The church built over Pont d'Avignon is in fact split into two chapels. The Romanesque-style lower level is Chapelle Saint-Bénezet, which dates from the 12th century and once held the relics of its namesake saint. Above it is Chapelle Saint Nicolas, the Gothic church dating from the 13th century. Much like the bridge underneath, the two chapels lie in ruins.
Once used as part of the most important pilgrimage routes between Italy and Spain, this bridge became very important during the popes' presence, linking the several palaces used by the bishops.
Technically, it meant some progress, with wider arches than in roman architecture.
Frequently collapsed by flooding and reconstructed, it was abandoned after one more destruction in 1668.
The song, maybe more famous than the bridge, was composed in 1853 for an operetta, inspired in a medieval song "Sus le pont d'Avignon" with a different music
The very famous Pontd'Avignon is also known as the Pont St Benezet as legend has it that a young shepherd called Benezet commenced building the bridge after having an apparition from God requesting that he build a bridge across the Rhone.
In any event, the bridge was commenced in 1177 and was the only bridge across the Rhone between Lyon and the Mediterranean. This was also a contributing factor of sorts to the decision to relocate the Pope to Avignon. The bridge was also home to a small chapel dedicated to St Benezet.
The bridge over several centuries, suffered many severe blows which destroyed much of it more than once. In 1668 a devastating flood blew much of it away and it was at that point, rendered out of use. Only four of the arches remain today and although the St Benezet Chapel is still located on the bridge, the mortal remains of the saint have been removed for fear that they would be lost if the bridge and chapel were to collapse.
I think that if I'd travelled to Avignon to see the bridge immortalised in the childhood ditty, I'd have been pretty disappointed, but fortunately there's so much more to this lovely town.
That's not to say that Pont St Bénézet (to give it its official name) is without interest, but - at least for me - much of its charm is in its history rather than its appearance. It's a perfectly nice bridge built across the Rhône to link Avignon to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon ... except that there's rather a lot of it missing. To be precise, following a huge flood in 1668, only four of the original 22 spans are intact. If this sounds odd given that the remaining four arches stretch almost halfway into the river, remember that what you can see is only the southern channel between Avignon and Barthlasse Island which sits in the middle of the Rhone - the bridge would also have extended across the northern channel to Villeneuve, where it presumably connected somewhere near the tower of Philip le Bel in Villeneuve-les-Avignon.
This stretch of the river is notoriously difficult to span, and the final destruction of the bridge was merely the last in a series of collapses which had beset the structure since its completion in 1185.
Several other members have already ably explained who St Bénézet was in the first place, so I won't bore you with repetition.
The trivially minded - such as myself - may be interested to know that the famous first line of the ditty ('Sur le pont d'Avignon, on y danse, on y danse') is a corruption of the original: the present version talks about dancing ON ('sur') the bridge, whereas the original version makes mention of dancing UNDER ('sous') the bridge. These same lightminded people will also probably enjoy the unusual experience of looking at a town map which features a bridge that only stretches part of the way across the river. Not that this will make any difference to the price of eggs, but such is the irrelevant and addictive charm of trivia!
This memorial is located close to Pont St Bénézet, and appears to commemorate some sort of victory.
Sadly I didn't have time to inspect it at closer quarters, so have no idea of what it commemorates (and have disappointingly not been able to find out more, despite my best efforts). If you happen to know, then please illuminate me!
One thing I can tell you is that it has a splendid, snarling lion crouching at its base. Not one of those wimpy heraldic things - this one has serious attitude and looks like he'd take your arm off given half the chance!
The Pont St.Benezet is the most famous site in Avignon for a trivial reason. It was completed in 1185 and was composed of two spans with 24 arches. It was quite narrow, only wide enough for a cart and totally unsuited for dancing. It was initially destroyed during the Albigensian War in 1226 and was rebuilt in 1234 but larger while the chapel was on the remaining original part of the bridge and was enlarged with the bridge reconstruction. It fell down to its present state in 1680. It is possible to walk on it from 9am to noon and 2-6 pm except Tuesday, entry fee. We did not walk down.
This bridge was the inspiration of Saint Bénézet; a local shepard boy who claims angels visited him and told him to build the bridge. The bridge once spaned the banks of the Rhone river. Now only the Avignon side of the bridge is intact. The Avignon side of the bridge has a chapel and the grave of Saint Bénézet.
There is also a popular song "Sur le pont d'Avignon" about the bridge that is popular with children of the town.
The old song "sur le pont d'Avignon, on y danse, on y danse" is about this bridge. Somehow, the word "sour", which means under, was changed to "sur", or on. Legend has it that Benezet was a shepherd boy who heard a voice from Heaven that commanded him to build a bridge over the Rhone. An angel gave him the strength to lift a huge boulder and carry it to the river. There, he said, the bridge would be built. The bridge was completed in 1185.
In 1226 it was mostly destroyed. Despite a reconstruction effort, it was abandoned for good in 1680. Today, only a small part of it remains. This includes a tiny chapel overlooking the river, where Benezet (who never became a real saint) is buried.
