Palais des Papes, Avignon

4 out of 5 stars 53 Reviews

Place du Palais 04 90 27 50 73

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  • Palais des Papes
    Palais des Papes
    by Beausoleil
  • Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)
    Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)
    by Beausoleil
  • Palais des Papes
    Palais des Papes
    by Beausoleil
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    Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes)

    by Beausoleil Updated Apr 26, 2015

    This is one of the reasons people visit Avignon and is a definite must-see. We've had various experiences here so be prepared for anything. First, there is not much in the way of furniture. Second, they do a lot of temporary art exhibits. Some are excellent and some are not. We've seen a bit of both. I actually like it best when there are not temporary exhibits. You can see more of the actual palace. On one trip there was a very odd exhibit that required people to enter one by one slowly which backed up a huge crowd. People being people, some got angry and were hopping barriers and pushing into line. The reason for all this was two large movie screens at the entry, one showing a man drowning and the other showing a man burning. You walked between them. The wait was unpleasant; the exhibit was unpleasant and several other exhibits were ridiculous. We swore we'd never go back.

    Never say never. Our daughters wanted to see the Palais des Papes; we were in Avignon; we went back. This was a wonderful experience and we managed to linger well past lunch enjoying ourselves there. There were two art exhibits very well displayed and not obtrusive. You could see the bare bones of the palace and the art. Some of the art was outside which is always enjoyable. Needless to say, we were converted and the Palais des Papes is on our recurring visit list now.

    Check their web site and plan your visit. They give hours and cost. It is open every day of the year.

    Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) Palais des Papes and Place des Papes Palais des Papes Palais des Papes Magna Porta, Palais des Papes
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    Façade of the Popes’ Palace

    by Nemorino Updated Jul 3, 2014

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    The next day was Easter Sunday. The Mistral was over, so there was no longer a strong wind blowing. But there was a long line of people queuing in the rain to get into the Popes’ Palace, so I was glad I had gone in the day before as part of our guided walking tour.

    From the outside, the Palace of the Popes really does look more like a fortress than a palace – especially the older half, which was built starting in 1335 on orders of the third Avignon Pope, Benedict XII.

    Second photo: Evidently they were expecting a major attack on the palace, because many of the walls are crenellated and there are embrasures everywhere, even facing inwards. As I learned on this trip, embrasures are slits in the wall which enabled archers using the latest technology (bow and arrow) to shoot arrows through the slits while remaining under cover themselves.

    Third photo: In the newer part of the palace, built under the fourth Avignon Pope, Clement VI, there are some (sparse) gothic windows and decorations, so he was apparently not so concerned about being attacked.

    Fourth photo: In the evenings the Palace is lit up in pink, presumably to make it look less forbidding.

    Fifth photo: The Palace of the Popes on a dark rainy day. This monstrous building is said to be the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe, with fifteen thousand square meters of floor space, which is the equivalent of four Gothic cathedrals.

    Address: Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon
    Directions: Location and photo on monumentum.fr
    Phone: +33 4 32 74 32 74
    Website: http://www.palais-des-papes.com/en

    Next: Rocher des Doms

    Queue on Easter Sunday Palace of the Popes Palace of the Popes Lit up in pink Palace of the Popes in the rain
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    Guided tour of the Popes’ Palace

    by Nemorino Updated Jul 3, 2014

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    Entrance to the Palace of the Popes was included in the price of our guided walking tour, so we could enter with no delay.

    In one of the courtyards we had a break from walking and sat down on the steps for a few minutes while Christine gave us some background on the history of the Palace and why the Popes resided in Avignon for sixty-eight years in the fourteenth century. It’s a long and complicated story, but the short version is that Rome was a dangerous city in those days, and the Popes feared for their lives.

    Second photo: Here in the High Kitchen was where they prepared those “licentious banquets” that infuriated the poet Petrarch. Our guide did not quote Petrarch to us, but she did read us the shopping list of the huge quantities of food that the Pope’s cooks had to buy each day.

    Third photo: The roof of the High Kitchen was shaped like a huge stone funnel with a hole at the top, for the smoke from the cooking fires to escape.

