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Avignon, the City of the Popes

Popes' Palace - Avignon Theatre Festival

Avignon : the Bridge - The Palace of the Popes
View of Avignon from the Barthelasse Islande / #15845452 © Tom Plesnik -

Avignon, a city in Provence that will blow you away

Avignon, city of the Popes - Altera Roma — holds in its heart a multicultural history, a foreshadowing of its future!

It all started in prehistoric times on the Rocher des Doms, a promontory protected from the waters of the Rhone, still untamed at that time. Its name, “Aouenion”, comes from Antiquity, when the Cavares controlled it; city of violent wind or lord of the river are meanings given by translators.

In 121 BC, the Romans (Gallo-Roman period) took control of Avignon and named it Avenio. The Rhône was the route taken by Greek, Marseille and Italian sailors wishing to trade with Northern Europe.

The Barbarians, at the end of the 3rd century, chased the Romans out. The city was ravaged and passed from one occupier to another until 561, when it was annexed to the Frankish kingdom of Burgundy with which it remained until the 8th century. In the Middle Ages, the enlightened and vain Provençal nobility, it has been theorized, asked the Saracens for help in liberating themselves from Frankish domination. The city was practically put to death; it was taken back in 737.

Despite the wars of religion and the nobility’s conflict of interests with the kingdom and the bishops, trade flourished, thanks to Avignon's geographic position on the route between Spain and Italy, without forgetting the help from the river. In 1185, the construction of the Saint Bénézet established Avignon as the most powerful city in the South of France. It must be added that to preserve its wealth and guarantee its safety, the city doubled its ramparts.

Palace of the Popes Avignon
Le Palais des Papes à Avignon - © José Nicolas

A turning point in the 14th century marked the city definitively and ensured its international renown: the decision by Pope Clement V to make Avignon his permanent residence. The city's architectural physiognomy would be changed forever and still contributes to its economic growth.

The Popes' Palace is one of the most visited national heritage spots in France: approximately 650,000 visitors per year. It has a surface area of 15,000 m2, making it one of the biggest medieval buildings in Europe, its towers rising up about 50 metres high - The Trouillas Tower, recently renovated, was a prodigious feat by the workers and architects of that period. Another, and certainly not the least, particularity is the Palace's main courtyard with its 1500m2. And that's not all: since 1947, under the impulsion of Jean Vilar, it has been put at the disposal of the Avignon Theatre Festival.

The Avignon Theatre Festival, an international event for the performing arts - theatre, dance, readings, music — takes place each year during the month of July. The palace’s open-air stage is majestic: 570 m2 big, plus its 1950 seats, a challenge for directors, a do-or-die space and, above all, a rare adventure for everyone passionate about art. Nothing is left to chance; an outstanding technical team helps and highlights all the artistic projects. Excellent teamwork! A must-see! This festival comes after another, Alterarosa, and is followed by the Tremplin Jazz of Avignon. A city always in full swing!

Before all other festivities, Avignon, a Dionysian city, is the capital of the Côtes du Rhône!
The abuse of alcohol is dangerous, drink with moderation!
Touring the winemaking estates - or the markets of Provence - is a pleasant way to discover the architectural wealth (Abbey of Sénanque, the Roman amphitheatre in Orange, the Pont du Gard aqueduct, the upper town of Vaison-la-Romaine), the natural sites (the Luberon Nature Park, the ochre of Roussillon, the gorges of Verdon, the Drôme and the Ardèche, the Camargue, the caves in Le Thor and Mazal, the spring in Fontaine de Vaucluse...) and the great variety of regional products (truffles, saffron, lavender, honey...) of the Vaucluse.

Mademoiselle Julie, d'August Strindberg avec Juliette Binoche
Abbaye de Sénanque / © François Lochon GAMMA / Pont du Gard.
des sites prestigieux à proximité d'Avignon

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Avignon - Place Saint Didier
Place Saint Didier / © Annick et Jean-Pierre Fizet

Histoire à Voir

Avignon - Teinturiers street
Rue des Teinturiers / © Annick et Jean-Pierre Fizet

The museums of Avignon

Street show
Festival of Avignon / © José Nicolas

Avignon Festival & Special events

The little train - Avignon
the little train - Avignon / © José Nicolas

History of Avignon

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© Text : Christine Limont -

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