007/ 84000
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Avignon (French pronunciation: [aviɲɔ̃]; Provençal: Avinhon in classical norm or Avignoun in Mistralian norm) is a commune in the Vaucluse department in southeastern France.

The city is well known for its Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), where several popes and antipopes lived from the early 14th to early 15th centuries.



Rocher des Doms et Palais des Papes

Avignon is situated on the left bank of the Rhône, a few miles above its confluence with the Durance, about 580 km (360.4 mi) south-south-east of Paris, 229 km (142.3 mi) south of Lyon and 85 km (52.8 mi) north-north-west of Marseille. Its coordinates are 43°57′N 4°50′E / 43.95°N 4.833°E / 43.95; 4.833. Avignon occupies a large oval-shaped area, not fully populated and covered in great part by parks and gardens.



Avignon is often subject to windy weather; the strongest wind is the mistral. The popular proverb is, however, somewhat exaggerated, Avenie ventosa, sine vento venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa (windy Avignon, pest-ridden when there is no wind, wind-pestered when there is).

Weather data for Avignon
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 49
Average low °F (°C) 34
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.9
Source: {{{source}}} {{{accessdate}}}


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:


Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Palais des papes
State Party  France
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv
Reference 228
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1995  (19th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Early history

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 River, 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 a flourishing city 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).

During the inroads of the Goths, it was badly damaged in the fifth century and belonged in turn to the Goths, the kingdoms of Burgundy and of Arles in the 12th Century.[1][2] it fell into the hands of the Saracens and was destroyed in 737 by the Franks under Charles Martel for having sided with the Arabs against him. Boso having been proclaimed Burgundian King of Provence, or of Arelat (after its capital Arles), by the Synod of Mantaille, at the death of Louis the Stammerer (879), Avignon ceased to belong to the Frankish kings.

Square below the Palace of the Popes

In 1033, when Conrad II fell heir to the Kingdom of Arelat, Avignon passed to the Holy Roman Empire. With the German rulers at a distance, Avignon set up as a republic with a consular form of government, between 1135 and 1146. In addition to the Emperor, the Counts of Forcalquier, of Toulouse and of Provence exercised a purely nominal sway over the city; on two occasions, in 1125 and in 1251, the Counts of Toulouse and Provence divided their rights in regard to it, while the Count of Forcalquier resigned any right he possessed to the local Bishops and Consuls in 1135.

At the end of the twelfth century, Avignon declared itself an independent republic, but independence was crushed in 1226 during the crusade against the Albigenses (the dualist Cathar heresy centered in neighboring Albi). After the citizens refused to open the gates of Avignon to King Louis VIII of France and the papal Legate, a three month siege ensued starting on 10 June 1226, and ending in capitulation by Avignon on 13 September 1226. Following the defeat, they were forced to pull down the ramparts and fill up the moat of the city.

On 7 May 1251 Avignon was made a common possession of counts Charles of Anjou and Alphonse de Poitiers, brothers of French king Saint Louis IX. On 25 August 1271, at the death of Alphonse de Poitiers, Avignon and the surrounding countship Comtat-Venaissin (which was governed by rectors since 1274) were united with the French crown.

Avignon and the Comtat did not become French until 1791. In 1274, the Comtat became a possession of the popes, with Avignon itself, self-governing, under the overlordship of the Angevin count of Provence (who was also king of "Sicily" [i.e., Naples]). The popes were allowed by the count of Provence (a papal vassal) to settle in Avignon in the early 1300s. The popes bought Avignon from the Angevin ruler for 80,000 florins in 1348. From then on until the French Revolution, Avignon and the Comtat were papal possessions, first under the schismatic popes of the Great Schism, then under the popes of Rome ruling via legates and vice-legates.

Avignon and its popes

In 1309 the city, still part of the Kingdom of Arles, was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence, and from 9 March 1309 until 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome. This caused a schism in the Catholic Church. At the time, the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily from the house of Anjou. 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.

Papal Avignon

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:

This 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 that were built by the popes in the years immediately after 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 immense 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 taken following the French Revolution, it was used as a barracks and prison for many years but it is now a museum.

Avignon, which at the beginning of the fourteenth century was a town of no great importance, underwent extensive development during the time the seven Avignon popes and two anti-popes, Clement V to Benedict XIII made their residences there. 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, was built the Palace of the Popes, in the form of an imposing fortress made up of towers, linking 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 can be seen in the churches of St. Didier, St. Peter and St. Agricola, as well as the Clock Tower, and in the fortifications built between 1349 and 1368 for a distance of some three miles (5 km), flanked by thirty-nine towers, all of which were erected or restored by the Roman Catholic Church. The frescoes that are on the interiors of the Palace of the Popes and the churches of Avignon were created primarily by artists from Siena.

The popes were followed to Avignon by agents (factores) of the great Italian banking-houses, who settled in the city as money-changers, as intermediaries between the Apostolic Chamber and its debtors, living in the most prosperous quarters of the city, which was known as the Exchange. A crowd of traders of all kinds brought to market the products necessary to maintain the numerous court and of the visitors who flocked to it; grain and wine from Provence, from the south of France, the Roussillon and the country around Lyon. Fish was brought from places as distant as Brittany; cloths, rich stuffs and tapestries came from Bruges and Tournai. We need only glance at the account-books of the Apostolic Chamber, still kept in the Vatican archives, in order to judge of the trade of which Avignon became the center. The university founded by Boniface VIII in 1303, had a good many students under the French popes, drawn thither by the generosity of the sovereign pontiffs, who rewarded them with books or benefices.

During the Great Schism (1378–1415) the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII returned to reside at Avignon. Clement VII lived in Avignon during his entire anti-pontificate, while Benedict XIII only lived there until 1403 when he was forced to flee to Aragon.

After the departure of the popes

Paul V's coat-of-arms on a building located opposite the Palais des papes

After the restoration of the Papacy in Rome, the spiritual and temporal government of Avignon was entrusted to a gubernatorial Legate, notably the Cardinal-nephew, who was replaced, in his absence, by a vice-legate (contrary to the legate usually a commoner, and not a cardinal). But Pope Innocent XII abolished nepotism and the office of Legate in Avignon on 7 February 1693, handing over its temporal government in 1692 to the Congregation of Avignon (i.e. a department of the papal Curia, residing at Rome), with the Cardinal Secretary of State as presiding prefect, and exercising its jurisdiction through the vice-legate. This congregation, to which appeals were made from the decisions of the vice-legate, was united to the Congregation of Loreto within the Roman Curia; in 1774 the vice-legate was made president, thus depriving it of almost all authority. It was done away with under Pius VI on 12 June 1790.

The Public Council, composed of forty-eight councillors chosen by the people, four members of the clergy and four doctors of the university, met under the presidency of the chief magistrate of the city, the viquier (Occitan) or vicar or representative of the papal Legate or Vice-legate, who annually nominated a man for the post. The councillors' duty was to watch over the material and financial interests of the city; but their resolutions were to be submitted to the vice-legate for approval before being put in force. Three consuls, chosen annually by the Council, had charge of the administration of the streets.

Night shot of the Pont d'Avignon

Avignon's survival as a papal enclave was, however, somewhat precarious, as the French crown maintained a large standing garrison at Villeneuve-lès-Avignon just across the river.

From the fifteenth century onward it became the policy of the Kings of France to rule Avignon as part of their kingdom. In 1476, Louis XI, upset that Charles of Bourbon was made legate, sent troops to occupy the city, until his demands that Giuliano della Rovere be made legate, once Giuliano della Rovere was made a cardinal he withdrew his troops from the city.

In 1536 king Francis I of France invaded the papal territory, in order to overthrow Emperor Charles V, who was emperor of the territory. When he entered the city the people received him very well, and in return for the reception the people were all granted to them the same privileges that French subjects enjoyed, such as being able to hold state offices.

In (1583) King Henry III Valois attempted to offer an exchange of Marquisate of Saluzzo for Avignon, however his offer was refused by Pope Gregory XIII.

In 1663 in retaliation for the attack led by the Corsican Guard on the attendants of the Duc de Créqui, the ambassador of Louis XIV in Rome, he attacked and seized Avignon. Which at the time was considered an important and integral part of the French Kingdom by the provincial Parliament of Provence.

In 1688 yet another attempt was made to occupy Avignon, however the attempt failed, and from 1688 to 1768 Avignon was at peace with no occupations or wars during that time.

King Louis XV, dissatisfied with Clement XIII's action in regard to the Duke of Parma, occupied the Papal States from 1768 to 1774 and substituted French institutions for those in force with the approval of the people of Avignon; a French party grew up which, after the sanguinary massacres of La Glacière between the adherents of the Papacy and the Republicans (16–17 October 1791), carried all before it, and induced the Constituent Assembly to decree the union of Avignon and the Comtat (comital district) Venaissin with France on 14 September 1791. On 25 June 1793 Avignon and Comtat-Venaissain were integrated along with the former principality of Orange to form the present republican département Vaucluse.

Article 5 of the Treaty of Tolentino (19 February 1797) definitively sanctioned the annexation, stating that "The Pope renounces, purely and simply, all the rights to which he might lay claim over the city and territory of Avignon, and the Comtat Venaissin and its dependencies, and transfers and makes over the said rights to the French Republic." In 1801 the territory had 191,000 inhabitants.

On 30 May 1814, the French annexation was recognized by the Pope. Consalvi made an ineffectual protest at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 but Avignon was never restored to the Holy See. In 1815 Bonapartist Marshal Guillaume Marie Anne Brune was assassinated in the town by adherents of the royalist party during the White Terror.

Ecclesiastical history of the (Arch)diocese

The Notre Dame des Doms cathedral is located in the heart of Avignon, near the Palais des Papes.

