Home of Popes and a bridge for dancing under

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This beautiful southern French city on the banks of the Rhône has a fascinating past. It started life two millennia ago as the prosperous Roman settlement of Avenio. Destroyed by barbarian raids during the early middle-ages it rose again as a small city state during the 11th century. However, the city made the crucial mistake of siding with the heretical Albigensians, or Cathars, against the French Crown and was sacked by King Louis VIII in 1226.

Popes and humanists

The City was soon rebuilt however and its finest hour followed shortly after. The Pope decided to relocate here in 1309  from Rome where things had become a little uncomfortable due to the turf wars between the leading Italian families. The Papacy had acquired the nearby Comtat Venaissin a few years before which would serve as a country retreat. Consequently, for the next century several popes and anti-popes ruled the Christian world from the massive Papal Palace which still dominates the town.

At this time the City had an international reputation as a centre for learning and the arts. It attracted leading intellectuals such as the humanist poet Petrarch. Even after the Papal Court left there was a legate here right up to the Revolution and life continued much as before but minus the Pope. However, following the Revolution the city became attached to France and it has since become a major tourist centre.

That famous Bridge

And the bridge for dancing on or is it under? It can still be seen today in the form of the Pont St-Bénézet

Market days
: Covered Market in les Halles & Ramparts Market: both Saturday morning.

At A Glance

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