Visit to the Pont and the Palaise du Papes.
May 2, 2015
|Sat. May 2nd.
What a beautiful day we woke to. Off to catch our ferry, then our first stop St. Benezet Bridge (Pont St. Benezet).
Built between 1171 and 1185, it was the only bridge across the mighty Rhone in the Middle Ages. Merchants pilgrims and armies depended on it. It was damaged several times by floods and rebuilt until 1668 when most of it was knocked down by a disastrous icy flood. For over a century there was no bridge. While only 4 arches survive today the original bridge had 22 arches and was 3000 feet long. How impressive. Today’s technology and many fields of research have allowed a mock up illustration of what it must have looked like. Fascinating!!
The audio guide and I-pad were a very useful tool in re-creating the period of 1100, 1300, and comparing it with 2015.
A famous French Nursery Rhyme was inspired by this “Pont”.
Sur le pont D’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse, sur le pont d’Avignon, on ye danse tous en rond, (On the bridge of Avignon we will dance, we will dance, on the bridge of Avignon, we will dance all in a circle.) Historians have reflected that no one danced on the bridge but rather under it, so sou instead of sur.
Their research involved in recreating this bridge is quite interesting. Check out the web site.
Fortunately we had picked up our Avignon Passion Pass (Thank you Rick Steves) and bought our tickets for the Benezet Bridge and the Popes palace beforehand. When we approached our next site the Palace of the Popes, the line up for entry was like a popular Disney ride. While Bill stood in line I approached the entrance and asked if this was the line up to purchase tickets or to enter. She said, “Do you have ticket” I motioned for Bill to come and present them to her and voila, she took us to a different entrance with no line. We picked up our audio guides and proceeded to number one.
What can I say about this incredible building. I was filled with wonder at the majesty of its size and its architecture. I must have been quite something when furnished.
A little history;
In 1309 a French pope was elected (Pope Clement V) At the urging of the French King, His Holiness decided that dangerous Italy was no place for a pope, so he moved the whole operation to Avignon for a secure rule under a supportive king. Popes resided there until 1403. Meanwhile, back in Italy, the Italians were demanding a Roman Pope so from 1378 on there were twin popes – one in Rome and one in Avignon. This situation wasn’t resolved until 1478. Talk about politics, we learned from the best. Interestingly, the Vatican never accepted what it called the “Babylonian Captivity’ and had a bad attitude about Avignon long after the pope’s office was back in Rome. There hasn’t been a French pope since.
I will let the pictures show the grandeur of this structure or by all means visit the web site @ www.palais-des-papes.com for more interesting history and probably better pictures.
Once again we returned by ferry to our camper car exhausted. How much history can one absorb in a day!
On the ferry I talked to 4 British women who were on vacation with a friend who has a home in the area. They quite often fly down for a week end to visit. Only an hour flight from London.
Once we were refreshed we went down the lane to share some wine with Susan and Jeff. We laughed a lot about our experiences and somehow got onto BBC shows. It turned out they enjoyed all the shows we loved and laughed some more. It was fun connecting with people.