    Fourth photo: The Chambre de Parement was like an antechamber in front of the Pope’s private rooms. Armed guards (huissiers) were constantly on watch here. Sometimes the Pope held audiences here for individuals or small groups.

    Fifth photo: At this doorway of the Grande Chapelle, the statues were all beheaded during the French Revolution.

    Address: Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon
    Directions: Location and photo on monumentum.fr
    Phone: +33 4 32 74 32 74
    Website: http://www.avignon.fr/en/musees/palaisen.php

    Next: Façade of the Popes’ Palace

    Tour group in the palace courtyard In the High Kitchen Ceiling of the High Kitchen Chambre de Parement Doorway of the Grande Chapelle
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    Palais de Papes

    by black_mimi99 Updated May 15, 2014

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    Palais de Papes is more fortress than palace, this mighty landmark with its crenelated facade and slit windows looms above Avignon, and is a UNESCO world-heritage site. The immense square in front is the impressive setting for the Avignon Festival. Built when Pope Clement V abandoned Rome in 1309 to settle in Avignon, it was the seat of papal power for 70-odd years, it actually combines two structures - the austere 'Old Palace' (1334-42) and the extravagantly Gothic 'New Palace' (1342-52). The interior is a maze of rooms, mostly empty but rich with Italian frescoes. The highlights are the Pope's Bedchamber, its walls a whirl with frescoes of birds and grapevines, and the Grand Tinel, where the pope's banquets were held with the pope sitting on a raised platform.

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    Pope's palace

    by solopes Updated Jan 13, 2014

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    Built in the 14th century, this palace. now Unesco Heritage, is a very important remain of one of the most dramatic period of the catholic church. Escaping from the violence in Rome, the pope Clement V moved to Avignon, fixing there the pope's official residence, until their return to Rome in 1377. French didn't accept and elected a second pope, opening the crisis known as the occidental schism, lasting until 1403.

    occupied by Napoleon to install his troops it was severely damaged, but in 1906 it was recovered to become a museum, with permanent reconstructing works since then.

    Pope's palace - Avignon Pope's palace - Avignon
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  • Maryimelda's Profile Photo

    Palais des Papes

    by Maryimelda Written Nov 20, 2012

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    No travel page on Avignon would be complete without a review of the Palace of the Popes. So here's my humble offering.

    Anyone with a knowledge or an interest in Avignon would already know even if only vaguely, the history of the Palace. It was built in the 14th century or thereabouts as a residence for the Pope who was relocated from Rome for reasons of health and security. Nine popes in all, resided here before the relocation back to Rome in the fifteenth century. That's it in a nutshell, anything more you need to know (like minute historical details of dates and architectural style etc.) can easily be found on dozens of other tips here on VT or in a million other sites on the web.

    The palace can be found in the centre of the Old Town and is impossible to miss as it quite simply dwarfs everything else in town.

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    The Popes' Palace

    by egonwegh Updated Nov 8, 2012

    In the 14th century, the Pope's residence was moved from Rome to this town. Nine popes governed the Roman Catholic Church from Avignon. The Palace as seen from Villeneuve-les-Avignon across the river Rhone.

    Avignon - Palais des Papes

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    Palace of the Popes

    by alectrevor Updated Sep 15, 2012

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    The medieval papal palace dominates the town . The Avignon Palace was the HQ of the Catholic Church in the 14th century, during that time there where 7 Popes in Avignon. There is an admission charge Tip. If you call in the Tourist Office in the main street before you start your visit and ask for a Avignon card.You pay full price admission on your first admission at a museum, then greatly reduced at all further museums The AVIGNON CARD IS FREE.

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    Palais des Papes

    by Dabs Written Jun 3, 2012

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    I'm not sure if I'd say the interior of the Palace is a must see, certainly the history is interesting and there is an audioguide that accompanies the tour but the Palace was looted during teh French Revolution and honestly there really isn't much in the way of decor inside although you can see the scope of the Palace.

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    Meet my patron saint - my excuse for being bossy!

