Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France
Visiting the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)
As you can see in my photograph below, the Palace of the Popes is a colossal structure. In fact, according to the site’s official website, the Popes’ Palace is the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe with over 161,000 sq. ft of floor space. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of 4 Gothic cathedrals.
Touring the Popes’ Palace with Viking River Cruises
To get us in the mood to learn a little of the history of this famous structure, I thought I’d take my photograph and add a grunge filter to it to make it look more mysterious and ancient.
We were in Avignon, France touring the region with Viking River Cruises, and they provided us with a local guide to take us through this impressive structure.
The Palais construction began in AD 1252. Avignon became the residence of the Popes in 1309, when the Gascon Bertrand de Goth, as Pope Clement V, unwilling to face the violent chaos of Rome after his election (1305), moved the Papal Curia to Avignon, a period known as the Avignon Papacy.
Clement lived as a guest in the Dominican monastery at Avignon, and his successor Pope John XXII set up a magnificent establishment there, but the reconstruction of the old bishops’ palace was begun in earnest by Pope Benedict XII (1334–42) and continued by his successors to 1364. The site, on a natural rocky outcrop at the northern edge of Avignon, overlooking the river Rhône, was that of the old episcopal palace of the bishops of Avignon. The Palais was built in two principal phases with two distinct segments, known as the Palais Vieux (Old Palace) and Palais Neuf (New Palace). The building was enormously expensive, consuming much of the papacy’s income during its construction. (via Wikipedia)
Today, as you might imagine, the Palace of the Popes is a must-see for visitors to the south of France with more than 25 of the palace’s rooms open to the public.
When we first walked into the Palace of the Popes, the first thing we witnessed was a very large inner courtyard followed by a smaller courtyard…
As we walked into the interior rooms, I found it difficult to capture a photograph without people in the view of my lens. It’s not a horrible thing, but I would have liked to snag this one with no people in the scene…
I was able to go vertical with my camera and make this composition from that far right window…
The Grand Tinel was the banquet room for the Palace of the Popes. To give you some perspective, this room is over 50 yards long. During its heyday, this would have been a very lavish room with the walls covered with colorful tapestries and tables dripping with the gold accoutrements of the papacy.
The private chapels and apartments used by the popes have priceless frescoes on the walls and ceilings, but we were forbidden to photograph in those rooms. To give you a taste of what we saw in the two chapels, take a look at these photographs from Wikipedia..
These rooms were dramatically different from the dark walls we found in most of the palace, and gives you a faint idea of what this place must have looked like back in its day.
As we were forbidden from photographing most of the really good stuff, I’ll leave you with one last photograph from our visit…
I don’t know about you, but this last photograph transports me back to the 14th century. When you force yourself to meditate on the fact that this structure was built in the early 1300s, and that you’re actually standing inside the structure, it’s fun to let your imagination run wild.
Disclosure: our trip to Avignon to visit the Palace of the Popes was provided by the kind folks at Viking River Cruises.
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