Avignon - Papal City
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The site of Avignon was settled very early on; the rocky outcrop (le Rocher les Doms) at the north end of the town, overlooking the Rhône, may have been the site of a Celtic oppidum or hill fort. Avignon, written as Avennio or Avenio in the ancient texts and inscriptions, takes its name from the Avennius clan. Founded by the Gallic tribe of the Cavares or Cavari, it became the centre of an important Phocaean colony from Massilia (present Marseilles). Under the Romans, Avenio was one of the most flourishing cities of Gallia Narbonensis, the first Transalpine province of the Roman Empire, but very little from this period remains (a few fragments of the forum near Rue Molière).
During the inroads of the barbarians, it was badly damaged in the 5th century and belonged in turn to the Goths, the kingdoms of Burgundy and of Arles, the Ostrogoths and the Frankish-Merovingian kings of Austrasia. In 736 it fell into the hands of the Saracens and was destroyed in 737 by the Franks under Charles Martel for having sided with the Arabs against him. Boso having been proclaimed Burgundian King of Provence, or of Arelat (after its capital Arles), by the Synod of Mantaille, at the death of Louis the Stammerer (879), Avignon ceased to belong to the Frankish kings.
In 1033, when Conrad II fell heir to the Kingdom of Arelat, Avignon passed to the empire. The German rulers being at a distance, Avignon took advantage of their absence to set up as a republic with a consular form of government, between 1135 and 1146. In addition to the Emperor, the Counts of Forcalquier, of Toulouse and of Provence exercised a purely nominal sway over the city; on two occasions, in 1125 and in 1251, the latter two divided their rights in regard to it, while the Count of Forcalquier resigned any right he possessed to the local Bishops and Consuls in 1135.
In 1309 the city was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence when the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily from the house of Anjou, and from 9 March 1309 till 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Eternal Rome. French King Philip the Fair, who had inherited from his father all the rights of Alphonse de Poitiers, the last Count of Toulouse, made them over to Charles II, King of Naples and Count of Provence (1290). Nonetheless, Phillip was a shrewd ruler. Inasmuch as the eastern banks of the Rhone marked the edge of his kingdom, when the river flooded up into the city of Avignon, Phillip taxed the city since during periods of flood, the city technically lay within his domain. Regardless, on the strength of the donation of Avignon, Queen Joanna I of Sicily, as countess of Provence, sold the city to Clement VI for 80,000 florins on 9 June, 1348 and, though it was later the seat of more than one antipope, Avignon belonged to the Papacy until 1791, when, during the disorder of the French Revolution, it was reincorporated with France.
Seven popes resided there:
Pope Clement V
Pope John XXII
Pope Benedict XII
Pope Clement VI
Pope Innocent VI
Pope Urban V
Pope Gregory XI
This period from 1309–1377 — the Avignon Papacy — was also called the Babylonian Captivity of - exile, in reference to the Israelites' enslavement in biblical times. The analogy fitted Avignon in another sense—the venality of the papal court caused the city to become infamously corrupt, much as Babylon had been accused of being. The poet Petrarch condemned the city's corruption, contributing to the papacy's return to Rome out of sheer embarrassment as much as anything else.
The walls built by the popes in the years immediately succeeding the acquisition of Avignon as papal territory are well preserved. As they were not particularly strong fortifications, the Popes relied instead on the immensely strong fortifications of their palace, the "Palais des Papes". This lofty Gothic building, with walls 17–18 feet thick, was built 1335–1364 on a natural spur of rock, rendering it all but impregnable to attack. After being expropriated following the French Revolution, it was used as barracks for many years but is now a museum.
Avignon, which at the beginning of the fourteenth century was a town of no great importance, underwent a wonderful development during the residence there of seven popes and two anti-popes, Clement V to Benedict XIII. To the north and south of the rock of the Doms, partly on the site of the Bishop's Palace, which had been enlarged by John XXII, rose the Palace of the Popes, in the form of an imposing fortress made up of towers, linked one to another, and named as follows: De la Campane, de Trouillas, de la Glacière, de Saint-Jean, des Saints-Anges (Benedict XII), de la Gâche, de la Garde-Robe (Clement VI), de Saint-Laurent (Innocent VI). The Palace of the Popes belongs, by its severe architecture, to the Gothic art of the South of France; other noble examples areto be seen in the churches of St. Didier, St. Peter and St. Agricola, in the Clock Tower, and in the fortifications built between 1349 and 1368 for a distance of some three miles, flanked by thirty-nine towers, all of which were erected or restored by popes, cardinals and great dignitaries of the court. On the other hand, the execution of the frescoes which are on the interiors of the papal palace and of the churches of Avignon was entrusted almost exclusively to artists from Siena.
The popes were followed to Avignon by agents (factores) of the great Italian banking-houses, who settled in the city as money-changers, as intermediaries between the Apostolic Chamber and its debtors, living in the most prosperous quarters of the city, which was known as the Exchange. A crowd of traders of all kinds brought to market the products necessary to mainten the numerous court and of the visitors who flocked to it; grain and wine from Provence, from the south of France, the Roussillon and the country around Lyons. Fish was brought from places as distant as Brittany; cloths, rich stuffs and tapestries came from Bruges and Tournai. We need only glance at the account-books of the Apostolic Chamber, still kept in the Vatican archives, in order to judge of the trade of which Avignon became the centre. The university founded by Boniface VIII in 1303, had a good many students under the French popes, drawn thither by the generosity of the sovereign pontiffs, who rewarded them with books or benefices.
The papal return to Rome prompted the Great Schism, during which
the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII continued to reside at
Avignon. The former lived there during his entire pontificate (1378–1394),
the latter until 1403, when he fled to Aragon.
Continued history see Wikipedia
Aerial Photo of Avignon and aerial photo of Villeneuve Lez Avignon/Ft St Andre
Avignon is the capital of the Vaucluse département. It is situated on the left bank of the Rhône, a few miles above its confluence with the Durance, about 580 km (360 m.) south-south-east of Paris, 143 m. south of Lyon and 85 km (55 m.) north-north-west of Marseille. Its coordinates are 43°57'N 4°50'E. Avignon and occupies a large oval-shaped area, not fully populated and covered in great part by parks and gardens.
Avignon is subject to violent winds, of which the strongest is the mistral. The popular proverb is, however, somewhat exaggerated, Avenie ventosa, sine vento venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa (windy Avignon, pest-ridden when there is no wind, wind-pestered when there is).
What good "stuff' can you eat?
Local fresh sardines grilled....Nothing in comparison with the sardines in cans !!!
La Bouillabaisse ( fisherman soup flavored with saffron).
Soupe au Pistou ( thick vegetables soup with beans flavored and mixed with garlic and basilic), what a treat!!!
Tapenade ( sauce/paste of olives, lemon, capers, anchovies and olive oil) The Provencals use Tapenade with meats, fish, potatoes or just on warm bread.
Daube de boeuf a la Provencale (beef stew with tomatoes and olives) The Provencals have all their time. The sun is hot and the daube cooks slowly. ( 4 to 6 hours of cooking!)
Cheese specialty: the Fresh Goat cheese.(called la Brousse) and the Picodon.
Other specialties: Herbs de Provence ( wild rosemary, thyme,
and savory) Use in salads, or on a creamy goat cheese, why not? Also,
olive oil and lavender fragrance.
What about a drink?
The Pastis: local aperitif made with anise. Ask in Provencal slang for a Pastagasse!!!
Cotes de Provence (roses)...the best is the Estandon of Saint-Tropez.
Muscadet de Cassis (sweet wine).