Avignon

Avignon (/ˈævɪnjɒ̃/, also US: /ˌævɪnˈjn/;[3] French: [aviɲɔ̃] (listen); Provençal: Avinhon (Classical norm) or Avignoun (Mistralian norm), IPA: [aviˈɲun]; Latin: Avenio) is the prefecture of the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of Southeastern France. Located on the left bank of the river Rhône, the commune had a population of 93,671 as of the census results of 2017, with about 16,000 (estimate from Avignon's municipal services) living in the ancient town centre enclosed by its medieval walls.

Avignon

Avinhon  (Occitan)
Prefecture and commune
From top: skyline,
Rocher des Doms, Palais des Papes,
Pont Saint-Bénézet,
Avignon Cathedral, Festival d'Avignon
Coat of arms
Location of Avignon
Avignon
Avignon
Coordinates: 43°57′00″N 04°48′27″E
CountryFrance
RegionProvence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
DepartmentVaucluse
ArrondissementAvignon
CantonAvignon-1, Avignon-2, Avignon-3
IntercommunalityCA Grand Avignon
Government
  Mayor (2020–2026) Cécile Helle[1] (PS)
Area
1
64.78 km2 (25.01 sq mi)
Population
 (Jan. 2018)[2]
91,729
  Density1,400/km2 (3,700/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
84007 /84000
Elevation10–122 m (33–400 ft)
(avg. 23 m or 75 ft)
Official nameHistoric Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge
CriteriaCultural: i, ii, iv
Reference228
Inscription1995 (19th session)
Area8.2 ha
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Between 1309 and 1377, during the Avignon Papacy, seven successive popes resided in Avignon and in 1348 Pope Clement VI bought the town from Joanna I of Naples. Papal control persisted until 1791 when, during the French Revolution, it became part of France. The town is now the capital of the Vaucluse department and one of the few French cities to have preserved its city walls.

The historic centre, which includes the Palais des Papes, the cathedral and the Pont d'Avignon, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The medieval monuments and the annual Festival d'Avignon have helped to make the town a major centre for tourism.

Toponymy

The earliest forms of the name were reported by the Greeks:[4] Аὐενιὼν Aueniṑn (Stephen of Byzantium, Strabo, IV, 1, 11) and Άουεννίων Aouenníōn (Ptolemy II, x).

The Roman name Avennĭo Cavărum (Mela, II, 575, Pliny III, 36), i.e. "Avignon of Cavares", accurately shows that Avignon was one of the three cities of the Celtic-Ligurian tribe of Cavares, along with Cavaillon and Orange.

The current name dates to a pre-Indo-European[4] or pre-Latin[5] theme ab-ên with the suffix -i-ōn(e).[4][5] This theme would be a hydronym – i.e. a name linked to the river (Rhône), but perhaps also an oronym of terrain (the Rocher des Doms).

The Auenion of the 1st century BC was Latinized to Avennĭo (or Avēnĭo), -ōnis in the 1st century and is written Avinhon in classic Occitan spelling[6] or Avignoun in Mistralian spelling.[7] The inhabitants of the commune are called avinhonencs or avignounen in both standard Occitan and Provençal dialect.

Geography

Avignon is on the left bank of the Rhône river, a few kilometres above its confluence with the Durance, about 580 km (360 mi) south-east of Paris, 229 km (142 mi) south of Lyon and 85 km (53 mi) north-north-west of Marseille. On the west it shares a border with the department of Gard and the communes of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon and Les Angles and to the south it borders the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and the communes of Barbentane, Rognonas, Châteaurenard, and Noves.

The city is in the vicinity of Orange (north), Nîmes, Montpellier (south-west), Arles (to the south), Salon-de-Provence, and Marseille (south-east). Directly contiguous to the east and north are the communes of Caumont-sur-Durance, Morières-lès-Avignon, Le Pontet, and Sorgues.

Geology and terrain

Aerial view of Avignon

The region around Avignon is very rich in limestone which is used for building material. For example, the current city walls, measuring 4,330 metres long, were built with the soft limestone abundant in the region called mollasse burdigalienne.[8]

Enclosed by the city walls, the Rocher des Doms is a limestone elevation of urgonian type, 35 metres high[9] (and therefore safe from flooding of the Rhone which it overlooks) and is the original core of the city. Several limestone massifs are present around the commune (the Massif des Angles, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Alpilles...) and they are partly the result of the oceanisation of the Ligurian-Provençal basin following the migration of the Sardo-Corsican block.[8]

The other significant elevation in the commune is the Montfavet Hill – a wooded hill in the east of the commune.[8]

The Rhone Valley is an old alluvial zone: loose deposits cover much of the ground. It consists of sandy alluvium more or less coloured with pebbles consisting mainly of siliceous rocks. The islands in the Rhone, such as the Île de la Barthelasse, were created by the accumulation of alluvial deposits and also by the work of man. The relief is quite low despite the creation of mounds allowing local protection from flooding.[8]

In the land around the city there are clay, silt, sand, and limestone present.[8]

Hydrography

Bridges on the Grand Rhône.
The Pont d'Avignon on the Petit Rhône. In the background is Mont Ventoux.

