The city of Avignon played an important role in the 14th century. Though nowadays, it’s mostly known for its bridge, the Pont d’Avignon, the city was once a residence for pontiffs who made their home at the Palace of the Popes.
Besides its historic significance, Avignon has much to offer.
Reasons to fall in love with Avignon
Avignon has a lively atmosphere. It’s full of charming shops, atmospheric cafes, and numerous little hideaways that are ideal for people-watching and postcard-writing. It’s a town where you’ll love losing yourself in the backstreets. Or, claiming a dappled spot in order to jot down notes and take photographs. It’s a place to be inspired, refreshed and renewed. Take a tour of the impressive palace that once housed the Holy Father. Stroll the traffic and stress-free shopping quarter and enjoy the town’s best views by hiking to the top of the hilly Rocher des Doms Park.
Avignon’s Papal legacy
Avignon started out as a small town that predated ancient Roman times, but the medieval residents put it on the map in the 14th century. That’s because Clément V moved papal operations away from Italy to Avignon to enjoy a secure rule, supported by the French king. The Catholic Church purchased the town which had 6,000 inhabitants and transformed it completely. The improvements included protective walls, 39 towers, mansions for the cardinals and residences for staff. The population grew to 25,000, almost twice as many as today.
The Palace of the Popes was the crowning achievement of this construction phase. With its 10-feet thick walls it not only represented power, but it was also the most secure palace in the world at that time. In addition to the pope, it was home to 500 people who administered the Holy See business. This impressive structure remains Europe’s largest Gothic palace.
Don’t forget to check out the bridge. Even older than the palace, it dates back to the 12th century. It’s still impressive though only four arches remain from its original 22.