It was the seat of a bishop as early as the year 70 AD. The first bishop known to history is Nectarius, who took part in several councils about the middle of the fifth century. St. Magnus was a Gallo-Roman senator who became a monk and then bishop of the city. His son, St. Agricol (Agricolus), bishop between 650 and 700, is the patron saint of Avignon. Several synods of minor importance were held there, and its university, founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 and famed as a seat of legal studies, flourished until the French Revolution. The memory of St. Eucherius still clings to three vast caves near the village of Beaumont, whither, it is said, the people of Lyon had to go in search of him when they sought him to make him their archbishop. As Bishop of Cavaillon, Cardinal Philippe de Cabassoles, seigneur of Vaucluse, was the great protector of the Renaissance poet Petrarch.

In 1309 the city was chosen by Clement V as his residence, and from that time till 1377 was the papal seat. In 1348 the city was sold by Joanna, Countess of Provence, to Clement VI for 80,000 florins.

In 1475 pope Sixtus IV raised the diocese of Avignon to the rank of an archbishopric, in favour of his nephew Giuliano della Rovere, who later became Pope Julius II. The Archdiocese of Avignon has canonic jurisdiction over the department of Vaucluse. Before the French Revolution it had as suffragan sees Carpentras, Vaison and Cavaillon, which were united by the Napoleonic Concordat of 1801 to Avignon, together with the Diocese of Apt, a suffragan of Aix-en-Provence. However, at that same time Avignon was reduced to the rank of a bishopric and was made a suffragan see of Aix. The Archdiocese of Avignon was re-established in 1822, receiving as suffragan sees the Diocese of Viviers (restored in 1822), Valence: (formerly under Lyon), Nimes (restored in 1822) and Montpellier (formerly under Toulouse).

In 2002, as part of the reshuffling of the ecclesiastic provinces of France, the Archdiocese of Avignon ceased to be a metropolitan and became, instead a suffragan diocese of the new province of Marseilles, while keeping its rank of archdiocese.

Councils of Avignon

This photo of Notre Dame des Doms cathedral shows the Palais des Papes just to the right.

The Councils of Avignon are Councils of the Roman Catholic Church. The first reported council was held in 1060, though nothing is known about the events of the council. In 1080 another council was held, with Hugues de Dié, papal legate as council president. During the 1080 council Aicard, usurper of the See of Arles was deposed, and Gibelin placed in his position. Three bishops-elect (Lautelin of Embrun, Hugues of Grenoble, Didier of Cavaillon) accompanied the legate to Rome and were consecrated there by Pope Gregory VII.

During the 13th century four councils were held, including the 1209 council in which the inhabitants of Toulouse were excommunicated from the church by the council for failing to expel the Albigensian heretics from Toulouse. Included in the population that was excommunicated were two papal legates, four archbishops and twenty bishops. The next council was held in 1270, and Bertrand de Malferrat, Archbishop of Arles presided over the council. The usurpers of ecclesiastical property were severely threatened; unclaimed legacies were allotted to pious uses; the bishops were urged to mutually support one another; and individual churches were taxed for the support of the papal legates; and ecclesiastics were forbidden to convoke the civil courts against their bishops. And the council banned Christmas carols.

During the 1279 council they were concerned with the clergy's protection of rights, privileges, and immunities. Provisions were also made for those who promised to join the crusade Gregory X had ordered, but had failed to actually go on the crusade. also the council decreed that to hear confessions monks must have permission of their ordinary, or bishop, as well as their superior. The last council during the 13th century was the council of 1282, during the council they published 10 canons. Among the canons published was one urging people to more regularly frequent the parochial churches, and to goto their parish church for at least feast days and on Sundays.

During the 1327 council the temporalities of the Church and ecclesiastical jurisdiction occupied their attention. The council published seventy-nine canons in 1337. The 79 canons are renewed from earlier councils, and emphasize the duty of Easter Communion in one's own parish church, And of abstinence on Saturday for beneficed persons and ecclesiastics, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, a practice begun three centuries earlier on the occasion of the Truce of God, but no longer universal.

The 15th century saw two councils convened, one in 1457 and one in 1497. The 1457 council was held by Cardinal de Foix, Archbishop of Arles and legate of Avignon, he was also a Franciscan. His primary reason was to promote the doctrine of Immaculate Conception, in sense of the declaration of the council of Basle. They forbade the preaching of the contrary doctrine, as well as 64 disciplinary canons that were published, in keeping with the legislation of previous councils. In 1497 Archbishop Francesco Tarpugi (after the council he was cardinal) presided over the council. They published a simialr number of decrees to the 1457 council. It was decreed that the sponsors of the newly confirmed were not obligated to make presents to their parents or to them. They also decreed that before the relics of the saints two candles were to be kept lite at all times.

