Things to do in Avignon – Visit the Palace of the Popes 

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Most visitors to Avignon will undoubtedly want to visit the Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes); it’s the main tourist attraction within the city walls.  

Exterior Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Built to serve as the palace of the Avignon Popes, this immense 14th-century Gothic structure (the largest of its kind) is comprised of two adjoining buildings – in essence a collection of towers – referred to as the ‘Old Palace’ and the ‘New Palace’, and along with several other sites in the ‘Historic Centre of Avignon’ is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The palace served for over six decades as the residence of the popes, and during the Western Schism as the palace of the ‘antipopes’. In later years, the complex housed the Vice-legates and served as a barracks for the French military.  

Owing its construction to several French popes, most notably Benedict XII, who built the “Old Palace” on the site of the former Bishop’s Palace, and Clement VI whose additions became known as the “New Palace”, the multi-level fortress features an austere exterior with high stone walls, numerous crenellated towers,

Window Palace of the Popes Avignon France

ornate windows,

Facade with Turrets Palace of the Popes Avignon France

and – above the main entrance – twin turrets, which were reconstructed in the early 20th century. 

Narrow Stairway Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Inside, you’ll walk along sloping passages, narrow stairways, through arched doorways and into the over 25 rooms open to visitors. Among them are:

Grand Tinel Hall Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Le Grand Tinel – this long narrow room, with barrel-vaulted ceiling and casement windows with stone bench seats, is the former banquet hall of the popes. 

Fireplace Palace of the Popes Avignon France

The far wall features a massive stone fireplace.

Consistory Palace of the Popes Avignon France

The Consistory – this former meeting hall where the Pope received official dignitaries was once decorated with paintings (they were destroyed by fire in the early 15th century) and features plain stone walls and houses displays of models and architectural elements, including a scale model of the palace and a set of wooden cupboard doors.

 Ceremonial Stairway Palace of the Popes Avignon France

The Escalier d’Honneur – this wide Italian-style processional or ceremonial stairway, restored in the 17th century, leads from the Courtyard of Honor to the Great Chapel;

Parement Chamber Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Camera Paramenti (Parement Chamber) – once decorated with tapestries, this room served as a private meeting room for the Pope and his cardinals and as a waiting area for visitors.  The room also served as a ceremonial room for newly nominated cardinals and those receiving the Golden Rose from the pope.

The Pope’s Tower consists of several floors, among them are:

Stone Column Lower Treasury Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Thesaurus Inferior – the ‘Lower Treasury’ room with round columns and vaulted ceilings is situated on the second floor of the tower.

Strongbox Lower Treasury Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Visible through glass panels and raised stone slabs in the floor are the built-in strongboxes once used for safekeeping of church archives and valuables;

Saint Martial Chapel – this small oratory takes its name from the stunning paintings covering the vaulted ceiling and walls. Created by Matteo Giovannetti in the mid-14th century, the paintings depict scenes from the life of Saint Martial.

North Sacristy Palace of the Popes Avignon France

North Sacristy – in addition to various stone effigies such as that of Louis II of Bourbon

Altarpiece Carrying of the Cross Palace of the Popes Avignon France

this room houses a carved altarpiece depicting the ‘Carrying of the Cross’,

Shield of Philippe of Alencon Palace of the Popes Avignon France

a relief of the Coat of Arms of Philippe d’Alençon ,

Replica Tomb of Gregory XI Palace of the Popes Avignon France

a replica of the tomb of Gregory XI, and remnants of the Pope’s Bridge constructed in the mid-14th century to allow Innocent VI direct access from his private apartment to the Great Chapel.

South Sacristy Palace of the Popes Avignon France

South Sacristy – also known as the Cardinals’ Vestibule, this chamber features a painting of the Coat of Arms of Pius X on the arch above the window;

Bust of Benedict XII Palace of the Popes Avignon France

a bust of Benedict XII on the side wall;

Effigies in South Sacristy Palace of the Popes Avignon France

and houses effigies of four popes (Clement V and VI, Innocent VI, and Urban V).

Great Chapel Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Grande Chapelle – this ‘Great Chapel’ dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul is the former site of papal coronations and funerals.Magna Porta Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Architectural features here include the sculpted portal known as the Magna Porta, rib-vaulted ceilings, and cathedral windows.

Papal Bedroom Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Papal Bedroom – the former private bedroom of the pope,

Tile Floor Palace of the Popes Avignon France

this chamber is beautifully decorated with a patchwork of multi-colored floor tiles and 14th-century murals depicting quatrefoils and nature-inspired motifs of oak tendrils, grape-vine scrolls, and animals.

Stag Room Fishing Scene Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Chambre du Cert – used by Pope Clement VI as a study, this chamber – also known as the Stag Room – is decorated with eye-catching 14th-century murals depicting hunting and fishing scenes.

Portraits of Popes Notary Room Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Chambre des Notaires – of particular interest here in the Notary Room, are the 19th-century portraits of the nine Avignon popes painted by Henri Serrur.

Courtyard Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Cloître Benoît XII – also known as the Court of the Old Palace, this cloister named for Pope Benedict XII is a serene green space enclosed by a double-arcade, the upper level of which is a blind-arcade.

Chimney Kitchen Tower Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Tour des Cuisines – the ‘new’ Kitchen Tower, an addition to the palace made during the reign of Clement VI, features an impressive cone-shaped chimney in the ceiling.

Additional architectural elements and noteworthy artifacts in the palace, include:

A display of decorative stone capitals from the cloister of the neighboring Cathedral (Notre Dame des Doms), some of which are embellished with carvings of masks;

Hospice Chapel Portal Palace of the Popes Avignon France

Portail de la Chapelle de l’Aumône Générale – this ornate stone portal was constructed for the 17th-century Chapel of the Hospice dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation and placed here following demolishing of the chapel in the late 19th century;

And an engraving of a stirrup on a pillar in an area once reserved for the cavalry. 

Getting there:

The Palace of the Popes is located in Place du Palais

Ticket info

Adult Admission (Palace only) = 11.00€ + optional audio guide surcharge

Adult Admission (Palace + St Bénezet Bridge) = 13.50€ + optional audio guide surcharge

Various discount options available, check museum website for details.

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