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Apr 12, 2012

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    Coming to the end of our self guided tour of Palais des Papes, by which time we were reaching saturation point and pretty well 'poped out', I was taken aback to find my patron saint staring at me from the wall ... Not a vision, I might add, but a striking wood carving of St Catherine of Siena, staring serenely into the middle distance - and about the first female figure that we'd seen in the testosterone-dominated palace.

    In certain Christian traditions, the concept of a personal patron saint is significant, and in the Orthodox rite, celebrating your saint day is a big deal. This tradition also used to be widespread in Catholicism, although I suspect that these days it is being drowned in a tidal wave of Britneys, Rihannas and other trendy Christian names of non-saintly provenance.

    I, for example, am named after my two grandmothers - another Irish tradition for an oldest daughter, which has also probably fallen into obselescence - and my two patron saints are St Catherine of Siena and St Louise de Marillac.

    St Catherine of Siena is probably a very appropriate choice, as she appears to have been the sort of bossy, formidable 'woman on a mission' (if you'll excuse the pun) that pops up every so often in the Church's history. She has a great deal in common with St Teresa of Avila (my all time favourite saintly battleaxe) in that she took advantage of the status, education and relative independence offered by religious vows to become a woman of immense political and religious influence at a time when the lot of women was little more than child bearing and domestic drudgery.

    Catherine was Italian, and joined the Dominican order after narrowly avoiding being forced to marry her dead sister's widower: interestingly enough, she achieved this reprieve by going on hunger strike. She developed into a noted theologian and carried on a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, in which she consistently urged him to reform the clergy and to return both himself and the Papal Curia to Rome from where it had fled at the beginning of the 14th century. She travelled to Avignon as an ambassador of Florence and so impressed Gregory that he agreed to relocate the papacy back to Rome - however, this process was stalled by his untimely death,. As a result, the Church was torn apart by the 'Western Schism', resulting in the bizarre situation of there being one Pope in Rome and a corresponding Antipope, firstly based in Avignon and later based elsewhere. This sad, sorry situation which limped on for forty years before being finally resolved at the Council of Konstanz.

    In view of the amazing amount that this formidable woman achieved, it is astonishing that she died at the tender age of 33 in Rome. She is one of only three female doctors of the church (there are 33 in total) - a distinction she shares with St Teresa of Avila and the considerably less bossy St Teresa of Lisieux.

    In a curious piece of happenstance, I discovered when writing this tip that Catherine's father was a cloth dyer ... curiously apposite given Avignon's proud tradition of calico dying (see my travelogue on Rue des Teinturiers).

    St Catherine of Siena, my patron saint

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Palais des Papes: fortress and corporate HQ

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Apr 12, 2012

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    I've put off writing this Avignon tip until last, as frankly I don't know where to begin describing something as large and wonderful as Palais des Papes!

    Let's just start by saying that all the positive pre publicity that you may have read about the place is true - it is a truly extraordinary place, and justifies a trip to Avignon solely on its own merits (although there are many, many other wonderful things to do once you're here).

    The Palais des Papes is most commonly described as the 'largest Gothic palace in Europe', which, whilst accurate, is also misleading. It may have housed the papal court for 60 years - which would have been every bit as majestic as that of any monarch - but make no mistake that this was first and foremost a fortress that was designed to defend the Pope from harm at a time when there were any number of people who would dearly have loved him to have suffered a life threatening misfortune. For more on the history of the Papal Schism that prompted the construction of this Palace in the first place, please see my Avignon introductory page.

    Pope Benedict XII ordered that the old episcopal palace of the Bishops of Avignon be razed and replaced with a much larger and more heavily fortified complex. I love the pared down architectural style of the palace - starker still due to some comprehensive redecorating undertaken during the French Revolution which destroyed most of the original interiors. The fact that it was constructed relatively quickly means that it has a fairly consistent and harmonious style, unlike some palace complexes which have evolved over longer time periods and end up as architectural mongrels.

    Following the French Revolution, the Palais was used during the Napoleonic period as a prison and a barracks. In recent times, a section has been modified to create a conference centre, which must provide a valueable stream of revenue, and also means that the place retains a vibrant air of purpose.

