What better time to spend a cold fall day in France than at the Palais Des Papes. Or for us, the Palace of the Popes.
Something I never knew about the Popes is that for nearly a century the Popes home was not in Rome at Vatican City, but right here in Avignon, France. Seven Popes lived here. There was no way we weren’t gonna knock on the door of Popes who once lived here. Let’s go in!
I asked the gal selling tickets if we get a discount if our last name is Pope. I thought, why not? Seniors get a discount, as do students. As a Pope and an admitted lifelong student of papal history, I felt we should be accommodated. She chuckled and said she had never heard that. So, we paid the €12 and marched through these holy doors.
This mammoth monument was used as a fortress and magnificent palace during the 14th century. Today it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Otherwise it would be unrecognizable as the “house” of the Catholic Church. But hey, I’ve been to Vatican City and this place sure lacks the crowds of tourists flocking to St. Peter’s.
What made this tour memorable was the HistoPad handed to us upon entry. This slick iPad sort of device allows a multimedia touchscreen making this experience immersive and interactive. With this pad we time traveled back to the 14th century with the re-creation of the rooms: ceremonial rooms, chapels, cloisters, private papal apartments painted in fine frescos. The awe I felt standing in the place, the brief time the Popes called this palace home, nearly brought me to tears.
It’s pretty obvious just by looking at the front doors that the Catholic Church gave up maintaining this monolithic structure seven hundred years ago. Now it’s up to the tourists to foot the bill.
But this palace is not the only draw here in Avignon. The old town itself is a fortified maze of alleyways where every corner you take there is an inviting square. Sit down for Christ’s sake, and have a coffee or baguette with red wine and take in the moment.
Leading away from the palace is this legendary bridge. The construction of the bridge to connect the two banks of the Rhône began in the mid-13th century. At the end of the Middle Ages, climate change impacted the course of the river which caused damage to the bridge. T’was rebuilt several times before just abandoning any more attempts to repair in the 17th century.
The famous bridge is made more famous by the song the French children sing. Maybe you’ll recognize the English version. . . I don’t.
On the bridge of Avignon
They are dancing, they are dancing,
On the bridge of Avignon
They are dancing all around.
We ended our tour by taking in a stroll through the central market right down there in the palace square to pick up a souvenir. Here you’ll find postcards, gifts, and fragrances that make “claim to fame” this province, Provence, in Southern France. More famous than the Popes themselves. . .
Lavender’s Blue, Dilly Dilly!
. . . Now, I recognize that song.