Avignon, France

Residence of the popes from 1309 to 1317, city in southeastern France, founded by the Romans as Avenio, 48 B.C., and given by the Count of Toulouse to Pope Gregory IX in 1228. It became independent in 1239, and thereafter fell to the Kingdom of Naples. Pope Clement V established the papacy here in 1309 and was succeeded by Pope John XXII, Pope Benedict XII, and Pope Clement VI, but it was not until 1348 that the latter pope became the temporal ruler of Avignon and the surrounding district, called the Comtat (county) Venaissin, which he bought from the House of Naples for 80,000 gold florins. He was succeeded by Innocent VI, Blessed Urban V, and Gregory XI, who returned to Rome in 1377. The anti-popes Robert of Geneva and Pedro de Luna resided at Avignon from 1379 to 1411. Thereafter, Avignon was governed by a papal legate, later by the Congregation of Avignon, domiciled in Rome. Whenever differences arose between the popes and France, the latter occupied Avignon; it was finally annexed by the Revolutionists, 1791. There were Church councils here in 1080, 1209, and 1457. The university was founded by Pope Boniface VIII, 1303, and suppressed by the French, 1792. The first known Bishop of Avignon is Nectarius, fifth century; it became an archbishopric, 1475. The 11th-century Romanesque cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms (Our Lady of the Bishops’ Rock) contains the papal throne and fine Gothic tombs of John XXII and Benedict XII. The Palace of the Popes is a 14th-century Gothic stronghold with lofty square towers; after having been used as military barracks, it is now the repository of the municipal archives.