The Rhone passes the western edge of the city, but is divided into two branches: the Petit Rhône, or "dead arm", for the part that passes next to Avignon and the Grand Rhône, or "live arm", for the western channel which passes Villeneuve-lès-Avignon in the Gard department. The two branches are separated by an island, the Île de la Barthelasse. The southernmost tip of the Île de la Barthelasse once formed of a separated island, the L'Île de Piot.[10]

The banks of the Rhone and the Île de la Barthelasse are often subject to flooding during autumn and March. The publication Floods in France since the 6th century until today – research and documentation[11] by Maurice Champion tells about a number of them (until 1862, the flood of 1856 was one of the largest, which destroyed part of the walls). They have never really stopped as shown by the floods in 1943–1944[12] and again on 23 January 1955[13] and remain important today – such as the floods of 2 December 2003.[14] As a result, a new risk mapping has been developed.

The Durance flows along the southern boundary of the commune into the Rhone and marks the departmental boundary with Bouches-du-Rhône.[15] It is a river that is considered "capricious" and once feared for its floods (it was once called the "3rd scourge of Provence"[lower-alpha 1] as well as for its low water: the Durance has both Alpine and Mediterranean morphology which is unusual.

There are many natural and artificial water lakes in the commune such as the Lake of Saint-Chamand east of the city.

Artificial diversions

A mill on the Vaucluse Canal in the Pont des 2 eaux district

There have been many diversions[16] throughout the course of history, such as feeding the moat surrounding Avignon or irrigating crops.

In the 10th century part of the waters from the Sorgue d'Entraigues were diverted and today pass under the walls to enter the city. (See Sorgue). This watercourse is called the Vaucluse Canal but Avignon people still call it the Sorgue or Sorguette. It is visible in the city in the Rue des teinturiers (street of dyers). It fed the moat around the first defensive walls then fed the moat on the newer eastern city walls (14th century). In the 13th century (under an Act signed in 1229) part of the waters of the Durance were diverted to increase the water available for the moats starting from Bonpas. This river was later called the Durançole. The Durançole fed the western moats of the city and was also used to irrigate crops at Montfavet. In the city these streams are often hidden beneath the streets and houses and are currently used to collect sewerage.

The Hospital Canal (joining the Durançole) and the Crillon Canal (1775) were dug to irrigate the territories of Montfavet, Pontet, and Vedène. They were divided into numerous "fioles" or "filioles" (in Provençal filhòlas or fiolo). Similarly, to irrigate the gardens of the wealthy south of Avignon, the Puy Canal was dug (1808). All of these canals took their water from the Durance. These canals were initially used to flood the land, which was very stony, to fertilize them by deposition of silt.

All of these canals have been used to operate many mills.

Seismicity

The leaning bell tower of the Church of the Augustinians.

Under the new seismic zoning of France defined in Decree No. 2010-1255 of 22 October 2010 concerning the delimitation of the seismicity of the French territory and which entered into force on 1 May 2011, Avignon is located in an area of moderate seismicity. The previous zoning is shown below for reference.

"The cantons of Bonnieux, Apt, Cadenet, Cavaillon, and Pertuis are classified in zone Ib (low risk). All other cantons the Vaucluse department, including Avignon, are classified Ia (very low risk). This zoning is for exceptional seismicity resulting in the destruction of buildings.".[17]

The presence of faults in the limestone substrate shows that significant tectonic shift has caused earthquakes in different geological ages. The last major earthquake of significant magnitude was on 11 June 1909.[lower-alpha 2] It left a visible trace in the centre of the city since the bell tower of the Augustinians, which is surmounted by an ancient campanile of wrought iron, located in Rue Carreterie, remained slightly leaning as a result of this earthquake.

