The largest gothic palace in the world, the Papal Palace embodies the power of the church in Europe during the 14th century.
History of the Pope's Palace
Following a dispute between the King of France (Philippe IV, called Philip the Fair) and the Pope at the time (Boniface VIII), the Archbishop of Bordeaux, Bertrand de Got was elected in 1305 to the throne of Saint Pierre under the name of Clement V. He decided to settle in Avignon in 1309. However, he lived there only intermittently. John XXII, who succeeded him, had the palace adapted to the requirements and needs of the papal court. It was thereafter that the amazing history of the palace truly began.
The ancient building was completely destroyed. Built in the same location in 1335, the palace that exists today is mainly the work of two popes, Benedict XII and his successor Clement VI. Benedict XII is responsible for the achievement of an austere, vast and powerful fortress. His successor, considering the first palace unworthy of the majesty of a papal palace, had a second, adjacent one built, called the "New Palace", which had elegant and richly decorated Gothic facades. He entrusted the work and interior decoration to Matteo Giovanetti and his team. The exceptional frescoes are still well preserved. After Clement VI, three popes succeeded in these walls (Innocent VI, Urban V and Gregory XI), each adding personal touches to the palace. The last, Gregory, had no other desire than to restore the seat of the Papacy in Rome, which he did in 1376.
At his death in 1378, the Roman population organized violent demonstrations forcing the Cardinals to elect an Italian pope, Urban VI. A few months later, the French cardinals declared the election null and chose Robert of Geneva, who took the name Clement VII. And thus began the Great Schism : Christianity was divided into two denominations. During this period (1378 to 1417), the two unofficial popes lived in the Palace, Clement VII and Benedict XIII, who finally left Avignon in 1403.
After the departure of the popes, Avignon remained the property of the Holy See and the Palace was the residence of the Italian legates until incorporation of the city to the country of France in 1791. The Papal Palace served as barracks until 1906 before being returned to the city. It was then protected and restored throughout the 20th century.