    The entrance fee - €10.50 (€8.50 with an Avignon Card) at the time of writing in October 2011 - may seem steep, but it's actually excellent value for money given how long it will take you to explore the complex at leisure (I would allow yourself two hours as a minimum and more if you're a history buff). The admission fee includes audio self tour equipment, and the commentary is absolutely excellent and very well thought out. For example, there is a commentary on each and every one of the Antipopes, but you can choose whether or not to listen to this degree of detail, meaning that people can customise the tour to match their level of interest.

    Bear in mind that there is quite a lot of stair climbing involved, so unfortunately the complex would be challenging for those with limited mobility.

    Palais des Papes, Avignon

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    Holy (anti)papal cannonballs!

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Apr 12, 2012

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    Apologies for the title, but it just seemed like the sort of bizarre epithet that Robin would utter in the 1960s Batman TV series, and I couldn't resist!

    The question of course is, why would a papal palace - home to a man of God and his earthly representative - need instruments of warfare?

    The answer of course is obvious. Popes may have been men of the cloth, but they were in effect warrior princes who just happened to have taken holy orders - often as a matter of political expediency rather than out of any deep religious vocation - and conducted themselves as such. Added to that, for much of its papal history, Avignon was home to the Antipope, whom powerful political influences (backed by significant military might) were trying their best to dislodge.

    The Palais des Papes may be described as the largest Gothic palace ever built, but it isn't really a palace: it's a beautiful fortified corporate headquarters.

    Aesthetically, I just loved this pile of cannonballs, which are located just inside the entrance to the palace. I was enchanted by their erratic hand hewn shape, rough texture, varying size and differing colours - in fact, I was sorely tempted to 'borrow' a few for my rockery!

    Hand hewn stone cannonballs, Palais des Papes

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    Popes' Palace

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Updated Feb 10, 2012

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    In the present view the Palace represents the significant construction. In its territory there is Notre Dame Cathedral on which roof there is the huge statue of maiden Maria is installed. The Popes’ Palace is the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe (15,000 m2 of floor space, which is the equivalent of 4 Gothic cathedrals).

    The Popes’ Palace has welcomed more than 650,000 visitors. It is one of the most visited monuments in all of France.

    You can watch my 2 min 54 sec Video Avignon out of my Youtube channel.

    Official web Papal Palace

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    Know your crockets from your bobbles ...

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 7, 2011

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    This rather fine pair of ornate Gothic spires sit atop the main gate to Palais des Papes and are remarkable because they really don't look anything like the rest of the complex, and yet seem to fit in remarkably harmoniously.

    They remind me strongly of a miniature of the twin spires on the enormous Gothic Dom in Koeln, which also have the same sort of bobbly ornamentation along the edges. I was convinced that these must have a very precise architectural name, and sure enough, quite a lot of Googling later, I discover that these 'bud like' decorations (no 'bobbly things' for serious architects) are actually called 'crockets'. For the serious triviologists, the term is derived from the word 'croc', which is in fact not a terminally unattractive piece of plastic footwear in this context, but the French term for 'hook'.

    I was so excited by my New Gothic Fact that I couldn't resist sharing this fascinating nugget of information with my husband ... judging by his deadpan, "I can sleep easy now", I surmise that he wasn't quite so excited by this gem of knowledge as I was!

    Anyway, they're very nice, and the view from the ramparts out over Avignon from beside these towers is lovely - see my Palais des Papes travelogue for photographic evidence.

    Gothic spires atop the gate of Palais des Papes

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    Walk Through the Inner Cour and Visit the Cloister

    by hquittner Written Feb 17, 2011

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    The Cour d'Honneur gives entrance to the inner palace. In the south west corner is the Window of Indulgence which is the only large window in the palace. From there it is possble to enter the cloister with tall broad arched bays nestled under the upper floor of the palace. This makes the short towers and the machicolations seem very strong for the 14C.

    The Window of Indulgence A Wall of the Cloister Outer Corner Tower Rebuilding Walls
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