In the 14th century, this city in the South of France was the seat of the papacy. The Palais des Papes, an austere-looking fortress lavishly decorated by Simone Martini and Matteo Giovanetti, dominates the city, the surrounding ramparts and the remains of a 12th-century bridge over the Rhone. Beneath this outstanding example of Gothic architecture, the Petit Palais and the Romanesque Cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Doms complete an exceptional group of monuments that testify to the leading role played by Avignon in 14th-century Christian Europe.
Located on the banks on the Rhône River in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region, Avignon is known as the City of the Popes. Its historic centre, comprising the the Papal Palace, the Episcopal ensemble and the Avignon Bridge, is an outstanding example of medieval architecture. Resulting from an exceptional episode in history, which involved the seat of the Church leaving Rome for a century, it played a major role in the development and diffusion of a particular form of culture throughout a vast region of Europe, during a time of primordial importance in the establishment of sustainable relations between the papacy and the civil authorities.
The massive Papal Palace, “the most well-fortified house in the world” as described by the writer Froissart, forms with the city and the Rocher des Doms a homogeneous ensemble and outstanding landscape. Inside the Palace, the intricate painted decor of the 14th century reflects the brilliance of the papal court and its artistic ambitions.
It is one of the most magnificent edifices of Gothic architecture of the 14th century. To the north is the Palais Vieux (Old Palace) built in the reign of Benedict XII; to the south is the Palais Neuf (New Palace) built by his successor, Clement VI, which houses the papal chapel.
The most characteristic elements of the Palais Vieux are the vast Consistory Hall leading to the Chapel of St John, decorated by Giovannetti, and above it the Tinel, or Feast Hall, decorated by the same artist. Two towers rise to the north of this wing of the palace, including the Trouillas Tower (at a height of 52 m), one of the highest medieval towers. The palace also houses the private papal apartments. The day room of Clement VI, the Stag Room, is decorated with very important frescoes representing rustic scenes. This room gives access to the Great Chapel of the Palais Neuf; its heavy vault is braced by a massive flying buttress that spans the neighbouring street. The west wing of the Palace, known as the Wing of the Great Dignitaries, is occupied by the Grande Audience (Great Audience Chamber) or Hall of Justice.
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame des Doms, lying to the north of the Papal Palace, dates from 1150. The Gothic chapels were added between the 14th and 17th centuries: the apse was demolished and rebuilt in an enlarged form in 1671-72, work which resulted in the destruction of the medieval cloister.
The Petit Palais (Small Palace), begun in 1317, was originally the residence of the bishops of Avignon. It was later expanded during the 14th and 15th centuries.
At the foot of the north side of the Rocher des Doms, the ramparts, the Tour des Chiens (Dog Tower), Châtelet (Gatehouse) constitute the defences of the city.
Only four of the twenty-two original arches that comprised the Saint Bénézet Bridge have survived. The Chapel of St Nicolas, partly Romanesque and partly 15th century, occupies part of the second pier.
Criterion (i): The ensemble of the monuments of the Historic Centre of Avignon offers an outstanding example of ecclesiastical, administrative and military medieval architecture.
Criterion (ii): The Historic Centre of Avignon testifies to an important exchange of influences that radiated throughout a wide area of Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries, in particular in the field of art and architecture.
Criterion (iv): The Historic Centre of Avignon is an outstanding group of late medieval buildings associated with an important episode in the history of the Papacy.
Nîmes is a city with a population of around 137,000 in the département of Gard in the south of France. It has a stunning Roman temple whose pristine condition is unmatched by any extant ones in Rome. There are a few other fine Roman relics and Diana’s Palace. The main sights are all within comfortable walking distance of each other. See the three main Roman sites in Nîmes are the Maison Carrée, Magne Tower and the famous Amphitheatre. A combined ticket can be purchased for all three for €12 (€10 for children (7-17) or students), only €2 more than the single entry for the Amphitheatre. There is also a combined ticket which includes the Roman Theatre of nearby Orange. Other key sites include the Temple of Diane and the Nîmes Cathedral, both of which are free. Castellum. A former reservoir at the end of the 50 km aqueduct. Cathédrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor de Nîmes (Nîmes Cathedral) [read more].
Marseille is the second most populated city of France (and third urban area) the biggest Mediterranean port and the economic center of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. In 2013 the city (with its region) was the European Capital of Culture, a large series of cultural events took place, and several new infrastructures were inaugurated. Marseille has a complex history. It was founded by the Phoceans (from the Greek city of Phocea) in 600 B.C. and is one of the oldest cities in Europe. The town is a far cry from the Cézanne paintings and Provençal clichés of sleepy villages, “pétanque” players and Marcel Pagnol novels. With around one million inhabitants, Marseille is the second largest city in France in terms of population and the largest in terms of area. Its population is a real melting pot of different cultures. It is also said that there are more Comorian people in Marseille than in Comoros [read more]!
Lyon is the capital of the French administrative region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. A city of half a million, Lyon alone is the country’s third-largest city, but its metropolitan area is only second in population to Paris. Lyon is mostly known as the gastronomic epicentre of France, with one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per capita in the country. Lyon was a former Roman provincial capital and thus has extensive Roman ruins. Architecture in old Lyon ranges from 12th century to modern, and is primarily influenced by its position in the Renaissance as a centre of silk production. Founded by the Romans, with many preserved historical areas, Lyon is the archetype of the heritage city, as recognised by UNESCO. Lyon is a vibrant metropolis which starts to make the most out of its unique architectural, cultural and gastronomic heritage, its dynamic demographics and economy and its strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe [read more].