What is more Avignon is the city of organs, which are traditionally found in Catholic churches. The most famous of them are the organ of Saint Agricole and gold organ of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame des Doms.
It was in Avignon where an outstanding French singer, «Avignon Nightingale» - Mireille Mathieu was born.
In ancient times of the Middle Ages the great foreseer and astrologer Nostradamus lived and worked here.
In prehistoric times, two thousand years ago, Avignon was the capital of the Gallic tribe of the Cavares, which were located on the banks of the the River Rhône near the pile of rocks, which acted as a powerful natural bulwark against bitter winds and enemies. This period is reminded by numerous monuments of the «Roman Era».
In the early 14th century, Avignon became a «Pontifical» capital, because it is here where from Rome in 1309 Pope Clement V, ordered by King Philip IV the Fair, moved his residence. For as many as 70 years during the so-called «Avignon Papacy», the city was the heart of the Catholic world. Although in 1378 the capital of the Papal State was moved back to Rome, but even up to the 1409 Avignon remained a shelter for self-proclaimed Popes, who occasionally appeared within the Catholic Church.
The most striking evidence of the Pontifical period, that can be observed at present, is a grand Papal Palace (Palais des Papes), built in 1370 on a hill high above the River Rhône. It still amazes by its external grandeur and richness of interior decoration.
However, Papal Palace experienced not only the good times. During the French Revolution in 1789 it was occupied and robbed by rebels, and after two years there have been numerous executions of the nobles. During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte the palace hosted the prison and military barracks. At the beginning of the Third Republic (1870s), on the wave of sharp anti-clerical atmosphere in French society, the wooden interior of the palace was severely damaged - it was demolished for the construction of stables. The frescoes were also badly damaged – the outstanding works of medieval masters were ruthlessly smeared by hands of vandals.
The same fate of the destruction struck the Franciscan church, where Laura de Sade died of plague in 1348, was buried. She was better known as the muse of the great Petrarch who spent in Avignon a significant period of his life.
Only in 1906, the Papal Palace was seriously renovated and converted into a national museum.
Location of the Holy See in Avignon provided the city and the Catholic Church with big revenue. However, not only this shaped their wealth and luxury. A significant source of income came from the sale of high-quality sand, reservoir of which was situated near the city. It was suitable for the manufacture of glass. Export of sand has remained an important source of income for Avignon till the present day: the sand is exported to Italy, where it is used in the production of the famous Murano glass.
Visit to Avignon is not only an aesthetic pleasure from the contemplation of wonderful architectural forms and artistic masterpieces created in the times of Medieval Renaissance, but also a great opportunity to learn a lot about France and the Catholic Church.
Almost with every step here you feel the breath of history which miraculously transforms the city, giving it a new breath and offers a modern person a variety of interesting things.
Today, Avignon is the city where several international festivals are organically and successfully «registered».
In July and August every year the Papal Palace hosts the Avignon Festival, which is attended by prominent theatrical and musical groups from all over the world. Here outstanding ballet and opera premieres take place.
In contrast to this festival, «the Festival Off» is a platform for amateur theater groups, as well as folk and jazz musicians. During this festival the city does not sleep for literally a month, as during the day and the night it plunges in the festival life extravaganza.
Being in Avignon, one should certainly visit the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Doms, built in Romanesque style in the 12th century. The mausoleum of Pope John XXII is still within its walls. Papal Palace, as well as the Pont d’Avignon (12th century) and Avignon Cathedral, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The fans of antiques and art will get great pleasure by visiting various museums of the city. There one can get acquainted with a rich collection of sculptures of Romanesque and Gothic styles, canvases by the artists of the Avignon and the Italian school of painting, masterpieces by Botticelli, Carpaccio, Rodin, Manet, and other great masters.
It is also worth visiting the Place de l'Horloge with old clock in the tower of the town hall, where you can visit one of the original cafes, which may well be more than a hundred years old.
Walk down the Rue Tenturier, where still in the nineteenth century, local craftsmen painted fabrics with bright specific pattern, which today remains the hallmark of Provence.
You can as well become a member of the Medieval feast, which traditionally takes place in September.
Needless to say, Avignon is beautiful and attractive at any time of the year! And everyone who has visited this city, is sure to fall in love with it and will always seek to come here again and again ...