Avignon, France ~ Did you know there once were THREE Popes all at the same time?

Friday, July 31st ~ Avignon, France

Inside the Popes Palace, Avignon

Inside the Popes Palace, Avignon

I have really been enjoying our daily walking tours. Normally they run from 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Uniworld offers several options for their guests at most stops along the way. There is usually a regular walking tour, and then a “gentle” walking tour for those who would rather not walk as far, have mobility challenges, who want to avoid taking stairs or don’t want to walk over steep or rough terrain. 

The gentle option often includes taking a bus or other arranged transportation for part of the journey, but still allows participation. In some cases part of the itinerary is modified or eliminated. Today’s gentle tour removed seeing the inside of the Popes’ Palace, and a local minitrain was used to move throughout the town center.

Tim and I are doing just fine on the regular walking tours, thank you very much…

Avignon ~ For 67 years, Avignon was home to the Pope (Vatican City or Franco Vaticano).

Rampart walls that circle the old town of Avignon

Rampart walls that circle the old town of Avignon

The medieval city is encircled by a wall, known as the Ramparts which was originally built by the pope when the Vatican was moved to Avignon from Rome in the 1360’s.  They have since been rebuilt.

Artists have their work on display in hopes of making a sale

Artists have their work on display in the central plaza hoping to make a sale

Somethings are the same the world over

Somethings are the same the world over

Western Schism or Papal Schism or Great Schism are all names used to describe the time when great turmoil existed between the Western Churches answering to the See of Rome and the Orthodox Churches of the East.

Map shows division during the Western Schism

Map shows division during the Western Schism

The Avignon Papacy occurred during 1309 – 1377 due to a conflict between the Papacy and the French crown. During those years seven Popes resided in Avignon rather than Rome.

“Following the strife between Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII, and the death of his successor Benedict XI after only eight months in office, a deadlocked conclave finally elected Clement V, a Frenchman, as Pope in 1305. Clement declined to move to Rome, remaining in France, and in 1309 moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years.” ~ Wikipedia

Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace) ~ The Popes’ Palace is the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe.

Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace)

Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace)

Construction was started on the Palais des Papes in 1335 and completed in less than twenty years under the leadership of Benedict XII and his successor Clement VI.

The Palais is actually made up of two buildings: the old Palais of Benedict XII which sits on the impregnable rock of Doms, and the new Palais of Clement VI, the most extravagant of the Avignon popes.

Today the palace is primarily a tourist attraction with around 650,000 visitors a year, putting it in the top ten most visited attractions in France. Since 1995, the Palais des Papes has been classified, along with the historic center of Avignon, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Over 20 rooms, scenes of historic events, the pope’s private chambers and the frescoes painted by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti are open for daily tours.

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A little more history can be found here and here:

“Both Catherine of Siena and St. Bridget of Sweden are credited with persuading Pope Gregory XI to return the See to Rome. This he did on Jan. 17, 1377. But Gregory’s stay in Rome was plagued with hostilities, and he seriously considered returning to Avignon. Before he could make any move, however, he died in March, 1378. The Avignon Papacy had officially ended.

When Gregory XI moved the See back to Rome, he did so over the objections of the cardinals in France. The man elected to succeed him, Urban VI, was so hostile to the cardinals that 13 of them met to choose another pope, who, far from replacing Urban, could only stand in opposition to him. Thus began the Western Schism (a.k.a. the Great Schism), in which two popes and two papal curias existed simultaneously for another four decades.”  ~ History Medren.about.com

So now you know that there were simultaneously two Popes, one in Avignon and one in Rome. So where did the third Pope come in?

It was John XXIII who was elected in 1410-1415 and resided in Pisa. He opposed the Pope whom the Catholic Church now recognizes as the rightful successor of Saint Peter.

“He was one of the seven cardinals who, in May 1408, deserted Pope Gregory XII, and, with those following Antipope Benedict XIII from Avignon, convened the Council of Pisa, of which Cossa became the leader. The aim of the council was to end the schism; to this end they deposed Gregory XII and Benedict XIII and elected the new pope Alexander V in 1409.  Gregory and Benedict ignored this decision however, so that there were now three simultaneous claimants to the Papacy.” ~ Wikipedia

And there you have it. Three Popes all at the same time…

I had been battling an upper respiratory infection for a few days and it was starting to take a toll on me. Knowing that we would have two more days in Avignon on our own at the end of our cruise, I opted to have a relaxing afternoon on board our ship instead of doing more exploring.

Gratitude Moment: I am thankful that I am able to take the regular walking tours, but also appreciate that an option is offered so that all guests are able to experience seeing highlights at each stop on our cruise agenda.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ― Lao Tzu

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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9 Responses to Avignon, France ~ Did you know there once were THREE Popes all at the same time?

  1. Elene says:

    You must be getting extremely fit with those walking tours!


  2. Merrill says:

    Hi! Thanks for the history lessons on your blog. Makes me we to come to Avignon! Love the photo of the girls on their mobiles. I find it hard to snap people shots. I’m afraid they’ll object or make a scene.


    • I have gotten pretty brave smiling and asking people if it is OK to take their photo. Most of the time I get a positive response, but if not, I just put the camera down and move on. But there are also times when I just snap pictures on the fly from a distance, like the girls on their phones. I then crop the photo to make it an appropriate size.


  3. Great history lesson. I had no idea there was ever more than one Pope at once and I can’t say that I knew they were ever in Pisa or France. Thanks for the Monday morning history lesson!


  4. RuthsArc says:

    Thanks for another informative post with lovely photos. Walking tours are a good way to enjoy a new place and learn about it too. Much better than just a guide book.


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