Sur le pont d'Avignon ("On the bridge of Avignon") describes folk dancing. The bridge of the song is the Saint Bénézet bridge, over the Rhône River, of which only four arches (out of an initial 22) remain. They connect to the Avignon side of the river. People could have danced beneath the bridge (sous le pont) where it crossed over an island (Ile de Barthelasse) on its way to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. The bridge was 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 most of the remaining stone work was destroyed in 1660. from



The Department of Vaucluse

The architecture of Avignon's centre reflects its papal history. The Palace of the Popes built in the 14th century sits astride a primary open city square (place). From the top of the city ramparts one instantly understands why the site was picked for fortification. Avignon stands high above the floodplain of the Rhône River, a strategic point in the whole lower valley, commanding river traffic. Églises, musées, palaises, hôtels, cultural resources, archæological sites and prehistoric remains, along with wonderful weather, are in easy reach within the city and the countryside.

Avignon, written in the form of Avennio in the ancient texts and inscriptions, takes its name from the House, or Clan, Avennius of the Cavari (Celtic origin). The celtic village became a Phocæan colonial outpost of ancient Marseilles (to its south), an important trading center also for the Greeks. Under the Roman occupation, it flourished within the province of Gallia Narbonensis. Saints Rufus, disciple of St. Paul (according to certain traditions the son of Simon the Cyrenean) and St. Justus, were held in high honour throughout the territory of Avignon, and were venerated in antiquity as bishops of that see, but there is no evidence that they were there. The first bishop known to history is Nectarius, who took part in several councils about the middle of the fifth century. Saint Agricol (Agricolus), the patron saint of Avignon, was its bishop between 650 and 700AD.

More invaders followed as Rome lost the empire in the west. In 736 Avignon fell into the hands of the moslem Saracens, who later were driven out by Charles Martel. The city continued to change hands. Finally, Queen Joan (Joanna I of Naples, countess of Provence) sold Avignon to Pope Clement VI for 80,000 gold florins (June 9, 1348) after the Popes had begun to manage the church from that location. All this change gradually wore down the city.

Avignon, which at the beginning of the fourteenth century had become a town of no great importance, underwent a wonderful renaissance during the residence of nine french popes, Clement V through Benedict XIII. Money and trade followed the Church into the area, which built up in magnificent style, civilian quarters that bordered the Palace. The Palace of the Popes belongs, by its artifice, to the Gothic style of the South of France; other examples are to be seen in the churches of St. Didier, St. Peter, and St. Agricola, in the Clock Tower, and in the first fortifications after full papal control. The university founded by Boniface VIII in 1303, had an increase in students under the French popes, drawn there by the generosity of the sovereign pontiffs, whose reward was books or other benefices.

After the restoration of the Holy See in Rome, the spiritual and temporal government of Avignon was entrusted to a legate, the cardinal-nephew, who was replaced, in his absence by a vice-legate. When, however, Innocent XII abolished nepotism, he did away with the office of legate, and handed over the government of the Pontifical States to the Congregation of Avignon (1692), which resided at Rome, with the Cardinal Secretary of State as prefect, and exercised its jurisdiction through the vice-legate. This lasted to a time near the outset of la Révolution française. Louis XV, dissatisfied at Clement XIII's action in regard to a matter with the Duke of Parma, caused the Papal States to be occupied from 1768 to 1774, and he substituted French institutions, to the approval of the populace. In 1797 annexation was made official by treaty.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France, is a medieval village with the ruins of a medieval castle. While the Avignon Papacy did much to advance the reputation of wines from Burgundy, it promoted also the viticulture of the surrounding area. The area 3 to 6 miles (5-10 km) north of Avignon and close to the banks of the Rhône River was its centre. Prior to the Avignon Papacy, wine-making in that area had been initiated and maintained by the Bishops of Avignon, largely for local consumption. Under Pope John XXII, the wines of this area came to be known as "Vin du Pape", this name later to become Châteauneuf du Pape (of the Côtes du Rhône appellation). John XXII is also responsible for erecting the famous castle (the Popes' summer home) which stands as its symbolic name. In the 18th century, the wines were shipped under the name "vin d'Avignon." Records from the early 19th century mention wines of the name Châteauneuf-du-Pape-Calcernier, which seems to have been a lighter-style wine than its red wines of today. By virtue of the quality of its wine, Châteauneuf du Pape remained prosperous until the phylloxera disaster. Today the quality and reputation have returned.

Red varieties allowed are Cinsaut, Counoise, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul Noir, Syrah, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté). White and pink varieties are Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Clairette Rose, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Picardan, Piquepoul Blanc, Piquepoul Gris, and Roussanne. Both red and white varieties are allowed in both red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, without restriction as to the proportion of grape varieties to be used. The allowed grape varieties are not differentiated into principal varieties or accessory varieties. Thus, it is theoretically possible to produce varietal called Châteauneuf-du-Pape from any of the types of grape allowed; however, most Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are blends dominated by the two Grenache varieties. The only estate to grow all varieties and use them consistently in a blend is Château de Beaucastel.

The Avignon TGV train station is found in Quartier de Courtine. TGV trains arrive from Paris (2h40), Roissy-Charles de Gaulle 2 airport (choose "Roissy" as departure city), Lille, Nantes, Rouen, Metz, Montpellier, Geneva, Brussels, Lyon, Marne la Vallée, Rennes, Strasbourg and Toulouse. There is of course a bus connection to centre city or Taxi. The Avignon central train station remains at boulevard St. Roch, with Regional trains, inter-city trains and some Paris TGV trains (3h20) arrivals/depatures. Avignon's two petit trains take visitors to see the major sights, including the Palace of the Popes, the bridge and ramparts, and more. Tours run about 40 minutes. This link: has a great description of the sites in and about the city. Bonne Chance !!!

Because of its imposing and majestic architecture the Palais des Papes is classified and protected, as a World Heritage site by the UN. Timbres (Stamps of pont_saint_benezet_en_avignon)

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Celtic/Frank History -- Germaniæ Historicæ -- Anglo Saxons -- Reformation from a French-Protestant point of view

East of Avignon the mountains of Provence begin. There one sees many fortress towns of ancient age. One such is nestled in the heart of the Petit Luberon, is Bonnieux with a commanding view of nearby Roussillon. Bonnieux has had a bloody history of raids and battles since its beginnings in Roman times and it remained a Catholic stronghold during the Wars of Religion. The Musée de la Boulangerie is dedicated to authentic French bread-making. Pics HERE

"I will always see Bonnieux in my mind's eye. It is so beautiful - Old Roman walls, two churches, one at the bottom called Église Neuve (New Church - 1800's with decorations from the 16th century) where bells are rung on the hour during the day; one high at the top, Vieille Église (Old Church) now unused -- winding streets, some cobblestoned, old wood doors that hid the homes behind them, small shops, and cafes, one more charming than the next."

Hostellerie Le Prieure, in the center of town, was once a nunnery dedicated to Saint Vincent De Paul. The lounge was once the chapel. It retains murals of its patron saint. The Château La Canorgue lies just outside Bonnieux and still has a functioning portion of a Roman aqueduct. The village of La Coste is more hilly, with steep streets and ancient buildings that overlook the [Coulon] valley and distant Bonnieux. from {don't miss the photos}

And of Roussillon -- one can discover a Mousset family vineyard there, a lesser known holding to the more famous Château des Fines Roches near Châteauneuf du Pape -- -- both wines of the Côtes du Rhône appellation.

New: 04/30/08