Avignon: The City of Popes
When one thinks of the home of the popes, one would consider Vatican City as the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. As history has served us, there was a period of time where the leader of the Church made his home in another city. And in this case, another country -- Avignon, France served as home to the pope for a period of time in history.
History at a Glance
Due to internal strife in the Catholic Church as well as with the crown of France, Avignon served as the home of the papacy from 1309 to 1378. This period of time extended among seven popes, which began as Frenchman Pope Clement refused to leave his home country to serve in Rome. For the next 67 years, the home of the Catholic resided in this small city in the south of France. What Pope Clement and his successors established a new home for the Pope and his staff. It is all held down by the feature edifice, the Palace of the Pope. The grand castle was made in a medieval Gothic style that was furthermore made in a neutral international style. The palace stands out even today due to its huge size and giant facades. Eventually, the pope did move back to Rome in 1378. But due to constant strife between France and Rome, the succession of popes and “antipopes” did continue in Avignon for another two decades. After that period, the Palace of the Popes continued to stand until today, where it is a tourist attraction.
Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and catering to close to a million visitors a year, the Papal Palace and the city of Avignon are now a top ten attraction in France. Situated in the south of France, Avignon is bordered by the Rhone river; It is 360 miles south of Paris, 142 miles south of Lyon and 52 miles northeast of Marseille. It is a city in the province of Provence, an area known for its young wines and amazing weather.
Getting into Avignon is easy. Planes can fly into either Paris, Lyon or Nice. From those cities, there is a wide selection of trains and coaches tourists can take into the city. As a tourist destination, hotels, hostels, rental houses, and cottages are very abundant. Besides the Palace of the Popes, the small restaurants and businesses in Avignon are both charming and abundant. The medieval city walls truly date the city as well as create a border between its past and its future. Keeping with that theme, many of the ancient bridges and aqueducts still remain. Looking for more of modern and “home-like” touches. Avignon features modern and classic art galleries catering to both art aficionados and tourists alike. The main promenade and plazas of the city feature boutiques and famous brand-name stores. And yes, among all the great restaurant featuring Provencal cuisine, there is a McDonalds if you’re looking for a little fast food.
Avignon is a quaint town that caters to tourists. It houses a lot of history and grand architecture. But overall, it is a wonderful town to visit while on your way to the French Riviera or to Lyon or Paris. If you want to enjoy the history and culinary delights of France without all the traffic and crowds, visit Avignon.