Excepting me. No matter what the old song says, I did not dance on the bridge at Avignon. In fact, we didn’t even cross it… that’s a joke, actually. It’s only half a bridge. Which raises a question – is it still a bridge? Oh my, I am getting philosophical like the French! It’s a bridge from the 15th century – that the strength of the current destroyed – well, part of it at least. We saw it from a distance, but they seem to be working on it and it truly wasn’t a draw, given what else is in Avignon.
Before we get into the history, a bit about the getting there. Silvi went along, of course. We passed by many mustard fields. And every now and then a castle on a hill or a church in a valley surrounded by a pretty village. And mountains in the distance. Not peaky mountains – more massive hills – but so massive they were mountains. I saw a pre-teen girl with braces!
The TGV (Tres Grand Vitesse) (High Speed Train) got up to 187 mph at one point. It dropped us at the TVG station and there we took a navette (shuttle) train to Avignon centre. While we waited in the restaurant, I saw two nuns. One was eating, the other had her hands folded in her lap and was praying. So calm. So peaceful. Just made me feel good.
Tuesday we devoted to Avignon.
From 1309 to 1377 the Catholic Church had it’s center in Avignon. Much history – suffice it to say, strife between the French crown and the pope, politics, stacking the cardinal deck so the conclave voted for a Frenchman, Clement V, not an Italian. Clement decided to stay in France at Avignon. The next 6 popes stayed in Avignon. Finally in 1376, Gregory XI moved his court to Rome. My quick history source (Wikipedia) is unclear as to why Greg wanted to go back, but back he went.
And if you have your papal court in Avignon, you better have a palace, right? For 67 years of court, those popes were busy building! After the papal reign, the building kept evolving. Other kings and royals made changes. Those dang French revolutionaries messed it up. They loved to knock the heads off statues and thoroughly destroy anything that had to do with the previous rulers. Phhhttt. (Someone in a Meetup compared the ISIS people who are tearing down religious icons in the Mid East to those revolutionaries…) The history was pretty much, “let’s tear down this to build that.” Why they tore down the front towers is a mystery to me but fortunately some smart Frenchmen restored them as new in the 20th century.
It is a beautiful place. And the rooms are massive. I don’t recall ever seeing a building from this time period with rooms so large. Oh yes – saw some workmen with their rock climbing gear getting ready to fix something on the castle walls.
Everyone knows Popes have a lot of money, right? The Palais des Papes has it’s own treasury – with an inner room that had only one way in – and only two people could go in there -the treasurer and the Pope. What’s amazing is that there were hidden vaults in the floor that were only discovered in 1985! This photo shows the stones lifted up so you can see inside. Wish I knew what treasure they found – but they did not say.
And I forgot my new hat in Paris so I just had to buy this one. Actually, I really did! It was California-like sunny! And a very hot sun. One of those days where you boiled in the sun and froze in the shade.
The afternoon continues in the next post..