Evidently I am one of the few people on earth who did not sing about this bridge as a child but it seems to have been known around the world. Maybe we were just backward in Oklahoma in the 1940s. It spans the Rhone River between the old town of Avignon and Villeneuve-les-Avignon on the left bank. Only four of the initial 22 arches remain. It was initially built between 1171 and 1185, with an original length of some 900 m (2950 ft), but it suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be reconstructed several times. Several arches were already missing (and spanned by wooden sections) before the remainder was damaged beyond repair in 1660.
The bridge's construction was inspired by Saint Benezet, a local shepherd. The legend says that Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him to build the bridge. He went to the bishop and was ridiculed but proved his story by lifting a huge stone that 30 men could not lift and placing it as the foundation for the first arch. Then the local moneyed leaders backed the project After his death, he was interred on the bridge itself, in a small chapel standing on one of the bridge's surviving piers on the Avignon side.
The chapel was also was home to the bargemen for worship until it became unsafe and a new chapel was built at the entrance to the bridge in the 18th Century.
Better known as the Bridge of Avignon it is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site. Construction started in 1177 and the bridge was added to and used until a flood washed away some of the bridge in 1633.
There is an interpretive centre and a kids zone featuring the famous nursery rhyme where a CD can be made - fun for adults too
A combined entrance fee to both the Papal Palace and the Bridge of Avignon is available - cost in high season 11.50 € or 9 € for seniors - audio guide (a must) included
More commonly referred to as le Pont d'Avignon, this broken bridge was made famous by the song "le Pont d'Avignon"... (on y danse tous en rond...). It was first built in the 12th century to connect the city of Avignon with Villeneuve-Lès-Avignon, across the river Rhône, and then rebuilt a century later. In the 17th century, a great river flood destroyed half of the bridge and it was never rebuilt thereafter. A small chapel in ruins (chapelle Saint-Nicholas) lies on the bridge.
This historic bridge first built in the 12th Century was later rebuilt in the 13th and restored in the 15th. A flood of the Rhone washed part of it away in the mid 17th Century. The bridge was originally built for both foot and horse. A small chapel dedicated to St. Nicolas, the patron saint of boatsmen, is situated midway.
According to legend, in 1177, a sheperd named Benezet was told to build this bridge by an angel. It was 8 years later that in fact construction was begun.
Admission to the bridge is included with entry to the Palais des Papes.
One more sight of Avignon is Saint Benezseth - bridge through Rhone which was repeatedly sung by poets. The legend says that it was constructed in 1177-1188 by shepherd Benedikt (in Provence Benezet) who came the city as he confirmed, with the divine task.
He built the bridge during 11 years, but died, not having finished construction. It was finished only in 1237 when it was stretched on 900 meters, and had 22 arches. However rough waters of the river constantly destroyed it, and it was necessary to spend regenerative works. Within 500 years there was this struggle against the river while in 1660 the bridge got such destructions that the decision not to restore it any more was accepted.
In the present view the bridge has 4 arches and comes to an end approximately at the middle of the river. Probably therefore it casts romantic ideas, both has been repeatedly sung by poets and embodied by artists. On the second support of the bridge there is Sacred Nikolay's church of XII century.
I actually did "dance" on the bridge, but not on my January visit! The bridge was original built 1171 to 1185 to a length of 900 m (2500 feet). Because the bridge spans a river and a flood plain, it suffered many collapses however, the town people always rebuilt the bridge.
You can read more detailed accounts of the history at:
In English: Under the bridge of Avignon, One dances there, one dances there,
It was under the arches of the bridge on the Ile de la Barthelasse that dancing was once held. The song was popularised by Adolphe Adam who included it within his operetta "Le Sourd ou l’Auberge pleine" (1853). This photo, which I took in 1964, still shows some of the little islands under the bridge.
According to legend, this bridge belongs to St. Benezet. As a young goatherd, Benezet heard a heavenly voice ordering him to go to Avignon. He crossed the Rhone by ferry, and in midstream announced that he was going to build a bridge. This was distressing news for the ferryman, who, bent on eliminating unfair competition, tried to toss Benezet overboard.
Undaunted, he marched in to the Avignon cathedral and again announced in a voice loud enough to be heard over the Mass, his intention of building a bridge. He was ejected.
He waited outside, repeating his story to the faithful, until the bishop, determined to prove that Benezet was an evil lying child, pointed to a huge rock, and asked the boy to pick it up. Benezet did so - lifting it as if it were a pebble.
Convinced of the truth of the miracle, the city built the bridge. Over its second pier is the little Romanesque and Gothic chapel dedicated to St. Benezet, who later became a priest.
The bridge was built between 1171 and 1185 (first in wood and then in stone). It was finally put out of use by a catastrophic flood in 1668. It was not destroyed by either one of the World Wars.
Opening hours :
Open every day
April 1 - November 1 : 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
(9:00 PM in July - 8:00 PM in August and September)
November 2 - March 31 : 9:30 AM to 5:45 PM
Note : desk closed 30 mn before
Price = 3,50 euros
Concession = 3 euros