Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Day in Avignon

Firstly I need to apologise once again - this part of our trip we took many photos. Unfortunately, I did a very silly thing with the collection and somehow deleted them on our laptop. These are from the web.

Our time in Provence was coming to an end and so was our stay in our lovely little cottage in Saint Remy. We decided to visit Avignon before leaving as we missed it on our 2006 trip.
The man that we leased our Citroen from invited us back to leave the car with him while we visited Avignon. The gates to enter the city were near his garage. What a nice man he is.

Walking through the gate, we entered Avignon - We were excited.
 As we walked through the main gates we passed cafes and bars while people were enjoying the morning sunshine. Naturally our destination was to the Palais du Papes or the Palace of the Popes.
The history of how the Popes came to Avignon in the 1300s intrigued me. Its no secret that the Romans spent some time bringing their culture, architecture and religion to France. The Popes fled Rome during a period of unrest and brought the Papal Court to Avignon. Their reign lasted from 1309 to 1377 before returning to Rome.

I loved their theatre - imagine seeing an opera (or a rock band) within this marvelous building.
The two seated sculptures either side of the entrance intrigued me.
We entered the Palais du Papes at the Champeaux gate. You feel as if you have entered an impregnable fortress rather than a religious building. Within there is a feeling of emptiness - there is very little furniture or signs of the opulent riches of the the Popes' existence many centuries gone ago.
Still, you did get a feeling of the way they lived a life of luxury. Quite in contrast to the Cathars in the Languedoc region only kilometres away. More about them in a later post.

From the Avignon Tourism website
Avignon is famous as it is the city to which the Popes fled when leaving the corruption of Rome in the 14th century. The palace they built, 'Le Palais des Papes,' or the palace of popes, is the world's largest Gothic edifice. It was largely emptied over the centuries, and its vast stone rooms are filled with little more than old frescoes, but it is still an imposing building. The Ramparts themselves were erected to keep the plague and invaders out during the turbulent middle ages, when Avignon belonged to the papacy and not the French crown.

Avignon has been continuously inhabited since the stone age, when troglodytes built in caves in the Rocher des Dames, a massive outcropping of rock rising over the banks of the Rhone. The Romans had a presence in Avignon, though the walls they built lie buried somewhere under the modern streets. Then, in medieval times, the town grew to an important centre of communication and trade. The stone bridge spanning the Rhone was one of only three between the Mediterranean and Lyon. It was undoubtedly for its strategic location and ease of travel that it was chosen by the papacy as home within the then kingdom of Provence.

Le Pont Saint-Benezet is a ruined bridge not far from the Palais des Papes. The bridge was built in the Middle Ages. The legend of the bridge's building is that a local shepherd, Benezet (a dialect form of Benedict) was inspired by angels to build a bridge. When his appeals to the town authorities proved fruitless, he picked up a vast block of stone and hurled it into the river, to be the bridge's foundation stone. Convinced by this demonstration of divine will, the bridge was swiftly built. The poor shepherd boy was canonised, and his chapel remains on the surviving portion of the bridge.

The well-known song "Sur Le Pont D'Avignon (on the bridge at Avignon) refers to the bridge. The bridge itself is far too narrow for dancing or festivals - the original text of the song was "Sous (under) Le pont d'Avignon", referring to the festivals and entertainments staged on the île de la Barthelasse.

Sue actually rang her brother John in Australia while standing on the Pont and sang those very lyrics to him while I hid somewhere so as not to be seen while she did this.
Just a bit of an exaggeration, Leon. I smsed him one line and he sent me back the next one, all the way through the song. Probably more in the nature of a competition. It was great! Although, yeah, he did hide.
 Avignon was a great experience and I'm so sad our photos were lost. But!!!!! there is a great website that our regular blog commenter, Nadege introduced me to. It's called Avignon in photos and is to the right on our sidebar. She takes very creative pics and worth looking at regularly.


  1. I bet you were devastated at the time, but it does give you a great excuse, if you need one for that return visit. One of my favourite regions of France, I also remember the song, we used to sing it as a round in music lessons at school :)

  2. Is it not amazing that you can replace some photos from the web but of course you can not replace the personal ones. Yes I remember the song well from school days. Great post. Diane

  3. I think we all learned that song! Or are we simply of a generation???? Anyway, dance on (under) the bridge!

  4. LLM and FF&L - I'm currently downloading free programs that allow you to retrieve deleted files - I've done it before but I fear too much time has elapsed.
    I do have a few "Photo-Story"things I did that have some of the lost pics. I may blog the Photo-Stories if I can learn how to You-Tube them.

    Lawrence - I see you are still horseing around.


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