The Palais des Papes, or the Papal Palace, is a historical palace located in the beautiful Place du Palais open square in Avignon, France, and it’s one of the most important Gothic architectural buildings in Europe. Its construction and use over the centuries is deeply tied to the history of the Papacy and the Catholic Church.
Here’s a brief overview of its history!
The Avignon Papacy (1309-1377)
The history of the Palais des Papes starts with the Avignon Papacy, a period when the Pope resided in Avignon rather than in Rome. The move was due to the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown, culminating with French Pope Clement V refusing to move to Rome and settling in Avignon in 1309.
Construction of the Palais des Papes (1335-1364)
The Palais des Papes was not built in one go. It consists of two buildings: the old palace of Pope Benedict XII, a sober, austere, fortress-like building, and the new palace of his successor Pope Clement VI, a more extravagant, lavish building. The construction of the Palais des Papes started in 1335 under Benedict XII and was continued by his successors, most notably Clement VI. The palace was largely completed by 1364.
Use and Expansion of the Palais des Papes (14th Century)
During the 14th century, the palace was continuously expanded and embellished by successive popes. It was the seat of the Western Christian world and was used for papal conclaves, diplomatic meetings, and lavish receptions. Its richly decorated rooms and extensive library attracted intellectuals and artists.
The Great Schism and After (1378-1791)
After the end of the Avignon Papacy in 1377 and the return to Rome, the palace continued to be a papal residence. During the Western Schism (1378-1417), antipopes resided in the palace. After the schism, the palace was used less and less by the popes.
In 1791, during the French Revolution, the palace was seized by revolutionaries and was repurposed as a barracks and later as a prison.
Preservation and Modern Use (20th Century – Present)
In the early 20th century, efforts were made to restore the palace. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the biggest gothic palaces in the world. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and is a significant cultural and tourist site.
Palais des Papes Tickets
Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon, France