World Heritage # 20: The historic center of Avignon

As part of a specially dedicated series French sites recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO, writing Welcome Camping invites you to discover one by one the exceptional French destinations, preserved as a heritage of humanity. We continue this series with a site recognized in 1995, the historic center of Avignon: Palace of the Popes, Episcopal Complex and Pont d'Avignon.

On the banks of the Rhône, in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, the City of the Popes is the result of a very particular episode in history. In the XNUMXth century, Avignon was indeed the seat of the papacy. We are talking about the exile of the popes in Avignon, wanted by the King of France Philippe Le Bel. Its objective was then to strengthen the influence of France on Europe, through the power of the Church. As a result, exceptional buildings were erected in a very short time. The Palais des Papes, the episcopal complex and the Avignon bridge still remain today privileged witnesses of medieval religious, administrative and military architecture. They also reveal the exchange of influences across Europe, particularly in the field of arts and architecture.

The Palace of the Popes

In Avignon, the Palace of the Popes was according to Jean Froissart, "the strongest house in the world". The ensemble that it forms with the Rocher des Doms is indeed considerable and impressive. The Palais des Papes is quite simply the largest of the Gothic constructions of the Middle Ages. The old Palace of Benoit XII is a real fortress erected on the Rocher des Doms. There is the main courtyard, the consistory room where the cardinals met, the Saint-Jean chapel, the cloister and the Pope's tower. The New Palace of Clement VI is more sumptuous. It houses the papal chapel and the Audience room. Artists from all over Europe worked on the ornaments of the palace. The best known of them, the Italian Matteo Giovanetti, created the painted decorations for the Saint-Jean and Saint-Martial chapels.

Palais des Papes


From 1, Innocent VI initiated the construction of the ramparts. More than 355 kilometers long, the walls protected the inhabitants from the attackers, but also from the floods of the Rhône. In its girdle are the Palais des Papes, the Place du Palais and the Notre-Dame-des-Doms Cathedral. Built in the 4th century then remodeled in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, the basilica and its gilded lead virgin dominates the Rhône valley.

Ramparts of Avignon

Avignon bridge

The Saint-Benezet Bridge constitutes a real technical feat. Built from the 22th century, it linked the banks of the Rhône with its 4 arches. Today, there are only XNUMX left, the others having collapsed during flooding. The bridge is known the world over, in particular thanks to the rhyme "Sur le pont d'Avignon". Know that it is always possible to dance on the bridge of Avignon ! It is indeed open to visits throughout the year.

The bridge of Avignon

Avignon today

Since the return of Gregory XI to Rome, only 70 years after the arrival of Pope Clement V in Avignon, the Palace of the Popes has changed its vocation several times. Military barracks, theater stage, place of exhibitions… The site has had several lives. Today, nearly a million visitors flock each year to discover the City of the Popes. And the city of Avignon now shines around the world thanks to its famous festival. Every year the Avignon Festival in fact attract tens of thousands of theatergoers.

Avignon Cathedral