Pope in Captivity : Historic Centre of Avignon

The city of Avignon is located on the banks of the River Rhone in southern France. The city was the heart of the Christian world around 700 years ago. Pont Saint-Bénezet was made famous by the childrens song. Sadly most of the bridge has been lost due to flooding. During the middle Ages, it was a major strategic point spanning the River Rhone.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame des Domes stands on top of a small hill overlooking the town. The Popes throne is at the back of the Cathedral. The Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, was held in captivity here in Avignon in the 14th century. Pope Clement V was forced to move from Rome to Avignon on the order of the King of France. The King wanted to strengthen French influence in Europe by using the power of the church. The incident is known as the Avignon Captivity.

The large building next to the cathedral is the Papal palace. 50-metre high walls surrounded the palace to protect the Pope. The palace became known as The most protected residence in the world. A chapel, the Cardinals residence, Knights barracks, a courthouse and tax office were all placed inside this vast 15,000 square-meter castle. This is the Papal Bedroom. Nature-inspired motifs decorate the walls and floors. There is a fresco painting with hunting scenes on the walls of the Deer Room. Many artists moved here with the Pope. Avignon became a prosperous town and its population grew five-fold to 30,000. However, the Pope – after a time – hoped he would return to Rome and be freed from French control. Pope Gregory XI finally managed to return to the Vatican some 70 years later. Avignon – following the departure of the Pope – once again returned to being a quiet suburban town in southern France.

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