Monday, 15 June 2009

Avignon, city of popes

I arrived in Avignon knowing that it is famous for the Palais des Papes and its bridge, but that was very nearly all I knew about the city.  I'd been there years ago, but sightseeing with young sons is always a little limited. 

In the 14th century the popes made Avignon their base, partly because Rome had become too dangerous, and partly because the French king wanted the power they brought.  The return to Rome came some 70 years later, though for a while afterwards an anti-pope was elected and based in Avignon, first Clement VII then Benedict XIII.  The presence of the papal entourage of course brought great wealth to the city.

Palais des Papes - The Palace of the Popes

The building of Palais des Papes was started on the instructions of Benedict XII, the third of the popes to be at Avignon, and continued until 1364 by the following popes.  It was intended mainly as a fortress, and it does give that impression, really quite forbidding.

La Place de Palais - the Palace square

L'Hotel des Monnaies, once the Pope's Treasury, now the Conservatoire of Music.

But there is so much more to Avignon.  Walking around the city, which has a pleasant air of prosperity, there are interesting sights and a bustling atmosphere everywhere.

Statues leaning over a balcony - I don't know the significance, if any.

Courtyard restaurants

The vertical garden on Les Halles - the indoor market

Trompe d'oeuil, on several buildings

L'horloge - the clock tower

Place de l'Horloge

Le pont d'Avignon - Pont Saint Bénezet

But no visit to Avignon would be complete without mentioning the bridge.  It no longer spans the Rhône because only four of the original arches remain, but it really is there.  Does anyone not know the song "Sur le pont d'Avignon"? 

Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond
Les beaux messieurs font comm' çà
Et puis encore comm' çà.....

....and so on.

I must have learnt the words at a later stage of my childhood, because I had a slightly better understanding the words of this one.  When I first saw them written, I wasn't as taken aback as I was with Frère Jacques which went like this in my mind:

Frair a Jacka
Frair a Jacka
Door may voo
Door may voo
Sonny le mateena
Sonny le mateena
Ding ding dong.

The meaning was a complete mystery to me, for years and years.

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  1. Love the buildings! Not quite the same as those in my country.

  2. @Adullamite, thanks! :)

    @ECL, very typically French I would say, and so was the atmosphere of the whole city, within the walls, anyway.

  3. Although they may look forbidding they are amazing in their architecture. Great photos.

  4. Did not know much about the city either, but now I do - thanks to you.
    What wonderful architecture and how well you've captured the whole atmosphere!

  5. Great pics and a weird bridge :)

  6. Loving your pictures as always A!

  7. As usual, I am fond with the architecture of places and people who are living their; either in the present or the past!

    Excellent shots :)


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