Climate

Avignon has a hot-summer mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csa), though the dry-summer effect is not as strong as coastal locations like Marseille due to its more sheltered inland location. With mild-cool winters and hot summers, with moderate rainfall year-round. July and August are the hottest months with average daily maximum temperatures of around 28 °C, and January and February the coldest with average daily maximum temperatures of around 9 °C. The wettest month is September, with a rain average of 102 millimetres, and the driest month is July, when the monthly average rainfall is 37 millimetres. The city is often subject to windy weather; the strongest wind is the mistral. A medieval Latin proverb said of the city: Avenie ventosa, sine vento venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa (Windy Avignon, pest-ridden when there is no wind, wind-pestered when there is).[18]

Climate data for Avignon (1981–2010 averages, extremes 1958–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 20.9
(69.6)
22.3
(72.1)
26.5
(79.7)
31.1
(88.0)
34.1
(93.4)
42.8
(109.0)
39.7
(103.5)
40.5
(104.9)
35.3
(95.5)
30.8
(87.4)
24.3
(75.7)
21.0
(69.8)
42.8
(109.0)
Average high °C (°F) 10.2
(50.4)
11.8
(53.2)
15.6
(60.1)
18.6
(65.5)
23.1
(73.6)
27.3
(81.1)
30.7
(87.3)
30.0
(86.0)
25.3
(77.5)
20.2
(68.4)
14.0
(57.2)
10.5
(50.9)
19.8
(67.6)
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.9
(42.6)
7.1
(44.8)
10.3
(50.5)
13.1
(55.6)
17.3
(63.1)
21.2
(70.2)
24.2
(75.6)
23.7
(74.7)
19.6
(67.3)
15.4
(59.7)
9.9
(49.8)
6.6
(43.9)
14.6
(58.3)
Average low °C (°F) 1.6
(34.9)
2.3
(36.1)
5.1
(41.2)
7.5
(45.5)
11.4
(52.5)
15.2
(59.4)
17.8
(64.0)
17.3
(63.1)
14.0
(57.2)
10.5
(50.9)
5.8
(42.4)
2.7
(36.9)
9.3
(48.7)
Record low °C (°F) −13
(9)
−14
(7)
−9.5
(14.9)
−2.2
(28.0)
1.3
(34.3)
4.4
(39.9)
8.6
(47.5)
8.0
(46.4)
3.9
(39.0)
−2.2
(28.0)
−7.4
(18.7)
−14
(7)
−14
(7)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 48.7
(1.92)
37.6
(1.48)
38.6
(1.52)
66.1
(2.60)
62.5
(2.46)
41.0
(1.61)
26.6
(1.05)
45.8
(1.80)
97.6
(3.84)
91.4
(3.60)
71.1
(2.80)
49.0
(1.93)
676.0
(26.61)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 5.4 4.8 4.4 7.1 6.5 4.3 2.4 3.3 5.3 7.2 6.7 5.6 62.9
Source: Météo France[19]

According to Météo-France the number of days per year with rain above 2.5 litres per square metre is 45 and the amount of water, rain and snow combined is 660 litres per square metre. Average temperatures vary between 0 and 30 °C depending on the season. The record temperature record since the existence of the weather station at Orange is 40.7 °C on 26 July 1983 and the record lowest was −14.5 °C on 2 February 1956.[20]

The mistral

The prevailing wind is the mistral for which the windspeed can be beyond 110 km/h. It blows between 120 and 160 days per year with an average speed of 90 km/h in gusts.[21] The following table shows the different speeds of the mistral recorded by Orange and Carpentras Serres stations in the southern Rhone valley and its frequency in 2006. Normal corresponds to the average of the last 53 years from Orange weather reports and that of the last 42 at Carpentras.[22]

Legend: "=" same as normal; "+" Higher than normal; "-" Lower than normal.

Speed of Mistral winds
Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May. Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Maximum recorded speed by month 106 km/h 127 km/h 119 km/h 97 km/h 94 km/h 144 km/h 90 km/h 90 km/h 90 km/h 87 km/h 91 km/h 118 km/h
Tendency: Days with speed
> 16 m/s (58 km/h)
-- +++ --- ++++ ++++ = = ++++ + --- = ++

Demographics

In 2017, the commune had 91,921 inhabitants.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 24,000    
1800 21,412−1.62%
1806 23,789+1.77%
1821 29,407+1.42%
1831 29,889+0.16%
1836 31,786+1.24%
1841 33,844+1.26%
1846 35,169+0.77%
1851 35,890+0.41%
1856 37,077+0.65%
1861 36,081−0.54%
1866 36,427+0.19%
1872 38,196+0.79%
1876 38,008−0.12%
1881 37,657−0.19%
1886 41,007+1.72%
1891 43,453+1.17%
1896 45,107+0.75%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 46,896+0.78%
1906 48,312+0.60%
1911 49,304+0.41%
1921 48,177−0.23%
1926 51,685+1.42%
1931 57,228+2.06%
1936 59,472+0.77%
1946 60,053+0.10%
1954 62,768+0.55%
1962 72,717+1.86%
1968 86,096+2.85%
1975 90,786+0.76%
1982 89,132−0.26%
1990 86,939−0.31%
1999 85,935−0.13%
2007 91,283+0.76%
2012 89,380−0.42%
2017 91,921+0.56%
Source: EHESS[23] and INSEE[24]

Administration

Avignon is the prefecture (capital) of Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region. It forms the core of the Grand Avignon metropolitan area (communauté d'agglomération), which comprises 15 communes on both sides of the river:[25]

  • Les Angles, Pujaut, Rochefort-du-Gard, Sauveterre, Saze and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon in the Gard département;
  • Avignon, Caumont-sur-Durance, Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue, Jonquerettes, Morières-lès-Avignon, Le Pontet, Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon, Vedène and Velleron in the Vaucluse département.

