My interest in Avignon was in relation to a collateral ancestor Bishop William Bateman of Norwich, who was a Bishop, a Lawyer and Papal Judge at the Rota in Avignon from 1345. He died in Avignon while on diplomatic business for Edward III, and was buried under the high altar of the Cathedral in 1355.
We bought tickets for the TGV, (Train a Grande Vitesse, Very Fast Train), from home. Because this train can travel at 300km per hour we were able to visit Avignon as a day trip from our hotel in Paris. The train departed from Gare de Lyon at 7:20am and arrived at Avignon TGV station at 10:02am. We had travelled through a very flat or slightly undulating terrain of fields, farms and small towns. At Avignon train station we quickly found the bus which took us the 3kms to just inside the southern walls of the medieval city through the Porte de la Republique.
Avignon was the home of the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church for around 73 years. (1305-1378). Though Avignon became French, initially it was part of the Papal States ruled by the kings of Sicily. The French influence became stronger as time progressed. Rome was going through a period of civil unrest and political turmoil at the time of the election of the first French Pope of this period. The Papacy had become increasingly political over centuries, both locally in Rome and also internationally. The French were in the ascendancy on the world stage and Philip the Fair conspired to usurp the power of the Papacy and to create a French Christian empire. Popes and Kings sought to lead the world in a new Crusade and were working against each other. The 'Outrage of Anagni' where Boniface VIII tried to excommunicate King Philip and where the Kings' troops unsuccessfully stormed the then Papal Palace at Anagni, shocked the world. Boniface's successor lasted only nine months and the Archbishop of Bordeaux was elected Pope after 11 months of fighting between pro-French and anti-French camps in the Conclave. Bertrand de Got (Clement V 1305-14) forged good relations with the French King and brought the Papacy to Avignon. He sought to unite the French and English to bring about a combined Crusade to the Holy Land. He was not a cardinal but a Bologna-trained lawyer with a distinguished diplomatic career and he revised and expanded canon law and strengthened ties with universities. He is also known for being the Pope responsible for dissolving the order of the Knights Templar. In this and other things he was led by the French King. With the Papacy being in Avignon under French influences, the feuds of the powerful Roman Papal families were broken and the centralised location worked well for church administration in Europe. But the increasing French influence in the church led to resentment in those countries such as England who were at war with France. After 6 French Popes and an anti-pope, the Papacy was returned to Rome.
We continued on foot along the Cours J. Jaures finding the tourist information bureau. They had a great pamphlet with a huge panoramic picture of the bridge, city ramparts, the cathedral and palace which was quickly souvenired. Had a quick bite to eat and carried on to the palace along the Rue de la Republique. The yearly arts festival was in full swing and the city was crowded despite record high temperatures. The Palace and Cathedral loomed as we entered the Place du Palais.