During the next five centuries only six further councils were held. The 1509 council focused on disciplinary measures. The next council, in 1596, was called to discuss the furthering of the observance of the decrees of the Council of Trent., and the 1609 council was held for very similar circumstances. The councils of 1664 and 1725 were held to formulate disciplinary decrees. The 1725 council also decreed the duty of adhering to the Papal Bull Unigenitus (1713) of Clement XI that condemned the Oratorian, Pasquier Quesnel. The final council on record was in 1849 and it published ten chapters of canons concerning discipline and faith.

University of Avignon

The University of Avignon (1303-1792),[3] formed from the existing schools of the city, and was formally constituted in 1303, by Boniface VIII in a Papal Bull. Boniface VIII, and King Charles II of Naples should be considered one of the first great protectors and benefactors to the University of Avignon. The Law department within the university has always been its most important department, covering both civil and ecclesiastical law. The law department existed nearly exclusively for some time after the university's formation and remained the most important department through its existence.

In 1413 Antipope John XXIII founded the University's department of Theology, which for quite some time had only a few students. The university's art department never did gain any great importance. It was not until the 16th and 17th centuries that the school developed a department of medicine. The Bishop of Avignon was chancellor of the university from 1303 to 1475, after 1475 the bishop became and Archbishop, but remained chancellor of the university.The papal vice-legate, generally a bishop, represented the civil power (in this case the pope) and was chiefly a judicial officer, ranking higher than the Primicerius (Rector).

The Primicerius was elected by the Doctors of Law. In 1503 the Doctors of Law had 4 Theologians, and in 1784 two Doctors of Medicine added their ranks. Since the Pope was the spiritual head, and after 1348, the temporal ruler of Avignon, he was able to have a great deal of influence in all university affairs. In 1413, John XXIII granted the university extensive special privileges, such as university jurisdiction, and tax exempt status. Circumstances in the latter part of the universitys existence such as political, geographical, and educational, caused the university to seek favour from Paris rather than Rome for protection and favour. During the chaos of the French Revolution the university started to gradually disappear, and in 1792 the university was abandoned and closed. Currently the university has been superseded by the modern Université of Avignon and Vaucluse.[4]

The University of Avignon is also home to a study abroad program through the French Department at Ohio University. Each spring, about 20 students travel to Avignon for ten weeks of intensive language training. They take classes exclusively in French and live with host families.[5]

Main sights

Statues gaze over Place de l'Horloge in centre-ville
A few of the very artistic Avignon building facade paintings in centre-ville
  • Notre Dame des Doms, the cathedral, is a Romanesque building, mainly built during the 12th century, the most prominent feature of the cathederal is the gilded statue of the Virgin which surmounts the western tower. The mausoleum of Pope John XXII is one of the most beautiful works within the cathederal, it is a noteworthy example of 14th century Gothic carving.
  • Palais des Papes ("Papal Palace"), almost dwarfs the cathedral. The palace is an impressive monument and sits within a square of the same name. The palace was begun in 1316 by John XXII and continued by succeeding popes through the 14th century, until 1370 when it was finished.
  • Minor churches of the town include, among the others, St Pierre, which has a graceful facade and richly carved doors, St Didier and St Agricol, all three of which were built in the Gothic architectural style.
  • Civic buildings are represented most notably by the Hôtel de Ville (city hall), a modern building with a belfry of the 14th century, and the old Hôtel des Monnaies, the papal mint which was built in 1610 and became a music-school.
  • Ramparts, built by the popes in the 14th century, still encircled Avignon and they are one of the finest examples of medieval fortification in existence. The walls of great strength are surmounted by machicolated sattlements, flanked at intervals by thirty-nine massive towers and pierced by several gateways, three of which date from the fourteenth century. The walls were restored under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
  • Bridges include the little bridge which leads over the river to Villeneuve-les-Avignon, and a little higher up, a picturesque ruined bridge of the 12th century, the Pont Saint-Bénézet, projects into the river.
  • Pont d'Avignon (Pont St-Bénézet, see below) Only four of the eighteen piles are left; on one of them stands the small Romanesque chapel of Saint-Bénézet. But the bridge is best known for the famous French song Sur le pont d'Avignon.
  • The Calvet Museum, so named after Esprit Calvet, a physician who in 1810 left his collections to the town, has a strong collection of paintings, metalwork and other collections. The library has over 140,000 volumes.
  • The town has a statue of a Persian, Jean Althen, who in 1765 introduced the culture of the madder plant, which long formed the staple and is still an important branch of local trade.
  • The Musée du Petit Palais (opened 1976) at the end of the square overlooked by the Palais des Papes, has an exceptional collection of Renaissance paintings of the Avignon school as well as from Italy, which reunites many "primitives" from the collection of Giampietro Campana.
  • Collection Lambert, housing contemporary art exhibitions
  • Musée Angladon, which exhibits the paintings of a private collector who created the museaum
  • Musée Lapidaire, with the archeological and medieval sculpture collections of the Fondation Calvet, in the old chapel of the Jesuit College.
  • Musée Louis-Vouland
  • Musée Requien
  • Palais du Roure


Avignon Festival

A famous theater festival is held annually in Avignon. Founded in 1947, the Avignon Festival comprises traditional theatrical events as well as other art forms such as dance, music, and cinema, making good use of the town's historical monuments. Every summer approximately 100,000 people attend the festival. There are really two festivals that take place: the more formal "Festival In", which presents plays inside the Palace of the Popes and the more bohemian "Festival Off", which is known for its presentation of largely undiscovered plays and street performances.

