In June 2016 my wife and I stayed in Avignon for a week. The city of about 90,000 people is in Provence in Southern France. The city is dominated by the Palais Des Papes, a huge palace complex (actually it’s two palaces), and the River Rhone. Avignon is a modern city but, within the old city walls, it has a much more relaxed and historic feel. We stayed at an apartment in the centre of the old town, which was perfect for seeing the sites.
Avignon has an interesting history. For most of the fourteenth century it was home to the Popes in their self-imposed exile from Rome. As such Avignon was at the centre of events.
Across the Rhone lies Villeneuve Lez Avignon, a much smaller and relaxed town. It’s dominated by Fort Saint Andre. In the middle ages the Rhone was the border between France and The Holy Roman Empire, and the fort was built to protect the border.
Here are a few pictures from our stay there. We had a greta time and ‘d happily go back again. For a large city Avignon has a laid back feel to it, with a fantastic market and good restaurants. History buffs can find plenty to interest them too and the surrounding scenery is stunning.
The Rhone and the Pont Saint Benezet
The River Rhone flows outside Avignon. Avignon is in Provence, which in the middle ages was part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Rhone was the border between The Empire and France, and it wasn’t until 1480 that Avignon became French territory. In the past the river was a major transport route, but was always prone to severe flooding. Barrages further down the river have reduced the problem, but not completely. We were able to go on a boat cruise at the start of our trip, but severe storms in other parts of Europe forced river traffic to close down during part of our stay.
The Pont Saint Benezet used to stretch across the Rhone, but the river often flooded and the bridge piers frequently collapsed. In the seventeenth century the city of Avignon finally gave up on the bridge, and the four piers in this picture are all that remain.
This is all that’s left of the famous Pond Saint Benezet. Anyone’s who’s suffered French lessons in English schools will remember ‘Sur le pont D’Avignon’
Avignon and the Palais Des Papes
This is one of my favourite views of Avignon, taken from Villeneuve. The mountains in the background are the Chaine Des Alpilles.
Avignon was home to the Pope from 1309 to 1377. For political reasons Pope Clement V, a Frenchman, refused to move to Rome on his election and set up his throne in Avignon. The next six popes ruled from there too. The palace was still used by the church until the French Revolution, when much of the building became a barracks. By the end of the nineteenth century, it was in a poor state of repair, but the place has now been renovated. It is now a Unesco world heritage site.
This natural outcrop of rock, Le Jardin De Doms, is one of the earliest inhabited parts of Avignon. Neolithic remains have been found there. The site is now home to peaceful gardens with amazing views over the Rhone.
This impressive statue of the Virgin Mary, is on top of the Cathédrale des Doms, next to the Palais Des Papes. It towers over the city and is visible for miles around.
This picture is taken looking back along the battlements towards the Palais Des Papes.
Villeneuve Lez Avignon and Fort Saint Andre
Across the Rhone from Avignon is the small town of Villeneuve Lez Avignon. Towering over it is Fort Saint-Andre. Built in 1360, it’s role was to protect the boundary between France and the Holy Roman Empire.
This is the view of Fort Saint Andre from across the river in Avignon. The castle is a much more workmanlike, and warlike, building than the Palais Des Papes.
We came across this small chapel in Villeneuve Lez Avignon. Silly me, I forgot to make a note of it’s name.
In complete contrast to the grandeur of the Palais Des Papes is this old house in Villeneuve Lez Avignon.