Click on title to view photo in large format. Palace of the Popes, here viewed from Pont d’Avignon Saint-Benezet in Avignon, France. During the 14th and 15th centuries, seven Popes and two schismatic popes took refuge in Avignon. Fleeing political unrest in Rome, Clement V was the first to arrive in 1305. He requested the hospitality of the Earl of Provence, who owned Avignon at the time.
Initially, the Popes stayed in properties owned by the church. However in 1335, Benedict XII decided that the papacy should be housed in a palace that was an appropriate symbol of the power of Christianity. Under his leadership, and that of his successor Clement VI, the Palace of the Popes was completed in less than 20 years. Today it is still the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe.
The bridge from which this photo was taken originally spanned the Rhone River, providing an easy route for pilgrims and merchants on their way to Italy and Spain. Over the centuries, repeated flooding damaged the bridge. Today only a portion remains, dead-ending in the center of the river.