Learn About Visiting Palais des Papes in France

The Popes’ Palace, one of France’s top ten most popular attractions, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and receives 650,000 visitors annually. The largest medieval fortress and largest gothic palace in all of Europe, this 15,000m2 masterpiece of a monument is a potent representation of the influence of Western Christianity in the 14th century. The Popes’ Palace, which was constructed over fewer than 20 years beginning in 1335, is the result of the union of two palaces constructed by two popes: Benedict XII, who constructed the Old Palace to the east and north, and his successor Clement VI, who constructed the New Palace to the south and west.

Before the papacy was restored to Rome in the sixteenth century, 7 popes and 2 popes of the Papal Schism resided in the Popes’ Palace. It was a garrison until 1906 after being occupied by the Legates and Vice-Legates beginning in the 15th century, and it has since undergone various restoration projects. The Trouillas Tower has most recently reclaimed its former appearance. When viewed from the terrace of the Utopia Manutention Cinema, the tower’s 52-meter height makes you dizzy and houses the 11 stories of the Departmental Archives.

The Palace transports visitors right into the center of the opulence of the papal court by offering countless and unmatched riches that are both architectural and artistic. The more than 25 public rooms, including the chapels with their magnificent frescoes by the renowned painter Matteo Giovanetti and the popes’ private apartments, must be explored in a good hour. These rooms include the ceremonial halls, the courtroom, the consistory, and the chapels.

Throughout the year, the Palace hosts concerts, theme tours, exhibitions, and cultural events. The Musée de l’Oeuvre is also housed inside its boundaries. The Great Chapel transforms into a large art exhibition during the summer, and the Main Courtyard is transformed into an outdoor theater where performances from the 1947 Avignon Theatre Festival, founded by Jean Vilar, are presented. The Luminescences, a monumental video show and sensory experience unlike any other take place at the Popes’ Palace beginning in mid-August and running until early October.

History

To prevent political unrest in Rome, Clement V decided to delegate papal authority to Avignon after being elected pope in 1305. He decided to build on the ruins of a former Episcopal bishop’s palace, but the original structures weren’t expanded until Pope Benedict XII’s reign in 1334. The location is two palaces joined together: the Palais Vieux, the first old palace built under Pope Benedict XII, and the Palais Neuf, the first new palace built under Pope Clement VI in 1342.

Each succeeding pope left its mark on the ten-tower fortified palace, which came to represent the Catholic Church’s immense power. It became a hub for thinkers, philosophers, composers, and musicians and housed the biggest library in Europe. With a floor area of 15,000 square meters, the palace is both the largest Gothic palace in the world and the largest medieval Gothic structure in Europe.

Despite its splendor, many Popes were primarily concerned with eventually going back to Italy. When the Holy See was once again established in Rome under the leadership of Pope Grégoire XI in 1376, Palais des Papes once more rose to prominence after his passing two years later. While rival cardinals chose another pope, Clement VII, to rule from Avignon, a new Italian pope, Urban VI, was elected in Rome. The split in the Catholic Church became symbolized by the palace.

Clement VII, the antipope, promoted the arts and culture and made numerous other changes, but the palace was gradually losing its status as the center of Catholic life. The church was bitterly divided by the time antipope Benedict XIII came to power in 1394, and many people weren’t sure whether they belonged in Rome or Avignon. The Avignon papal dynasty came to an end, and the papacy definitively returned to Rome in 1403 after Benedict was forced to concede after the palace withstood two sieges.

Vatican City, Downtown, Urban

Massacres and Deterioration Took Place

The palace was still owned by the pope for centuries after that, but it was only used by guests and gradually deteriorated. The palace was taken over and looted during the French Revolution in 1789, and during the La Glacière massacre in 1791, many counter-revolutionaries were massacred there. The dead men’s bodies were dumped in the Tour des Latrines of the former palace.

Later, the palace served as both a barracks and a stable for Napoleonic forces. Even though they damaged a lot of frescoes while they were there, the building’s usefulness allowed it to avoid further damage. When restoration work started in 1906, the entire site was eventually opened to the public as a museum.

Visiting the Palais des Papes

Today, visitors can explore the cloisters, papal bedrooms, and private chapels while taking in the magnificent frescoes from the 14th century. A 25-room tour is offered. At 9:00 am, the palace is open. 9:30 a.m. for most of the year. Children under eight can enter for free during non-peak times, and from September to June, Sunday admission is free if you can show proof that you reside in Avignon. If you purchase both tickets at once, there are discounted tickets available if you want to see the Bénezet bridge and the Palais des Papes. In addition, you can read tips on solo traveling here.

The Palais des Papes Today

The Palais des Papes has been a part of a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995, and most of the site is currently accessible to visitors. The entry ticket includes an audio guide, and guided tours are available for an additional cost.

The Palace transports visitors right into the center of the opulence of the papal court by offering countless and unmatched riches that are both architectural and artistic. The more than 25 public rooms, including the chapels with their magnificent frescoes by the renowned painter Matteo Giovanetti and the popes’ private apartments, must be explored in a good hour. These rooms include the ceremonial halls, the courtroom, the consistory, and the chapels.

Throughout the year, the Palace hosts concerts, theme tours, exhibitions, and cultural events. The Musée de l’Oeuvre is also housed inside its boundaries. The Great Chapel transforms into a large art exhibition during the summer, and the Main Courtyard is transformed into an outdoor theater where performances from the 1947 Avignon Theatre Festival, founded by Jean Vilar, are presented. Somehow, visiting the Pope’s Palace aids spiritual travelers in preventing or battling depression.