City, S France, capital of Vaucluse Department, on the Rhône R. It is
a wine-trade and manufacturing center, producing processed food,
leather, textiles, soaps, and chemicals. The University Center of
Avignon (1973) is here.
Places of interest within the lovely city include a huge 14th-century
palace that once served as a residence and fortress of the popes. The
beautiful Gothic Basilica of Saint Peter (14th cent.) and the
Cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms (12th cent.) are nearby, and just N
of the palace on rocky heights overlooking the Rhône R., are several
public gardens. Only a fragment of the bridge of Saint Bénézet (12th
cent.) remains, but the city still retains its massive 14th-century
ramparts, which were only slightly damaged during World War II.
From 1309 to 1377, the period often referred to as the Babylonian
captivity of the popes, Avignon served as the seat of the papal court,
and from 1378 to 1408 the city was the residence of several of the
antipopes. In 1475 it was made an archiepiscopal see, and it
subsequently became a flourishing commercial center. During this
period, even though Avignon was part of the Papal States and was
nominally ruled by legates, the citizens were in reality free to
govern themselves. The papacy lost the city, however, during the
French Revolution, when Avignon was incorporated by plebiscite into
France in 1791. Pop. (1990) 89,440.