List of mayors

List of successive mayors[26]

Mayors from the French Revolution to 1940
FromToName
17901790Jean-Baptiste d'Armand
17901791Antoine Agricol Richard
17911792Levieux-Laverne
17921793Jean-Ettienne Duprat
17931793Jean-André Cartoux
17931793Jean-François ROCHETIN
17951795Guillaume François Ignace Puy
17951796Alexis Bruny
17961796Père Minvielle
17961797Faulcon
17971798Père Minvielle
17981799Cadet Garrigan
17991800Père Niel
18001806Guillaume François Ignace PUY
18061811Agricol Joseph Xavier Bertrand
18111815Guillaume François Ignace Puy
18151815Hippolyte Roque de Saint-Pregnan
18151819Charles de Camis-Lezan
18191820Louis Duplessis de Pouzilhac
18201826Charles Soullier
18261830Louis Pertuis de Montfaucon
18301832François Jillian
18321833Balthazar Delorme
18341837Hippolyte Roque de Saint-Pregnan
18371841Dominique Geoffroy
18411843Albert d'Olivier de Pezet
18431847Eugène Poncet
18471848Hyacinthe Chauffard
18481848Alphonse Gent
18481848Frédéric Granier
18481850Gabriel Vinay
18501852Martial BOSSE
18521853Eugène Poncet
18531865Paul Pamard
18651870Paul Poncet
18701871Paul Bourges
18711874Paul Poncet
18741878Roger du Demaine
18781881Paul Poncet
18811881Eugène Millo
18811884Charles Deville
18841888Paul Poncet
18881903Gaston Pourquery de Boisserin
19031904Alexandre Dibon
19041910Henri Guigou
19101919Louis Valayer
19191925Ferdinand Bec
19251928Louis Gros
19291940Louis Nouveau
Mayors from 1940
FromToNameParty
19401942Jean Gauger
19421944Edmond Pailheret
19441945Louis Gros
19451947Georges Pons
19471948Paul Rouvier
19481950Henri Mazo
19501953Noël Hermitte
19531958Edouard Daladier
19581983Henri DuffautPS
19831989Jean-Pierre RouxRPR
19891995Guy RavierPS
19952014Marie-José RoigUMP
20142026Cécile HellePS

Twin towns – sister cities

Avignon is twinned with:[27]

  • Colchester, United Kingdom since 1972
  • Guanajuato, Mexico since 1990
  • Diourbel, Senegal since 1961
  • New Haven, Connecticut, USA since 1993
  • Siena, Italy since 1981
  • Tarragona, Spain since 1968
  • Tortosa, Spain since 1968
  • Wetzlar, Germany since 1960

Evolution of the borders of the commune

Avignon absorbed Montfavet between 1790 and 1794 then ceded Morières-lès-Avignon in 1870 and Le Pontet in 1925.[23] On 16 May 2007 the commune of Les Angles in Gard ceded 13 hectares to Avignon.[28]

Area and population

The city of Avignon has an area of 64.78 km2 and a population of 92,078 inhabitants in 2010 and is ranked as follows:[28]

Rank Land Area Population Density
France 524th 46th 632nd
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur 105th 5th 23rd
Vaucluse 6th 1st 2nd

Economy

Avignon is the seat of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Vaucluse which manages the Avignon – Caumont Airport and the Avignon-Le Pontet Docks.

Avignon has 7,000 businesses, 1,550 associations, 1,764 shops, and 1,305 service providers.[29] The urban area has one of the largest catchment areas in Europe with more than 300,000 square metres of retail space and 469 m2 per thousand population against 270 on average in France.[30] The commercial area of Avignon Nord is one of the largest in Europe.[31]

The tertiary sector is the most dynamic in the department by far on the basis of the significant production of early fruit and vegetables in Vaucluse, The MIN (Market of National Importance) has become the pivotal hub of commercial activity in the department, taking precedence over other local markets (including that of Carpentras).

A Sensitive urban zone was created for companies wanting to relocate with exemptions from tax and social issues.[32] It is located south of Avignon between the city walls and the Durance located in the districts of Croix Rouge, Monclar, Saint-Chamand, and La Rocade.[33]

Areas of economic activity

There are nine main areas of economic activity in Avignon.[34]

The Courtine area is the largest with nearly 300 businesses (of which roughly half are service establishments, one third are shops, and the rest related to industry) and more than 3,600 jobs.[34] The site covers an area of 300 hectares and is located south-west of the city at the TGV railway station.