The International Congress Centre

It was created in 1976 within the outstanding premises of the Palace of the Popes and hosts many events throughout the entire year. The Congress Centre, designed for conventions, seminars, and meetings for 10 to 550 persons, now occupies two wings of the Popes' Palace.[6]


Avignon has an SNCF railway station, situated just outside the ramparts of the old town, and a TGV station outside the town, served by the LGV Méditerranée, a high-speed rail system.[7] Provision for transport within the city includes 23 bus lines, and 110 km of bike paths with a bike-sharing program vélopop'[8].[7]

The Avignon - Caumont Airport is situated about 8 km southeast of Avignon.

Avignon is situated on the banks of the river Rhone, one of the main water thoroughfares in France.

Nuclear pollution

On 8th of July 2008 waste containing unenriched uranium leaked into two rivers from a nuclear plant in southern France. Some 30,000l (7,925 gallons) of solution containing 12g of uranium per litre spilled from an overflowing reservoir at the facility - which handles liquids contaminated by uranium - into the ground and into the Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers. The authorities kept this a secret from public for 12 hours, but then committed a statement prohibiting from swimming and fishing in the Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers. However, the situation there is now safe.[9]

Sur le pont d'Avignon

View over the Rhône River to North-East with the Pont Saint-Bénezet or "Pont d'Avignon" at left

Avignon is commemorated by the French children's song, "Sur le pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge of Avignon"), which describes folk dancing. The bridge of the song is the Saint Bénézet bridge, over the Rhône River, of which only four arches (out of the initial 22) remain which start from the Avignon side of the river. In fact people would have danced beneath the bridge (sous le pont) where it crossed an island (Île de Barthelasse) on its way to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. The bridge was initially built between 1171 and 1185, with an original length of some 900 m (2950 ft), but it suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be reconstructed several times. Several arches were already missing (and spanned by wooden sections) before the remainder were destroyed in 1660.

People who were born or died in Avignon

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Avignon is twinned with:

See also


  1. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica
  2. ^ William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas 56, 58, 61, 66, 69, 72, 76 In 736
  3. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia (1913).
  4. ^ "Website of University of Avignon". Retrieved 2010-01-17.  
  5. ^ Christophe Corbin. "Study French in Provence". Retrieved 2009-08-04.  
  6. ^ "Popes' Palace". Retrieved 2010-01-17.  
  7. ^ a b "Official guide to transport in Avignon". Retrieved 2010-01-17.  
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Europe | Warning over French uranium leak". BBC News. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2009-07-07.  


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Avignon is one of the major cities of Provence, in Southern France. It is the main city of the département of Vaucluse, and is on the banks of the Rhône river. Avignon was one of the European Cities of Culture in 2000.

Panorama of the The Papal Palace
Panorama of the The Papal Palace
The Pont d'Avignon
The Pont d'Avignon


Avignon is famous as it is the city to which the Popes fled when leaving the corruption of Rome in the 14th century. The palace they built, 'Le Palais des Papes,' or the palace of popes, is the world's largest Gothic edifice. It was largely emptied over the centuries, and its vast stone rooms are filled with little more than old frescos, but it is still an imposing building. The Ramparts themselves were erected to keep the plague and invaders out during the turbulent middle ages, when Avignon belonged to the papacy and not the French crown.

Its early history is much older than the popes, however. Avignon occupies a strategic location for several reasons - it is at the confluence of two once-mighty rivers: the Rhône, still one of the biggest rivers in France, and the now largely-dammed Durance. Both were important routes of trade and communication even in prehistoric times. In addition, there is a long island in the Rhone that made it possible to ferry people and goods across, and later bridge the river, more easily than in other places.

It is estimated that about 200,000 people live in Avignon, 16,000 of which live 'intra-muros,' or within the ramparts built in the 14th century.

The city is now sprinkled with buildings and monuments ranging from the new to the old, the very old, and the ageless.


Avignon has been continuously inhabited since the stone age, when troglodyte inhabitations were built in caves in the Rocher des Dames, a massive outcropping of rock rising over the banks of the Rhône. Today, a public park with benches, views over the surrounding countryside, a café and playground is on top of the Rocher.

The Romans had a presence in Avignon, though the walls they built lie buried somewhere under the modern streets. Vestiges of the forum can still be seen, lying unassumingly near the Rue Racine and the Rue Saint-Etienne, to the west of the city.

