Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Avignon

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

AVIGoSTON", the chief town of the department of Vaucluse in France, situated in a beautiful plain, on the left bank of the Ehone, not far from the entrance of the Durance. It is surrounded by its ancient crenellated walls, which are in a state of remarkable preservation, and, on the outside, by a line of pleasant boulevards planted with trees. A precipitous rock rises from the river s edge ; and from its summit the cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms, a building of the 12th century, looks down on the city, but is almost thrown into insignificance by the Palace of the Popes, which rises by its side, and

[ Map ]

stretches in sombre grandeur along the southern slope. This building, or congeries of buildings, was commenced by Benedict XII. in 1336, and continued by successive popes for sixty years. It covers an area of rather more than 1| acres. The paintings with which it was profusely adorned are in great measure destroyed, and even the grandeur of its dismantled interiors was for a long time broken in upon by the carpentry and plaster-work of French barracks. A restoration has, however, been for some time in progress ; and the building will again be appropriated for ecclesiastical and civic purposes. The churches of St Agricol, St Didier, and St Pierre may be mentioned as of some importance ; also the papal mint, now known as a music academy; the town-hall, built in 1862; the Calvet museum, rich in Roman remains ; the Requien museum of natural history; and the Hotel des Invalides. Of the church of the Cordeliers, in which Petrarch s Laura was buried, only a small part is standing, and the tomb itself has been entirely destroyed. The city is the seat of an archbishop, and has tribunals of primary jurisdiction and commerce, a royal college, a theological seminary, a society of arts, the Vaucluse academy, a public library, a theatre, &c. The chief object of industry is the preparation of silk and the manufacture of silk goods; there are also manufactures of paper, leather, hats, jewellery, iron-ware &c. Avignon is remarkably subject to violent winds, of which the most disastrous is the mistral ; and, according to the proverb, Avenio ventosa, sine vento venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa (windy Avignon, liable to plague when it has not the wind, and plagued with the wind when it has it). The town was a place of some importance in the times of Roman supremacy, and seems to have had some special connection with the Greek colony at Massilia. It was incorporated with the Burgundian kingdom, and on its dissolution became a free republic, after the Italian type. As late, indeed, as 1790, it retained its consuls, though its republican constitution was really destroyed by Charles of Anjou. From 1309, when Clement V. took up his abode in the city, to 1377, when Gregory XI. returned to Rome, Avignon was the seat of the papal court, and it continued from 1378 to 1418 to be the seat of French anti-popes. In 1348 it was purchased by Pope Clement VI. from Joanna of Sicily for the sum of 80,000 florins, and it remained in possession of the popes till the French Revolution. Popula tion in 1872, 38,196.