Then comes the Fontcouverte area with a hundred establishments representing a thousand jobs. It is, however, more oriented towards shops than the Courtine area.[34]

The MIN area of Avignon is the Agroparc area[lower-alpha 3] (or "Technopole Agroparc"). The Cristole area is contiguous and both have a little less than a hundred establishments.[34]

Finally, the areas of Castelette, Croix de Noves, Realpanier, and the airport each have fewer than 25 establishments spread between service activities and shops. The area of the Castelette alone represents more than 600 jobs – i.e. 100 more than Cristole.[34]

Tourism

Four million visitors come annually to visit the city and the region and also for its festival.[29] In 2011 the most visited tourist attraction was the Palais des Papes with 572,972 paying visitors.[35] The annual Festival d'Avignon is the most important cultural event in the city. The official festival attracted 135,800 people in 2012.[35]

A cruise boat at the quay at Avignon.

River tourism began in 1994 with three river boat-hotels. In 2011 there is a fleet of 21 river boat-hotel vessels, including six sight-seeing boats which are anchored on the quay along the Oulle walkways. In addition, a free shuttle boat connects Avignon to the Île de la Barthelasse and, as of 1987, a harbor master has managed all river traffic.

The commune has been awarded one flower by the National Council of Towns and Villages in Bloom in the Competition of cities and villages in Bloom.[36]

Agriculture

Fruit and Vegetables at the Markets of Avignon

The city is the headquarters of the International Association of the Mediterranean tomato, the World Council of the tomato industry, and the Inter-Rhône organisation.

Industry

Only EDF (Grand Delta) with about 850 employees and Onet Propreté[lower-alpha 4] with just over 300 exceed 100 employees.[37]

Public sector (excluding government)

The Henri Duffaut hospital, the City of Avignon, and the CHS of Montfavet are the largest employers in the town with about 2,000 employees each. Then comes the General Council of Vaucluse with about 1,300 employees.[37]

Employment

In 2017 the unemployment rate was 26.0% while it was 20.7% in 2007.[38] There are 38,731 people in the Avignon workforce: 102 (0.3%) agricultural workers, 2,194 (5.7%) tradesmen, shopkeepers, and business managers, 5,598 (14.5%) managers and intellectuals, 8,486 (21.9%) middle managers, 11,734 (30.3%) employees, and 9,247 (23.9%) workers.[38]

Transport

Roads

Avignon is close to two highways:

  • the A7 autoroute (E714) is a north–south axis on which there are two exits:  23  Avignon-Nord (Northern districts of Avignon, Le Pontet, Carpentras) and  24  Avignon-Sud (Southern districts of Avignon, Avignon-Caumont Airport);
  • the A9 autoroute (E15) which branches from the A7 near Orange along a north-east south-west axis towards Spain.

The main roads are:

  • Route nationale N100 which goes west to Remoulins
  • The D225 which goes north towards Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue
  • The D62 which goes north-east to Vedène
  • The D28 which goes east to Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon
  • The D901 which goes south-east to Morières-lès-Avignon
  • Route nationale N570 which goes south to Rognonas

The city has nine paid parking buildings with a total of 7,100 parking spaces, parking buildings under surveillance with a capacity for 2,050 cars with a free shuttle to the city centre, as well as five other free parking areas with a capacity of 900 cars.[39]

Railways

Avignon is served by two railway stations: the historic train station built in 1860, the Gare d'Avignon-Centre, located just outside the city walls, which can accommodate any type of train and, since 2001, the Gare d'Avignon TGV in the "Courtine" district south of the city, on the LGV Méditerranée line. Since December 2013 the two stations have been connected by a link line – the Virgule. The Montfavet district, which was formerly a separate commune, also has a station.[40]

Airports

The Avignon - Caumont Airport on the south-eastern commune border has several international routes to England. The major airport in the region with domestic and international scheduled passenger service is the Marseille Provence Airport.

Water transport

A Water taxi departing from its berth

The Rhône has for many centuries been an important means of transportation for the city. River traffic in Avignon has two commercial ports, docking stations for boat cruises, and various riverfront developments. A free shuttle boat has been established between the quay near the city walls and the opposite bank (the île de la Barthelasse).

