Papal Palace, Avignon Palais des Papes
Papal Palace View slideshowThe immediate reason for the erection of the Papal Residence was the removal of the Curia from Rome to Avignon under Clement V. His successor, John XXII (Pope 1316-34), chose the palace of the Bishop of Avignon, his nephew Arnaud de Via, as his official seat and initiated the first extensions. The present aspect of the fortress-like block of buildings is due mainly to the erection of the east and northeast wings (Palais Vieux=Old Palace) by Benedict XII (Pope 1334-42) and the west wing (Palais Nouveau=New Palace) by Clement VI (Pope 1342-52). Later Popes who resided in Avignon were responsible only for small extensions and completions.
Official site: www.palais-des-papes.com
Address: Place du Palais, F-84000 Avignon, France
Papal Palace Highlights
The east of the Place du Palais in Avignon is dominated by the mighty facade of the Palais Nouveau, more a fortress than a center of spiritual power. The irregular buildings of the facade are articulated in the lower part by great pointed arches over wall columns. To the wall above the entrance gateway cling two octagonal towers with pointed spires. On the right the facade is flanked by the Tour de la Gache and on the left by the Tour d'Angle, two somewhat insubstantial stump towers protruding from the surface of the wall. On the left, set back a little towards the facade, it is joined by the Palace Vieux (Old Palace), articulated completely by wall pillars and pointed arches. At the corner of the building rises the Tour de la Campane with its battlemented pinnacle making it a defensive tower. Near the Palais Vieux, above a mighty open stairway, stands the Cathedral of Notre-Dame des Doms.
Although the entire furnishings of the inside of the Papal Palace in Avignon, except for some remains of sculptures and frescoes, have disappeared, the interior of this complex of buildings offers a compulsive impression of space. Passing through the Porte des Champeaux, the entrance from the open-air stairway, the Grande Cour comes into view; this great inner courtyard, around which the old and new parts of the palace are grouped, is from time to time the scene for open-air dramatic performances.
In the left-hand corner of the courtyard of the Papal Palace in Avignon will be found the entrance to the Consistoire (Consistory) and, opposite, the Cloister of Benedict XII). In the Hall of the Consistory measuring 11m/36ft by 48m/158ft can be seen the remains of some frescoes by Simone Martini; adjoining the longer wall lies the Chapelle St Jean (Chapel of St John), the lower part of the chapel tower. Here will be found some well-preserved frescoes created between 1346 and 1348 and attributed to the Italian Matteo Giovanetti. They depict the life-stories of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist.
Opposite the entrance to the Consistory Hall lies the Cloister of Benedict XII, dating from 1339 and completely restored in 1940; this was the site of the earlier palace of John XXII. A staircase leads to the covered gallery above the cloister; note the alternation of double and considerably smaller simple windows up above.
Adjoining the gallery is the former Banqueting Hall (Grand Tinel or Magnum Tinellum). It is situated immediately above the Consistory Hall and has the same measurements; the wooden vaulted ceiling is modern. Hanging here can be seen four huge 18th century Gobelin tapestries; from the short linking corridor in the left-hand corner of the hall which gives access to the Kitchen Tower (Tour des Cuisines) there is a charming view to the southwest over the Old Town.
The Chapelle St-Martial, which occupies the upper story of the chapel tower in Avignon, is - like its counterpart on the ground floor - decorated with frescoes by Matteo Giovanetti which date from 1344-45. They portray the miracles of St Martial, the third century patron saint of Limousin.
In the Avignon Papal Palace, the end of the Banqueting Hall leads into the Robing Chamber, the ante-room to the Papal Bedchamber, in which two 18th century Gobelins and a model of Avignon's Papal Palace are to be seen. The Papal Bedchamber lies immediately adjoining in the Tour des Anges. Of interest here are the (restored) polychromatic tiled floor, the painted beamed ceiling and the walls painted in tempera, predominantly arabesques on a blue ground; in the window niches are lodged painted birdcages. The Tour de la Garde-Robe, the tower adjacent to the Tour des Anges, houses the former study of Clement VI, known as the Chambre du Cerf (Room of the Stag), so called from the secular scenes, especially of hunting and fishing, painted on the walls. Also of interest is the painted coffered ceiling. The floor tiles are, like those in the bedchamber, of more recent date but copied from old designs.
A staircase in Avignon's Papal Palace leads into the North Sacristy where there are plaster replicas of numerous tombs of cardinals and other spiritual dignitaries. Then comes the Grand Chapelle (Great Chapel), also called the "Chapelle Clementine", a huge single-aisled church with a coffered roof. On the walls hang a considerable number of Baroque paintings; to the right of the altar stands the entrance to the South Sacristy in which will be found replicas of the tombs of Innocent VI, Clement V, Clement VI and Urban V. From the Great Chapel there is an entrance to the loggia where through the large traceried Fenêtre de l'Indulgence (Window of Indulgence) there is a view of the Great Courtyard. From this window the Pope used to give his blessing to the assembled faithful.
The Great Audience Chamber is a twin-naved audience hall beneath the Chapelle Clementine in the Papal Palace in Avignon. This, too, was embellished by Matteo Giovanetti in 1352 with wall-paintings of Prophets and Sybils. In the Small Audience Chamber (also called the "Audience des Contredites") ornamental grisaille paintings were introduced in the 17th century.The way back to the entrance doorway is through the Corps du Garde (Guardroom).
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