Avignon, a city with a remarkable history. Very few people, outside of Southern France or the historians at the Vatican know much about the French Papacy. You see the Papacy hasn’t always been in Rome but actually resided in Avignon for a time. The Avignon Papacy lasted from 1309 to 1376 during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon ( Kingdom of Arles at the time). The situation happened because of a conflict between the papacy and the French king, culminating in the death of Pope Boniface VIII after his arrest and imprisonment by Philip IV of France. Following the death of Pope Benedict XI, King Philip forced a deadlocked conclave to elect the French Cardinal Clement V as pope in 1305. Clement in 1309 moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. This period has been called the “Babylonian captivity of the Papacy”.
Scenes from around the Papal Palace
A total of seven popes reigned at Avignon, all French, and all under the protection of the French Crown. Avignon was a walled city and the Popes erected and expanded a Papal Palace and cathedral inside the fortified city. In 1376, Gregory XI abandoned Avignon and moved his court back to Rome. After Gregory’s death in 1378, deteriorating relations between his successor Urban VI and a faction of cardinals gave rise to the Western Schism. This produced a second line of Avignon popes, that were largely regarded as illegitimate. The last Avignon antipope, Benedict XIII, lost most of his support in 1398, including that of France.The schism ended in 1417 at the Council of Constance ending the Avignon Papacy.
Today Avignon is a popular destination owing much to the Avignon Papacy and what it created.
On the streets of Avignon…