A vélopop cycle station next to the city walls

Public transport

The Transports en Commun de la Région d'Avignon, also known by the acronym TCRA, is the public transport operator for the commune of Avignon and its surrounding suburbs. TCRA operates bus services, as well as bike sharing and car pooling services. The first tram line opened in October 2019.[41][42]

Bicycles

Avignon has 110 km (68 mi) of bicycle paths.[29] In 2009 the TCRA introduced a bicycle sharing system called the Vélopop'.[43]

Cultural heritage

Avignon has a very large number of sites and buildings (177) that are registered as historical monuments.[44]

Rue de la République, the city's central boulevard

In the part of the city within the walls the buildings are old but in most areas they have been restored or reconstructed (such as the post office and the Lycée Frédéric Mistral).[45] The buildings along the main street, Rue de la République, date from the Second Empire (1852–70) with Haussmann façades and amenities around Place de l'Horloge (the central square), the neoclassical city hall, and the theatre district.

Statues gaze over the Place de l'Horloge in the town centre
Paintings on the façades of buildings in the town centre

Listed below are the major sites of interest with those sites registered as historical monuments indicated:

  • Notre Dame des Doms (12th century),[46] the cathedral is a Romanesque building, mainly built during the 12th century; the most prominent feature of the cathedral is the 19th century gilded statue of the Virgin which surmounts the western tower. The mausoleum of Pope John XXII (1334), within the cathedral, is a noteworthy example of 14th-century Gothic carving.[47]
  • Palais des Papes ("Papal Palace") (14th century)[48] almost dwarfs the cathedral. The palace is an impressive monument and sits within a square of the same name. The palace was begun in 1316 by John XXII and continued by succeeding popes through the 14th century, until 1370 when it was finished.
  • Minor churches of the town include, among others, three churches which were built in the Gothic architectural style:
    • Church of Saint-Pierre (14th century)[49] which has a graceful façade and richly carved doors;
    • Church of Saint-Didier (14th century);[50] and
    • Church of Saint-Agricol (14th century).[51]
  • Other religious buildings:
    • Church of Saint-Symphorien (14th century, former Carmelite monastery church).[52]
    • Church of Montfavet (14th century).[53]
    • Chapel of the Oratory.[54]
    • Chapel of the White penitents (16th century).[55]
    • Chapel of the Grey penitents (18th century).[56]
    • Chapel of the Black penitents.[57]
    • Synagogue (19th century).[58]
  • Civic buildings are represented most notably by:
    • the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) (1846),[59] a relatively modern building with a bell tower from the 14th century,
    • the old Hôtel des Monnaies,[60] the papal mint which was built in 1610 and became a music-school.
    • Hospital Sainte-Marthe.[61]
    • Hotel of Saint-Priest (Hotel de Monery, 18th century).[62]
    • House of King René (15th century).[63]
  • The city walls,[64] built by the popes in the 14th century and still encircle Avignon. They are one of the finest examples of medieval fortification in existence. The walls are of great strength and are surmounted by machicolated battlements flanked at intervals by 39 massive towers and pierced by several gateways, three of which date from the 14th century. The walls were restored under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
  • Bridges include:
    • The Pont Saint-Bénézet, better known as the Pont d'Avignon and for the French song Sur le pont d'Avignon. Only four of the twenty one piers are left and the bridge ends mid-channel. On one of the piers stands the small Romanesque chapel of Saint-Bénézet.[65]
    • The Pont Édouard Daladier and the Pont de Royaume, which together span both channels of the Rhone leading to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, thus replacing the Pont Saint-Bénézet
    • The Pont de l'Europe, which provides a second road crossing over the Rhone.
    • Two railway bridges over the Rhone, one carrying the conventional Paris–Marseille line and the other the LGV Méditerranée line
  • Calvet Museum, so named after Esprit Calvet, a physician who in 1810 left his collections to the town. It has a large collection of paintings, metalwork and other objects. The library has over 140,000 volumes.[66]
  • The town has a Statue of Jean Althen, who migrated from Persia and in 1765 introduced the culture of the madder plant, which long formed the staple—and is still an important tool—of the local cloth trade in the area.
  • Musée du Petit Palais (opened 1976) at the end of the square overlooked by the Palais des Papes, has an exceptional collection of Renaissance paintings of the Avignon school as well as from Italy, which reunites many "primitives" from the collection of Giampietro Campana.
  • The Hotel d'Europe, one of the oldest hotels in France, in business since 1799.
  • The Collection Lambert, houses contemporary art exhibitions
  • The Musée Angladon exhibits the paintings of a private collector who created the museum
  • Musée Lapidaire, with collections of archaeological and medieval sculptures from the Fondation Calvet in the old chapel of the Jesuit College.
  • Musée Louis-Vouland
  • Musée Requien
  • Palais du Roure[67]
  • Les Halles is a large indoor market that offers fresh produce, meats, and fish along with a variety of other goods.
  • The Place Pie is a small square near Place de l'Horloge where you can partake in an afternoon coffee on the outdoor terraces or enjoy a night on the town later in the evening as the square fills with young people.
  • Note: the name of Pablo Picasso's 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon) is misleading; Picasso's models for this painting were in fact not women of the city of Avignon, but rather of the Carrer d'Avinyó (Avignon Street) in Barcelona.