Then, in medieval times, the town grew to an important center of communication and trade. The stone bridge spanning the Rhone was one of only three between the Mediterranean and Lyon. It was undoubtedly for its strategic location and ease of travel that it was chosen by the papacy as home within the then kingdom of Provence. The presence of the papacy made Avignon into a city of great political and economic activity. The old city wall, now visible only as a street that circles the very center of the town (changing names 5 times in the process!) was much too small and a larger wall, still visible today, was necessary to protect its bulging population. Wealthy Cardinals built extravagant palaces known as livrées both within Avignon and across the river, in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

The city teemed with activity and building as architects, builders, artists flocked to the town. At that time, within the city walls there were over 100 churches and chapels - many of which have been transformed since then into everything from shops to a movie theater! The wealth and activity generated by the presence of the papacy spilled out into the region, so that even small villages nearby boast a rich architectural past.

Get in

By plane [1] [2]

By train

Avignon lies on the TGV [3] line from Paris to Marseille, about three hours from Paris, Gare de Lyon. It is also served by numerous local and regional services.

Local and regional trains call at the central station, outside the walls on the southern edge of the old town. TGVs call at Avignon TGV, about 2km out of town. A regular bus ("TGV Navette", €1.20 in August 2005) links the TGV station with the square outside the post office, just opposite central station.

A weekly Eurostar service from London St. Pancras International to Avignon operates every Saturday in the summer. The journey takes approximately 6 hours.

Get around

A map of the city, lists of hotels in all price ranges, restaurants, ideas for nightlife, and daytrips to the surrounding countryside can be found at the Office de Tourisme, 41 cours Jean Jaures (in the main street, which begins just inside the walls across from the regular train station).

The city itself is small, and all sites are easily walkable.

The Papal Palace and the cathedral
The Papal Palace and the cathedral
The decoration of a window inside the Papal Palace
The decoration of a window inside the Papal Palace

A popular tourist destination is the Place du Palais, just next to the Place de L'horloge, though the casual tourist may find these places shockingly expensive, and flooded during the summer months with tourists. Within a short distance in just about any direction are the smaller squares frequented by the locals, and much lower prices. Recommended is the Place Pie, with its covered market (open 6AM to 1PM everyday) which sells fresh produce, cheeses, wines, and produits du pays.

  • Le Pont Saint-Benezet is a ruined bridge not far from the Palais des Papes. The bridge was built in the Middle Ages - before the arrival of the Papacy - perhaps partly to allow the local bishop to cross the river to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, where the church authorities had installed themselves because of Avignon's then-infamous dirt and lawlessness.

The legend of the bridge's building is that a local shepherd, Benezet (a dialect form of Benedict) was inspired by angels to build a bridge. When his appeals to the town authorities proved fruitless, he picked up a vast block of stone and hurled it into the river, to be the bridge's foundation stone. Convinced by this demonstration of divine will, the bridge was swiftly built. The poor shepherd boy was canonised, and his chapel remains on the surviving portion of the bridge.

If the bridge was divinely inspired, the Deity must have quickly changed his mind, because before long the bridge became unsafe and, following numerous floods, mostly derelict. Originally, the bridge had 22 arches, reaching across to the tower of Philippe le Bel via the mid-stream île de la Barthelasse. Only 4 of the 22 arches now remain. A multilingual audio tour of the bridge explains some of the local history.

The well-known song "Sur Le Pont D'Avignon [4]" (on the bridge at Avignon) refers to the bridge. The bridge itself is far too narrow for dancing or festivals - the original text of the song was "Sous (under) le pont d'Avignon", referring to the festivals and entertainments staged on the île de la Barthelasse. The current version was popularised by a 19th century operetta, whose librettist clearly assumed that 'sous le pont d'Avignon' would have meant in the river.


Avignon has its share of museums, ranging from Modern Art Museums to museums housing artifacts from the Roman and pre-Roman days.


Think Outside the Watermelon offers private English-language walking tours led by local residents. [5]

If you are confident about biking, there are a lot of places to bike to.

