The era of the Popes somewhat eclipses other events in what is a long and tumultuous history. At the crossroads of the big trade and migratory routes between northern and southern Europe and between Italy and Spain, the city played a major role in European history.
A Phoenician trading post during the High Antiquity, Avignon then became a flourishing Roman town.
It suffered greatly from the barbarian invasions, followed by those of the Moors and the Francs in the High Middle Ages. With the expansion of trade, and benefiting from its strategic position and its bridge over the Rhône, it had the status of a free town, strong and arrogant enough to defy the King of France.
The presence of the Popes made Avignon the capital of the Medieval western world in the 15th century. A papal territory up until the French Revolution, the city actually benefited little from the first Industrial Revolution.
It entered into relative anonymity in the 19th century only to come back as a cultural capital in the 20th century. Avignon is the cradle of the Félibrige, a revival of Provençal literature and its Theatre Festival, started in 1946 by Jean Vilar, gives it international prestige.
Avignon city of history