The commune houses more than 500 historical objects, many of which religious.[68]

Culture

Avignon Festival

A theatre festival is held annually in Avignon. Founded in 1947, the Avignon Festival comprises traditional theatrical events as well as other art forms such as dance, music, and cinema, making use of the town's historical monuments. Every summer approximately 100,000 people attend the festival.[69] There are really two festivals that take place: the more formal "Festival In", which presents plays inside the Palace of the Popes and the more bohemian "Festival Off", which is known for its presentation of largely undiscovered plays and street performances.

Avignon festival was founded by Jean Vilar. This cultural initiative brought, year after year, a major economic boost to the city and to the region of Provence. Indeed, the tourists visiting Avignon during the month of July usually take benefit of their presence to go to the smaller villages around, to discover the local food, local wines, touristic activities, learn some French.

International Congress Centre

The centre was created in 1976 within the premises of the Palace of the Popes and hosts many events throughout the entire year. The Congress Centre, designed for conventions, seminars, and meetings for 10 to 550 persons, now occupies two wings of the Popes' Palace.[70]

"Sur le Pont d'Avignon"

View over the Rhône looking northeast, with the Pont Saint-Bénézet or "Pont d'Avignon" at left

Avignon is commemorated by the French song, "Sur le Pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge of Avignon"), which describes folk dancing. The song dates from the mid-19th century when Adolphe Adam included it in the Opéra comique Le Sourd ou l'Auberge Pleine which was first performed in Paris in 1853. The opera was an adaptation of the 1790 comedy by Desforges.[71]

The bridge of the song is the Pont Saint-Bénézet over the Rhône of which only four arches (out of the initial 22) now remain. A bridge across the Rhone was built between 1171 and 1185, with a length of some 900 m (2950 ft), but was destroyed during the siege of Avignon by Louis VIII of France in 1226. It was rebuilt but suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be continually repaired. Several arches were already missing (and spanned by wooden sections) before the remainder was abandoned in 1669.[72]

Sport

Sporting Olympique Avignon is the local rugby league football team. During the 20th century it produced a number of French international representative players.

AC Arles-Avignon was a professional association football team. They competed in Ligue 2, after a season 2010–2011 competing in Ligue 1 and being relegated back down the following season and ultimately folding in 2016. They played at the Parc des Sports, which has a capacity of just over 17,000.

Education

The schools within the commune of Avignon are administered by the Académie d'Aix-Marseille. There are 26 state nursery schools (Écoles maternelles) for children up to 6, and 32 state primary schools (Écoles élémentaires) up to 11. There are also 4 private schools.[73]

University of Avignon

Entrance to the main university building. This 18th century portico was once the entrance to the Hôpital Sainte-Marthe.

University before the Revolution

The medieval University of Avignon, formed from the existing schools of the city, was formally constituted in 1303 by Boniface VIII in a Papal Bull. Boniface VIII and King Charles II of Naples were the first great protectors and benefactors to the university. The Law department was the most important department covering both civil and ecclesiastical law. The law department existed nearly exclusively for some time after the university's formation and remained its most important department throughout its existence.[74]

In 1413 Pope John XXIII founded the university's department of theology, which for quite some time had only a few students. It was not until the 16th and 17th centuries that the school developed a department of medicine. The bishop of Avignon was chancellor of the university from 1303 to 1475. After 1475 the bishop became an archbishop but remained chancellor of the university. The papal vice-legate, generally a bishop, represented the civil power (in this case the pope) and was chiefly a judicial officer who ranked higher than the Primicerius (Rector).[74]

The Primicerius was elected by the Doctors of Law. In 1503 the Doctors of Law had 4 Theologians and in 1784 two Doctors of Medicine added to their ranks. Since the Pope was the spiritual head and, after 1348, the temporal ruler of Avignon, he was able to have a great deal of influence in all university affairs. In 1413 John XXIII granted the university extensive special privileges, such as university jurisdiction and tax exempt status. Political, geographical, and educational circumstances in the latter part of the university's existence caused it to seek favour from Paris rather than Rome for protection. During the chaos of the French Revolution the university started to gradually disappear and, in 1792, the university was abandoned and closed.[74]