  • Theatre Festival Avignon is famous the world over for its annual theatre festival [6]. For three or four weeks in July the city is virtually swollen with street performers, actors, musicians, and of course the ubiquitous tourists. The festival is an excuse to turn any room with enough seating into a 'salle de spectacle' and the city is host to a wide variety of entertainment. The gem of this festival are the performances which take place inside the Pope's Palace itself. Tickets are expensive, but this is considered by many French and European thespians to be a crowning achievement of a career. The vast majority of performances are, of course, in French but a number of foreign companies perform in (eg) English. Even without attending any events, the atmosphere and street theatre give the city a marvellous feeling.
  • The International Congress Center [7] was created in 1976 within the outstanding premises of the Palace of the Popes and hosts many events throughout the entire year.
  • Restaurant l'Orangerie Place Jerusalem. This is an impressive small restaurant just a few minutes walk from the tourist-center Place de l'Horloge. Style is Provencal/Corsican. In Summer it has tables on the Square, the rest of the year it has four tables and bar on the ground floor and a few more upstairs. The Chocolate Torte is thoroughly Recommended.
  • Restaurant Christian Etienne [8] - a well known Provence chef, his restaurant is right next to the Palais des Papes. An excellent vegetarian menu is available.
  • (gay club), 10 rue du Limas (near place Crillon), +33490851491, [9]. 11PM-5AM. The best gay and straight friendly club in town, open 7/7, full every night with shows, house and cruising area. Entrance is free of charge all year except July (5€ including a drink) alcohol:8€ soft drinks:5€ beers:7€ frequented in summer by most of theatre festival artists and celebrities. The place is small but on two floors with a smoking area inside. Second floor there is a backroom, first floor a small bar (mostly gay male) with videos. Ground floor dj's, main bar, and a small dance floor. Most people arrive after bars closing hour (1:30AM) so come here later, it's a must! Very friendly staff (1st floor bartender speaks good english)  edit
  • Auberge-Camping Bagatelle [10]Ile de la Barthelasse. This Hotel/ Hostel and Camp Site is situated on Ile de la Bathelasse in the centre of the Rhone . This is perhaps the best place to stay on a budget. It has great facilities and offers perhaps the best view of the centre of Avignon.
  • Hotel de l'Atelier 5 rue de la Foire. €65
  • Hotel d'Angleterre 29 Boulevard Raspail (10 minute walk from bus and train station). €40, some rooms with bathroom. Small hotel located within the city walls. Has a small private car park. Its use is free of charge if you can find a place for your car.
  • Hotel le Medieval 15 rue Petite Saunerie €60
  • Avignon Hotel Monclar **, 13-15 Avenue Monclar (just behind the central station, which faces the main avenue of downtown and the bus station), 04 90 86 20 14 (fax: 04 26 23 68 31), [11]. Family run hotel overlooking a flowered garden, within a private carpark. Internet wi-fi available in the whole building. Recently renovated rooms with the typical Provencal style. 7 languages spoken. Private taxi service. Double room with ensuite shower and bathroom €30-60, studios and apartements from €75, breakfast €7 can be taken in the garden in season 7:30AM 11AM.  edit
  • Mas du Clos de l'Escarrat Route de Carpentras chemin de l'Escarrat. €80 Bed & Breakfast
  • Hotel Avignon Le Colbert** Provence France [12]--Charming Provence two stars hotel Le Colbert** Hotel Avignon in the heart of the medieval city few minutes of Palais des Papes, provencal and individual air conditioning room from € 78-- 7 rue Agricol Perdiguier--+33 4 90 86 20 20
  • Au Saint Roch, 9 rue Paul Mérindol, 84000 Avignon (South West from the middle age city), +33 6 90 16 50 00 (, fax: +33 4 90 82 78 30), [13]. Nice hotel with a very quiet garden. From €48 to €65, €750 for breakfast.  edit
  • Hotel d 'Europe [14] 12, Place Crillon. €350. 5-star
  • La Mirande Hotel 4, place de la Mirande €400 and up. 5 star hotel housed in a 700 year old converted townhouse.

Get out

The surrounding region is full of interesting sites, There are three sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List

  • Arles is full of Roman and Romanesque monuments and worthy of a full days exploration. 17mn from Avignon by TER.
  • Orange just a short train ride to the north is home to one of the finest Roman Theatres in Europe
  • Le Pont du Gard is about 30km to the West it is probably the finest Roman aquaduct still in existence, and a great place for hiking and canoeing.

Other notable sites nearby are:

  • Nimes which has a huge Roman ampitheatre and a famous Greek Temple
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a short train ride north and is home to some of France's most famous vineyards
  • Aix-en-Provence, town of water - town of art, founded by the Romans.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AVIGNON, a city of south-eastern France, capital of the department of Vaucluse, 143 m. S. of Lyons on the railway between that city and Marseilles. Pop. (1906) 35,356. Avignon, which lies on the left bank of the Rhone, a few miles above its confluence with the Durance, occupies a large oval-shaped area not fully populated, and covered in great part by parks and gardens. A suspension bridge leads over the river to Villeneuveles-Avignon, and a little higher up, a picturesque ruined bridge of the 12th century, the Pont Saint-Benezet, projects into the stream. Only four of the eighteen piles are left; on one of them stands the chapel of Saint-Benezet, a small Romanesque building. Avignon is still encircled by the ramparts built by the popes in the 14th century, which offer one of the finest examples of medieval fortification in existence. The walls, which are of great strength, are surmounted by machicolated battlements, flanked at intervals by thirty-nine massive towers and pierced by several gateways, three of which date from the 14th century. The whole is surrounded by a line of pleasant boulevards. The life of the town is almost confined to the Place de l'Hotel de Ville and the Cours de la Republique, which leads out of it and extends to the ramparts. Elsewhere the streets are narrow, quiet, and, for the most part, badly paved. At the northern extremity of the town a precipitous rock, the Rocher des Doms, rises from the river's edge and forms a plateau stretching southwards nearly to the Place de l'Hotel de Ville. Its. summit is occupied by a public garden and, to the south of this, by the cathedral of Notre-Dame des Doms and the Palace of the Popes. The cathedral is a Romanesque building, mainly of the 12th century, the most prominent feature of which is the gilded statue of the Virgin which surmounts the western tower. Among the many works of art in the interior, the most beautiful is the mausoleum of Pope John XXII., a masterpiece of Gothic carving of the 14th century. The cathedral is almost dwarfed by the Palace of the Popes, a sombre assemblage of buildings, which rises at its side and covers a space of more than 14 acres. Begun in 1316 by John Xxii., it was continued by succeeding popes until 1370, and is in the Gothic style; in its construction everything has been sacrificed to strength, and though the effect is imposing, the place has the aspect rather of a fortress than of a palace. It was for long used as a barracks and prison, to the exigencies of which the fine apartments were ruthlessly adapted, but it is now municipal property. Among the minor churches of the town are St Pierre, which has a graceful façade and richly carved doors, St Didier and St Agricol, all three of Gothic architecture. The most notable of the civil buildings are the hotel de ville, a modern building with a belfry of the 14th century, and the old Hotel des Monnaies, the papal mint which was built in 1610 and is now used as a music-school. The Calvet Museum, so named after F. Calvet, physician, who in 1810 left his collections to the town, is rich in inscriptions, bronzes, glass and other antiquities, and in sculptures and paintings. The library has over 140,000 volumes. The town has a statue of a Persian, Jean Althen, who in 1765 introduced the culture of the madder plant, which long formed the staple and is still an important branch of local trade. In 1873 John Stuart Mill died at Avignon, and is buried in the cemetery. For the connexion of Petrarch with the town see Petrarch.

