Avignon Tourist Attractions
The former Papal Residence of Avignon, today the capital of the Département of Vaucluse, lies on the left bank of the Rhône where the river is divided into two by the island of Barthelasse, and at the foot of a limestone cliff on which stand the Papal Palace and the Cathedral. South of Avignon its tributary the Durance flows into the Rhône. Avignon is much favored by tourists for its art treasures and because it is an excellent setting-out point for excursions into Provence.
Avennio (or Avenio), the capital of the Gallic Cavares, later became a thriving Roman colony. In turn the town fell into the hands of the Burgundians and the Franks, and in the 13th century it was acquired, together with Provence, by Charles of Anjou. In the Albigensian Wars it supported the Duke of Toulouse and the Albigens and was consequently conquered by Louis VIII in 1226.
Between 1309 and 1377 there resided here Popes Clement V (1305-14), John XXII (1314-34), Benedict XII (1334-42), Clement VI (1342-52), Innocent VI (1352-62), Urban V (1362-70) and Gregory XI (1370-78), a nephew of Clement VI. Only the return of Gregory XI to Rome ended the almost 70 years of "Babylonian Exile" of the Church. After his death when schism set in, the Popes Clement VII (1378-94) and Benedict XIII (1394-1424), resided in Avignon until 1403. The town with the surrounding county of Venaissin remained a possession of the Curia until the Revolution united the "Papal City" with France in 1791.
After the Popes had employed Italian masters, especially the Siennese Simone Martini who died here in 1344, an important school of painting flourished in Avignon right until the 18th century.