Palais des Papes – Palace of the Popes, Avignon, Provence

Written by on April 1, 2013 in Museums and Châteaux

Palais de Papes

The Palace of the Popes, the largest Gothic palace in Europe, residence of the Sovereign Pontiffs during the 14th century, is in the centre of the city of Avignon. One time capital of the Christian world in the Middle Ages, home to outstanding architectural heritage and right in the heart of Provence.

Palais de Papes History

In 1305 the French-born Archbishop of Bordeaux became Pope Clement V. The new pope refused to leave France and transferred papal administration to Provence.  Clement V believed it would be a temporary move to have the Papal centre in Provence but in fact it lasted for decades.

Avignon became the capital of Christianity. The town flourished and served as a place of refuge, attracting foreigners, merchants, artists, religious orders, bankers, and even political outlaws such as Petrarque, famous for his love for Laura.

The Palace of the Popes is the biggest Gothic palace in Europe. There is 15,000 m² of floor space – equivalent to 4 Gothic cathedrals.

Palais de Papes

The Avignon popes

Clément V (1305-1314): first pope of Avignon, known as Le Comtat Venaissin.

Jean XXII (1316-1334)

Benoît XII (1334-1342): Started the construction of a big tower, located to the south of the former bishop’s palace, followed by a two-level chapel. The bishop’s palace was gradually demolished to make room for a new construction.

Clément VI (1342-1352): Doubled the surface of the building and updated the decoration. He ordered an ambitious architectural program, with large and formal volumes, embellished with many sculptures of vegetable and animal inspiration.

Innocent VI (1352-1362): Finished off the works started by his predecessor and made many improvements to traffic, including a bridge which no longer exists.

Urbain V (1362-1370): Created the Galerie Roma in the higher garden.

Grégoire XI (1370-1378): He undertook maintenance work in the palace and primarily occupied himself with his return to Rome.

The Wine of the Pope and Chateauneuf du Pape

The most influential Pope for Provence was the second Pope, (Jean) John XXII – he loved the wines of Burgundy but as he was in Provence he resolved to make the most of wine production there instead.  Regional wines gained fame as Vin de Pape, or “Wine of the Pope.”

John XXII lived a life of luxury and style and had a castle built nearby as a summer residence which became known as Châteauneuf-du-Pape or “New Castle of the Pope.”

Today, the village uses the name Châteauneuf-du-Pape and although only remnants of the original Papal vineyards remain, the famously robust red wine takes its name from the area.

After the popes returned to Rome, wine making remained an important regional product.

Palais de Papes

What to do and see at the Palais des Papes

Visitors can see over 20 rooms, scenes of historic events, in particular the pope’s private chambers and the frescoes painted by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.

The Grand Tinel was the setting for papal banquets, great feasts where 5 courses of 4 dishes per course were served. The papal table stood on a raised dais. The pope dined alone seated on a throne under a canopy. Guests were seated on benches along the walls, and the food was served from the centre of the room.

The Great Chapel is a very impressive room 52 meters long, 16 meters wide and 20 meters high. Here, sumptuous ceremonies were held, including papal coronations and funerals.

Seven French popes presided in France until 1378, when Pope Gregory XI returned the papacy to Rome.

The Popes’ Palace also offers the visitor cultural activities throughout the year. A major art exhibit is displayed in the Great Chapel during the summer, and the most prestigious performances of the Avignon Theater Festival are given in the Honor Courtyard of the Popes’ Palace during the month of July.

The Wine Cellar at the Palace of the Popes: known as the “Bouteillerie” is today an education centre for the Côtes du Rhône where you can learn about the wines and buy some of the best.

Secret Palace: Take an off-the-beaten path tour of the Palace of the Popes. A special behind the scenes look at the residence of the Sovereign Pontiffs: private apartments, baths, wardrobe tower, chapels and gardens. Hidden stairways and secret corridors will take you from the cellars to the rooftops. This special tour comes with lunch (French only) and a discovery tasting of Côtes du Rhône wines from the Bouteillerie on the Grands Dignitaires terrace.

Visit in French with lunch: Saturdays at 12.30am and Sundays at 10.30am, September to May.

Visit in English (no lunch): Fridays at 3pm mid- April to mid-May and beginning of September to end of October

See the Palais des Papes website for details of opening times, tickets and travel.

Related Articles

Guide to the Chateau de Chantilly

Though France has plenty of Chateaux that impress, wow and take your breath away – some are more special than others. The Chateau de Chantilly in Picardy, a short journey from the centre of Paris, is one of them… Potted history of the Chateau of Chantilly Castles have stood for many centuries on the site […]

Continue Reading

The best museums in Dijon Burgundy

Dijon, capital of Burgundy, is a city of culture, history and exquisite architecture, a living museum in itself. There are so many cultural venues to visit, it’s hard to know where to begin. Surrounded by vineyards and stunning countryside, it really is an absolute jewel of a French city. Plus there are fabulous restaurants and wine […]

Continue Reading

Top Museums in Strasbourg

Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, has a dozen museums. Many of them are in historic buildings like the Museum of History which is in a 16th century former slaughterhouse and a voodoo museum (yes you did read that right), in a water tower! There’s a varied range of exhibitions from antiquity to contemporary – something […]

Continue Reading

Visit to the Chateau de Versailles

When Louis XIV was pondering over how to create the most magnificent palace the world had ever seen, one that truly showed off his glory and absolute power, he can’t have had any idea just how many people would tread in his footsteps and gaze in wonder at his legacy. The Chateau de Versailles is […]

Continue Reading

Mulhouse Train Museum | Cité du Train

When it comes to the Cité du train at Mulhouse, you don’t to be a train buff or train spotter, an anorak or a ferroequinologist (someone who studies trains) to get steamed up about a visit. This incredible museum is a fabulous place on so many levels. History, engineering, social history but overall – it’s […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top