***Browse Hotels in Avignon, France by comparative pricing
Avignon is a commune in southern France with an estimated
mid-2004 population of 89,300 in the city itself and a population of 290,466 in
the metropolitan area at the 1999 census.
The city is well known for its Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes),
where several popes and antipopes lived from the early 14th to early 15th centuries.
read full wikipedia reference about Avignon, France
AVIGNON , great city of the popes, and for centuries one of the major artistic centres of France,
can be dauntingly crowded in summer and stiflingly hot. But it's worth braving for its spectacular
monuments and museums, countless impressively decorated buildings, ancient churches, chapels
and convents, and more places to eat and drink than you could cover in a month. During the Festival
d'Avignon in July and the beginning of August, it is the place to be.
Immaculately preserved, central Avignon is enclosed by medieval walls, built in 1403 by the Anti-Pope
Benedict XIII, the last of nine popes who based themselves here throughout most of the fourteenth century.
The first pope to come to Avignon was Clement V in 1309, who was invited over by the astute King
Philippe le Bel ("the Good"), ostensibly to protect Clement from impending anarchy in Rome. In reality,
Philip saw a chance to extend his power over the Church by keeping the pope in the safety of Provence,
during what came to be known as the Church's "Babylonian captivity". Clement's successors were a
varied group, from the villainous John XXII (of Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose fame), to the dedicated
Urban V, and later Gregory XI, who managed to re-establish the papacy in Rome in 1378.
However, this was not the end of the papacy here - after Gregory's death in Rome, dissident local
cardinals elected their own pope in Avignon, provoking the Western Schism: a ruthless struggle for the
control of the Church's wealth, which lasted until the pious Benedict fled Avignon for self-exile near
Valencia in 1409.
As home to one of the richest courts in Europe, fourteenth-century Avignon attracted hordes of princes,
dignitaries, poets and raiders, who arrived to beg from, rob, extort money from and entertain the popes.
According to Petrarch, the overcrowded, plague-ridden papal entourage was "a sewer where all the filth
of the universe has gathered". Burgeoning from within its low battlements, the town must have been a
colourful, frenetic sight
Avignon's low walls still form a complete loop around the city. Despite their menacing crenellations,
they were never a formidable defence, even when sections were girded by a now-vanished moat.
Nevertheless with the gates and towers all restored, the old ramparts still give a sense of cohesion
and unity to the old town, dramatically marking it off from the modern spread of the city.
Rue de la République, the extension of cours Jean-Jaurès and the main axis of the old town,
ends at place de l'Horloge , the city's main square. Beyond that is place du Palais , with the city's
most imposing monument, the Palais des Papes , the Rocher des Doms park and the Porte du Rocher,
overlooking the Rhône by the pont d'Avignon , or pont St-Bénézet as it's officially known.
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