Modern university

A university annex of the Faculté des Sciences d'Aix-Marseille was opened in Avignon in 1963. Over the next 20 years various changes were made to the provision of tertiary education in the town until finally in 1984 the Université d'Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse was created. This was nearly 200 years after the demise of the original Avignon university.[75] The main campus lies to the east of the city centre within the city walls. The university occupies the 18th century buildings of the Hôpital Sainte-Marthe. The main building has an elegant façade with a central portico. The right hand side was designed by Jean-Baptiste Franque and built between 1743 and 1745. Franque was assisted by his son François in the design of the portico. The hospital moved out in the 1980s and, after major works, the building opened for students in 1997.[76][77] In 2009–2010 there were 7,125 students registered at the university.[78]

Notable people

  • Jean Alesi, Formula 1 & DTM driver, born in Avignon, 1964
  • Giuliano Alesi, Formula 2 driver, born in Avignon, 1999
  • Vincent Almendros, writer, winner of the 2015 prix Françoise Sagan, born in Avignon, 1978
  • Daniel Arsand, writer and publisher, born in Avignon, 1950
  • Trophime Bigot, French painter, died in Avignon, 1650.[79]
  • Keith Floyd, celebrity chef lived in Avignon in later life
  • Henri Bosco, writer, born in Avignon, 1888.[80]
  • Pierre Boulle, author of The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes, born in Avignon, 1912
  • Cédric Carrasso, footballer, born in Avignon, 1981
  • Yahel Chirinian, artist, born in Avignon, 1970
  • Pierre-Louis Chovet, racing driver, 2002
  • Charles Dumazer, hip-hop producer, professionally known as C-Sick, born in Avignon, 1991
  • Marianne-Agnès Falques, writer, born in Avignon, 1720
  • Famine, black metal musician, 1982
  • René Girard, historian, literary critic, philosopher, and author, born in Avignon, 1923
  • Albert Guille operatic tenor, born in Avignon, 1854
  • Bernard Kouchner, politician, born in Avignon, 1936
  • Jean-Claude Malgoire, musician, born in Avignon in 1940
  • Mireille Mathieu, singer, born in Avignon, 1946
  • René Mey, spiritual leader
  • Olivier Messiaen, composer, born in Avignon, 1908
  • John Stuart Mill, liberal philosopher, died at Avignon in 1873 and is buried in the cemetery.[81]
  • Benoît Paire, tennis player.
  • Pierre-Esprit Radisson, fur trader and explorer, born in Avignon, 1636 or 1640
  • Alexandre de Rhodes (1591–1664), Jesuit missionary, born in Avignon.[82]
  • Dorothea von Rodde-Schlözer, artist and scholar, died in Avignon in 1825
  • Michel Trinquier, painter, born in Avignon, 1930
  • Joseph Vernet, painter, born in Avignon, 1714.[83]

See also

  • Avenir Club Avignonnais, a French association football team
  • Battle of Avignon (737)
  • Councils of Avignon, councils of the Roman Catholic Church

Notes

  1. Provençal tradition says that the first two were the mistral and the Parliament of Aix
  2. The épicentre was at Lambesc – a village in Bouches-du-Rhône.
  3. This area has had the INRA Centre which carries out scientific research in engineering environmental management for cultivated land and forests since 1953.
  4. Cleaning company.

References

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  2. "Populations légales 2018". INSEE. 28 December 2020.
  3. Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.; Jones, Daniel (2011). Roach, Peter; Setter, Jane; Esling, John (eds.). Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (18th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-15255-6.; "Avignon" (US) and "Avignon". Oxford Dictionaries UK Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
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  5. Dauzat & Rostaing 1963, p. 1689.
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  7. Xavier de Fourvière & Rupert 1902, p. 62.
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  14. Floods on 2 December 2003, Institut national de l'audiovisuel video document (in French)
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  47. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM84000105 Tomb of Pope John XXII (in French)
  48. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00081941 Palais des Papes (in French)
  49. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00081834 Church of Saint-Pierre (in French)
  50. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00081832 Church of Saint-Didier (in French)
  51. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00081831 Church of Saint-Agricol (in French)
  52. Base Mérimée: Couvent des Carmes (ancien), Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  53. Base Mérimée: Église de Montfavet et tours de l'ancienne livrée, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  54. Base Mérimée: Chapelle de l'Oratoire, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  55. Base Mérimée: Ancienne église Notre-Dame la Principale dite aussi ancienne chapelle des Pénitents blancs, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  56. Base Mérimée: Chapelle des Pénitents-Gris, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  57. Base Mérimée: Chapelle des Pénitents Noirs de la Miséricorde, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  58. Base Mérimée: Synagogue, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  59. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00081880 Hôtel de Ville (in French)
  60. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00081864 Hôtel des Monnaies (in French)
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  63. Base Mérimée: Immeuble dit maison du roi René, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  64. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00081943 Ramparts (in French)
  65. Vella et al. 2013.
  66. Vingtain & Aujard-Catot 2001, pp. 84–87.
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Sources


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