The Papal Palace in Avignon is the former seat of the popes. Its interiors are empty today, but you can still see where the popes lived and where they concealed their valuables. The palace is one of the most visited attractions in France.
The Papal Palace in Avignon (Palais des Papes) is the most important attraction in the city, and one of the most important attractions in France. No wonder that during the holiday season it is visited by crowds of tourists. The palace complex, which also adjoins the Notre Dame Cathedral and the remains of the famous St. Benedict’s Bridge, is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Papal Palace in Avignon was the seat of popes and antipopes
Avignon was the seat of popes during the years 1309–1377, and this period is known as the “Babylon captivity of popes”. Clement V first moved from Rome to Provence; following him, Pope John XXII, Benedict XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, and Gregory XI; and the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII, all sat on the Avignon throne. It is worth adding that in 1348 Clement VI purchased Avignon, and the city became the possession of the papacy until 1791.
Interesting fact: before the Pope moved to Avignon, he had his headquarters in the Lateran Palace, Rome. It wasn’t until he returned to the Eternal City that the pope settled in the Vatican because the Lateran Palace had been destroyed.
The Papal Palace in Avignon is the largest Gothic castle in Europe. In fact, it is the entire palace complex, which consists primarily of the Old Palace and the New Palace. Right next to it is also the Small Palace, which was the seat of the cardinals. The complex is complemented by the Notre Dame des Doms cathedral, in which the popes John XXII and Benedict XII were buried. The tomb of the latter is in the temple, although the pope no longer rests there; while John XXII rests in the cathedral’s treasury, which, unfortunately, is closed for most of the year.
The papal complex stands almost in the center of the Old Town of Avignon, surrounded by 4.5 kilometres of fourteenth century walls. It’s easy to get to it from the main station by going straight down Cours Jean Jaurès. Visiting the Papal Palace in Avignon is like walking through the abandoned Vatican. Unfortunately, there is practically nothing left of the old wealth, nor decorations or furniture. Of course, the participants of the French Revolution are primarily responsible for this state of affairs.
Over 25 rooms have been made available to visitors, but only a few have survived even with fragmentary wall paintings. The palace was only thoroughly renovated in 1969, and today is one of the 10 most-visited attractions in France.
Visiting the palace – practical information
For a walk through the papal chambers you have to spend at least one hour. Entrance to the facility costs 12 euros, and a guide on a tablet is included in the price. You can also buy a combined ticket that will allow you to visit the famous bridge in Avignon – it costs 14.50 euros.
The opening hours of the Papal Palace in Avignon vary depending on the month. Current information can be found on the palace’s website.