Avignon is subject to violent winds, of which the most disastrous is the mistral. The popular proverb is, however, somewhat exaggerated, Avenio ventosa, sine vento venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa (windy Avignon, pest-ridden when there is no wind, wind-pestered when there is).

Avignon is the seat of an archbishop and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a council of trade-arbitrators, a lycee, and training college, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. It is in the midst of a fertile district, in the products of which it has a large trade, and has flour-mills, distilleries, oil-works and leather-works, manufactures soap, chemicals and liquorice, and is well known for its sarsanet and other fabrics.

Avignon (Avenio) was an important town of the Gallic tribe of the Cavares, and under the Romans one of the leading cities of Gallia Narbonensis. Severely harassed during the barbarian invasions and by the Saracens, it was, in later times, attached successively to the kingdoms of Burgundy and of Arles and to the domains of the counts of Provence and of Toulouse and of Forcalquier. At the end of the 12th century it became a republic, but in 1226 was taken and dismantled by Louis VIII. as punish-, ment for its support of the Albigenses, and in 1251 was forced to submit to the counts of Toulouse and Provence. In 1309 the city was chosen by Clement V. as his residence, and from that time till 1377 was the papal seat. In 1348 the city was sold by Joanna, countess of Provence, to Clement VI. After Gregory XI. had migrated to Rome, two antipopes, Clement VII. and Benedict XIII., resided at Avignon, from which the latter was expelled in 1408. The town remained in the possession of the popes, who governed it by means of legates, till its annexation by the National Assembly in 1791, though during this interval several kings of France made efforts to unite it with their dominions. In 1791 conflicts between the adherents of the Papacy and the Republicans led to much bloodshed. In 1815 Marshal Brune was assassinated in the town by the adherents of the royalist party. The bishopric, founded in the 3rd century, became an archbishopric in 1475.

See Fantoni Castrucci, Istoria della citta d'Avignone e del Contado Venesino (Venice, 1678); J. B. Joudou, Histoire des souverains pontifes qui ont siege a Avignon (Avignon, 1855); A. Canron, Guide de l'etranger dans la ville d'Avignon et ses environs (Avignon, 1858); J. F. Andre, Histoire de la Papauti a Avignon (Avignon, 1877).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:





  1. A city in Provence, France.


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{{French commune |native_name = Ville d'Avignon |common_name = Avignon |image_flag = |border=1px |image_flag_size = 120px |image_coat_of_arms = |image_coat_of_arms_size = 90px |flag_legend = City flag |Coat_of_arms_legend = City coat of arms |image_map = |x = 188 |y = 208 |time zone = CET (GMT +1) |region = Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur |department = Vaucluse |arrondissement = Avignon |canton = |insee = 84007 |postal_code = 84000 |mayor = Marie-Josée Roig |term = 2001–2008 |party = UMP |intercomm = Grand Avignon |lat_long = 43°56′55″N 4°48′28″E / 43.9486°N 4.8079°E / 43.9486; 4.8079 Avignon is a city in the south of France. It is the administrative capital of the Vaucluse. About 89.000 people live in the city today, and about 155.000 in its urban area. The first foundations of the city were around 539 before the birth of Christ.

During the Midlle Ages, the city was the seat of the popes.

Today, a very well preserved old city remains, also the Palais of the Popes, and the Bridge (Pont d'Avignon) are worth a visit.

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