Avignon, the City of the Popes
Arriving in Avignon in a fine autumn sunset
is an admirable thing. Autumn, sunset and
Avignon form three harmonies.
These are the words used by Victor Hugo to describe the city to his wife.
Avignon is famed throughout the globe for its Pont Bénezet bridge, which inspired the nursery rhyme we all sang as children! But also for its impressive Popes’ Palace, spanning no less than 37 acres. Both monuments are listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Start your tour at the Palace, built in two parts: the “Palais Vieux” built by Pope Benedict XII in 1334 and the “Palais Neuf” built by Pope Clement VI in 1342. On entering the building, you will come to the Honour courtyard – the prestigious stage for the Avignon theatre festival. The tour unveils the Pope’s chamber, Great Audience hall and Great chapel.
Next, you can take the Popes’ stone promenade leading to Place de la Mirande; this is a great way to appreciate the Palace’s monumental size. Next stop is the “Rocher des Doms”: a delightful garden planted with various Mediterranean plants offering views over the Rhône river, Saint-Bénezet bridge and Villeneuve-les-Avignon with its impressive fort. on your way back down to the Palace square and Place de l’Horloge square, you will cross the beautiful 17th century facade of the “Hotel des Monnaies” and that of the Petit Palais, a museum with a rich collection of Italian and Avignon School paintings.
Every summer, during the festival, Place de l’Horloge is transformed into a genuine street theatre, packed with troupes from the world over!
Surprises await you around every corner of the old quarter, such as “Couvent des Célestins”, “rue des teinturiers”, Grey Penitents’ chapel, the 14th century Ceccano media library and the Angladon Museum in a very fine 18th century home with its prestigious collection of paintings: Cézanne, Van Gogh, Manet, Picasso, Foujita…
Head on to “les Halles” covered market, where you can pick up some great local produce!
Then exit from the old quarter and walk along the 14th-century ramparts to the famous “Pont d’Avignon”, or “Pont Saint-Bénézet”, built, as legend tells, by a young shepherd of the same name. Don’t forget to sing the nursery rhyme while you’re here!
GÉRARD PHILIPE,THE ‘PRINCE OF AVIGNON’
«I was born twice – the first time was on 4 December 1922, and the second in July 1951 in Avignon, where I was introduced to real theatre by Jean Vilar… «. The actor Gérard Philipe will forever remain as famous for his performances in the honorary courtyard of the Popes’ Palace in Avignon as for his extravagant swash-buckling adventures on the silver screen. Along with Jean Vilar, who founded the Festival d’Avignon in 1947, their names remain inseparable from the national and populist theatre revival that emerged in the wake of World War 2.
Avignon is a Provencal town where contemporary culture and an outstanding heritage go hand in hand in perfect agreement. The recent donation by the collector Yvon Lambert to Avignon, which brings together the works of major contemporary artists Cy Twombly, Sol Lewitt, Niele Toroni, Basquiat and Nan Goldin, testifies to this quality… and favours the presentation of major exhibitions on an international scale.