Our France vacation was coming to an end, and only Papal Palace in Avignon was left to visit, so we leave the idyllic-pastoral and vivid Provence. The choice of our last point of residence lay between medieval Avignon with the Palace of the Popes and Arles with its ancient Roman arena. We decided upon the first one, and our Mini Cooper drove out the road N100 from Gordes to Avignon. We had to see a former rival of the Vatican. For a century the fates of mortals and powerful persons were deciding here.
The elegance Hotel de l’Horloge is located at the same-named square. It is 3-5-minutes of walking away from the former Papal residence; for our purposes more successful place is difficult to find, and not very expensive. At first you pass the square itself, then the theatre building located near the hotel, and now you’re in a narrow lane no longer than 50 meters. It feels as if you intend to go on a stage in the glare of soffits! But this scene is completely occupied before your appearance.
The Papal Palace does not suppress; it amazes! Such a leviathan hangs over you and the whole square tightly cluttered with café’s tables. Join the audience, take your seats in the parterre and admire! A cup of coffee or glass of wine? The Avignon Papal Palace is so truly gorgeous that you want to sit in front of it infinitely.
As I said, the palace located at the average-sized European square does not overwhelm you at all; you feel so integrated to this medieval city. It seems like the angels are still circling around it.
Many people confine themselves only with the external inspection, they say that the interiors are missing. Papal Palace is empty for a very long time, yes, you will not find an untold wealth here, in contrast to the Vatican. Sure enough our couple moved inside.
Avignon Papal Palace’s history is so full of nerves and tragic that we could never imagine before. If it is interesting for you, you’d take audio guide and enjoy the excursion. You will have considerable food for thought. For example, about the famous “Avignon Captivity of popes.” Avignon Papacy is the period between 1309 and 1377 years.
The Papas Residence’s size amazes not only outside, the inner space will surely strike you as well. The interiors have not survived. There is just a trifle left of the wall painting; you can just imagine how wonderful was the whole picture seven centuries ago!
There is a plenty of books, beautifully decorated photo albums, souvenirs, and, of course, wine from the papal vineyards at the exit from the Palace of the Popes. We have taken two bottles of Rhone wine as a gift for friends, but we were forced to abandon the helmet and sword. 🙂
And suddenly it dawned on us that the Popes’ vineyards are close at hand, we can even see them from the towers of the Palace, across the Rhone river. And so we decided to degust the famous wine directly in the place of its manufacture, and went to Chateauneuf du Pape on foot! And how could it be otherwise? All members of the expedition should undergo the degust procedure, including those who are driving.
Thirty minutes later we crossed the bridge over the Rhone. It became clear that “close at hand” means at least two hours. There were no landmarks: either way mark, or tower against the horizon. We were keeping rising on the mountain. A half of an hour more and, “What a beauty! I can’t believe we are here finally!”
This one turned to be the Philippe le Bel Tower. He was a very unsightly historical character, I should say. Such an odious person: he is imputed with an assassination of two Pontiffs and Templars’ destruction. You bet, when you owe a small fortune to the Order, the treasury is empty, and the Templars dream of the Languedoc’s sovereignty.
The Order of the Knights Templar was founded during the Crusades. People entered into military-monastic orders giving the usual monastic vows, except for non-participation in military operations. This eliminated the contradiction between the teaching of the Gospel and participation in constant military conflicts of the Middle Ages. The Knights were busy with their business – war, but it is not separated them from the salvation of their souls. At the beginning of the XIV century the Templars were well-trained military force, had several hundred castles throughout Europe, and along with the Jews were the largest financial creditors.
Well, Philip IV the Fair has reminded the Pope Clement V on whose land he lives so happily.
The tower is good, but it was closed for lunch. So we kept climbing, but sure enough we would be all the better having a lunch too. French are strict on this – if you missed your lunch from 12 to 14.00, you should wait for the dinner. The streets are empty, but very nice.
We came! But we reached only Fort Saint-Andre, and this is a suburb of Avignon – Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. This is called a venturesome trip without a map. We crossed the river, but it was the wrong phrase, and initially our way was to the north-west, rather than north.
Fort Saint-Andre was built by Philippe le Bel to the contrary of the Papal Palace in Avignon in record time. The Pontiff should have always remembered who set him on the Saint Peter’s throne and who is running the show here by only casting a glance from the garden or a window. He knew exactly where are aimed guns of the Fort Saint-Andre. There is a beautiful Benedictine Abbey inside the fort.
After two hours of climbing a mountain we agreed to have a lunch without the papal wine; let it be just the Rhone sort and we will be okay with that. We preferred not to think over the two-hour way back, so without any hurry talking about the Avignon Papacy and the vicissitudes of history, ordered tartar.
In the early 14th century, the Papal State in central Italy was on the verge of collapse, Rome was shaken by endless conflicts between influential aristocratic clans dividing the power.
Pope Clement V decided to move the residence of the Catholic Church to the south of France in 1309 year; thus began the Avignon Papacy. This migration of the holy fathers looks like a bargain with a strong French King Philip IV. Everyone benefits: you do not interfere in the politics of the laity, but build a centralized almost “monarchic” power within the church; the king receives a blessing and any indulgence from the Holy Church.
In general, the Avignon Papacy bore little resemblance to captivity. “Captive” it was called by some church officer a little later, and he was not French. The expression is left, and all seven Avignon popes were only the French, and they never complained about their life in Avignon. On the contrary, Petrarch, who visited the papal court at that time, pointed on its unprecedented luxury and called “Avignon captivity” “Babylonian”.
But you have to pay for everything, and Philip IV the Fair will ask a high price. In time of Clement V, the only one in the XIV century Catholic Ecumenical Council will take place in 1311 and will pass the sentence to the Knights of the Temple. Captivated Templars were brutally tortured, 54 Head of the Order were burned, the Order disbanded, and the property was divided between the King Philip IV, the Pope and the order of Saint John of Jerusalem, later transformed into the Order of Malta.
Lunch is over, we are going back leisurely.
Here is the famous Avignon’s bridge Pont Saint-Benezet; to be more precise, the half of it only.
The long day comes to an end. I think, in order to see all interesting things in the vicinity of Avignon you will need about five days. Great that we stayed in Avignon, it offered prospects of the Papal Palace – the marvellous piece of art – and an interesting night photo session. Let the angels keep circling around you, Avignon Papal Palace.
More about antique and medieval France:
Cite De Carcassonne – Book In Stone
Peyrepertuse – one of Cathar Castles
Le Pont du Gard Breathtaking, but That is Only the Water Conduit!