Avignon (Avinhon in Provençal) is a city in southern France, situated on the left bank of the Rhône, in the département of Vaucluse, about 400 miles south-south-east of Paris, and 50 miles north-north-west of Marseille.
It became the residence of the Pope in 1309, at which time it was under the rule of the kings of Sicily (the house of Anjou); in 1348 Pope Clement VI bought it from Queen Joanna I of Sicily for 80,000 gold gulden, and it remained a papal possession till 1791, when, during the disorders of the French Revolution, it was incorporated with France.
Seven popes resided there:
- Pope Clement V
- Pope John XXII
- Pope Benedict XII
- Pope Clement VI
- Pope Innocent VI
- Pope Urban V
- Pope Gregory XI
Avignon was the seat of a bishop as early as the year 70 AD, and became an archbishopric in 1476. Several synods of minor importance were held there, and its university, founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 and famed as a seat of legal studies, flourished until the French Revolution.
The walls built by the popes in the years immediately succeeding the acquisition of Avignon as papal territory are well preserved. The papal palace ("Palais des Papes"), a lofty Gothic building, with walls 17-18 feet thick, built 1335-1364, long used as a barracks, is now a museum.
Avignon is remembered in the French children's song, "Sur le pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge of Avignon"), which describes folk dancing. The bridge of the song is the Saint Bénezet bridge, over the Rhone River, of which only 4 arches (out of the initial 22) starting from Avignon side remain. The bridge was initially built between 1171 and 1185, but it had to be reconstructed several times afterwards. The missing part of the bridge collapsed during a flood of the river in 1660.
Born in Avignon were: