Since 1995, the Palais des Papes has been classified, along with the historic center of Avignon, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for its outstanding architecture and historical importance for the Papacy, writes Paddy Ryan.
If you had to chose a residence away from Rome, the city of Avignon in the south of France is a lovely choice. Perhaps this is why the Pope chose Avignon when Rome was getting too hot to handle at the beginning of the 14th century.
There is no doubt that this earth-shattering move from the Eternal City, while benefitting the Papacy, also contributed enormously to the wealth of Avignon, particularly the King of Naples who ruled it.
And the papacy left an indelible mark on Avignon which is on the river Rhone. Navigable and very wide at this point, this accessibility was an important consideration for the move. The multi arched bridge, theme of the popular song – Pont de Avignon – is within a stone’s throw of the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace, pictured above).
Now a shell, the sturdy walls of the Palace, overlook a cobbled square bursting at the seams with restaurants and souvenir shops. The emblem of Avignon must be lavender because the shops are crammed with lavender teddy bears, bunches of lavender, real and almost real, while its beautiful scent fills the air.
Excepting the odd fresco or a hint of past glories, there is little trace today of the splendour that adorned the Palace. Considering the turbulence that France experienced over the last eight centuries, it is no surprise to learn that massive reconstruction work was carried out on the walls during the 19th century.
Considering that the Palace is the focal point of this lovely laid-back city, it is hard to believe that the papacy was only here from 1309-1377, a mere sixty-eight years. But what an eventful sixty-eight years.