Palais des Papes in Avignon

Located in the center of Avignon on the Rocher des Doms (Doms rock), the Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace) is the largest building of its time. It was the theater of 6 conclaves between 1335 and 1394.

The city of Avignon has an exceptional historical heritage listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes the Saint-Bénézet bridge (better known as the Pont d’Avignon), ramparts, the Petit Palais, Avignon Cathedral and finally, the Palais des Papes. The latter is one of the most visited historical buildings in France.

The Popes’ residence in Avignon

From 1273 onwards, the popes fled Rome because they could no longer be safe, free, and independent there. In 1309, Clement V settled in Avignon, a papal land. The city occupies a central position in relation to the Christian world of the time and is conducive to trade. In addition, the Saint-Bénézet bridge is a crossing point to reach Spain, Provence, and Italy.

Clement V was the first pope to settle in this city, which is home to 5,000 souls, making it an important city in the Middle Ages. He then stayed in the Dominican convent of the Friars Preachers. Under the pontificate of Clement V, Avignon became the official residence of part of the Sacred College of Cardinals. After the death of the pope, the bishop of the city was elected and took up the torch. John XXII decided to settle in the episcopal palace he had long occupied, located in a district of the city that was easy to defend. The place became the current site of the Palais des Papes.

After the death of John XXII, Benedict XII was crowned Pope in 1335. He judged the Bishop’s Palace of his predecessor too small and decided to demolish it in order to build a new palace designed by the architect Pierre Obreri.

A monumental pope’s palace

The construction of the Palais des Papes in Avignon began in 1335 and took less than 20 years. It is the work of two popes builders, first Benedict XII, who built the first pontifical palace, now called Old Palace, then Clement VI, his successor who built new extensions, called New Palace.

It is the largest Gothic palace in the world with 15,000 square meters of floor space, the equivalent of 4 Gothic cathedrals.

The Palais des Papes is a residence, a monastery, the seat of power and a fortress. The fortifications protect the property of the church as well as the spiritual leader of the place. From 1305 to 1377, seven French popes sat in Avignon.

Temporary exhibitions

Since 1947, the Palais des Papes has been hosting temporary exhibitions. The works of famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Nicolas Mignard and Alfred Lesbros have been honored there. Many themes are addressed during these exhibitions and the Palace quickly became, over the years, a privileged place for cultural events. The very first major exhibition of the monument was also the starting point for the Avignon Festival that we know today.

Between June 2000 and April 2001, the Palais des Papes retraced local life and the specificity of the city of Avignon during the event “Passages d’une rive à l’autre” (“Passages from one bank to the another”) organized with the participation of the Departmental archives of the Vaucluse department.

From November 2018 to April 2019, the Venasque Triptych was honored and presented along a path explaining the historical, artistic and material aspects behind the work.

From June 2019 to February 2020, the works of the artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest were presented during the exhibition “Ecee Homo”, produced by the city of Avignon. Information panels provide an understanding of his artistic, intellectual, and political approach. Nearly 400 photographs, collages, charcoal and black ink drawings of the initiator of “street art” are revealed to the public.

A dive into the past with the Histopad

The Histopad is a touch-sensitive tablet allowing an immersive visit in augmented reality. Thanks to this digital tool, you will be able to discover the Palace as it was when the Popes resided there and experience the splendor of the papal court.

The Histopad offers visitors a new experience accessible to all. The tablets are easy to use, they are geolocated and are automatically triggered when you enter a room. Young and old alike can learn about the history of the palace in a fun and interactive way. In 9 rooms, the 14th century decorations have been re-imagined, 360° visions and a zoom system allow visitors to take a detailed look at the furniture, painted decorations, and projected art objects.

The Histopad is a mine of information. The construction of the palace is retraced in a short movie, audio commentaries explain the function of the various rooms, text inserts provide additional information, etc.

Prepare your visit

The Palais des Papes is open every day of the year and the schedule varies according to the month:

  • From September 1 to November 1: from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • From November 2 to February 28 (or 29): from 9:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
  • March: from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • From April to June: from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • July: from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • August: from 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The schedules are subject to change on December 25 and January 1.

A histopad is available in 7 languages at the reception desk, it is included in the entrance fee. Guided tours are organized upon reservation.

The sites are not accessible to people with reduced mobility due to the large number of steps.

Website: http://www.palais-des-papes.com/fr

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