Mont de Piété Museum & Silk Conditioning

Situated in the former Notre-Dame de Lorette Chapel in the heart of Avignon, the museum's collection retraces the history and function of the Mont de Piété and the Silk Conditioning Mill. The building also houses the Municipal Archives.

Mont de Piete Museum Avignon : antique rubber stamps

Mont de Piete Museum : ancient manuscript

Mont de Piete reports

The history of the Mont de Piété

Founded in 1577, the Congregation Notre-Dame de Lorette, seeing the hardships inflicted by the usurers on the weakest of the population, took it on as occupation "to teach, urge patience and relieve the needs of the shamed poor".  

By setting itself up, in 1610, as a Mont de Piété (regulated pawnbrokers) it could provide money against security to the disadvantaged of the population of Avignon and the whole region. This made the Mont de Piété of Avignon - which still exists under its modern name of Crédit Municipal - the first establishment of this type created in France; the one in Paris would not be created until 200 years later by Louis XVI.

At the time in Italian lands, Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin would benefit from this transalpine influence, given that it was in the northern and central regions of Italy that, from the late 15th century on, the first "Monte Di Piéta" sprang up. In this part of Europe, where the first important banking techniques saw the day, the Monts de Piété proved to be a successful mix of the principles of a modern economy and the need for charity. The Mont de Piété, although often having a negative image, has in fact a calling both charitable and educational. The idea of saving to pay back a loan would find its outcome in the development of the Caisses d'Epargne (savings banks) in the 19th century, often created by the Monts de Piété, which were able to survive the upheavals of the French Revolution.

The Mont-de-Piété, thanks to the energetic will of the fellow members, rendered the institution substantial with the construction of a large building, which we can still admire today. The first stage, carried out from 1640 to 1648 allowed for the building of a large rectangular hall crowned with 8, groined vaults. Doubled in height towards 1670-1675, a large staircase was added in 1681. At the very end of the 17th century (1695-1697), the building was enlarged towards the Rue de la Croix. Finally, the chapel was rebuilt and smartened up between 1731 and 1737. The best artists of the time took part in these different stages: François de la Valfenière, Pierre Péru and without doubt Jean-Baptiste Franque.

The permanent and ongoing success of this Avignon establishment -a success that the considerable archives will remind us of - was interrupted during the pivotal period at the end of the 18th century. In the 19th century, the resourcefulness of the new administrators who had replace the former members boosted the activities of the institution, which added another floor to the vast 18th century building, as well as a new building, notably for the "Condition des Soies", preparation of silk fibers. Transformed into the Crédit Municipal during the course of the 20th century, and turning more and more towards the banking sector, the former Mont de Piété left for good the buildings on the Rue Saluces in 1986, leaving it to the services of the Municipal Archives, which finally found there, after years of roaming, a home suited to its worth.

Silk Conditioning Museum

The Mont-de-Piété of the city of Avignon, bankrupt by the Revolution and the Law of 4th Pluviôse  

Year 2 stipulating the free redemption of securities, found itself in the beginning of the 19th century in a deplorable financial situation. The administrators then had the ingenious idea of starting a new public institution that would meet both a local commercial and industrial need as well as the need to procure funds to insure the continuation of its pawn-broking activities. That's how, with the active support of the Guillaume Puy municipality, they instituted and put in place, the 22nd Frimaire, Year 10 (December 12, 1801), a public Silk Conditioning House, destined to experience significant growth.

During the 19th century and up until 1928, the Condition des Soies of Avignon, still administered by the Mont-de-Piété - as opposed to other French conditioning houses (Lyon, Saint-Etienne etc.) managed by the Chambers of Commerce - carried out the various processes of drying and assaying required by the local producers and merchants. The Vaucluse and surrounding regions are in fact important silkworm-breeding areas. Producers and merchants came to the Condition d'Avignon to establish indisputably the quality of the silks, the objest of their trade. Originally set up in the former chapel of the Mont-de-Piété, the Condition des Soies gradually grew to finish in the big building with its two beautiful façades, one overlooking the Rue de la Croix and the other over the courtyard of the Mont-de-Piété, Rue Saluces.

Notre Dame de Lorette Chapel - Silk conditioning museum

Dryer - Silk Conditioning Museum

Silk Conditioning Museum : spinning wheel

Silk Conditioning Museum : cocoons

Mont de Piete Museum & Silk conditionning - 6, rue Saluces - 84000 Avignon

+33 (0)4 90 86 53 12

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