Until 1999, near Saint Paul there was the 428 metres tall mast OMEGA Chabrier transmitter.
The site of Avignon was settled very early on; the rocky outcrop (le Rocher les Doms) at the north end of the town, overlooking the Rhône River, may have been the site of a Celtic oppidum or hill fort.
Avignon, written as Avennio or Avenio in the ancient texts and inscriptions, takes its name from the Avennius clan. Founded by the Gallic tribe of the Cavares or Cavari, it became the centre of an important Phocaean colony from Massilia (present Marseilles).
Under the Romans, Avenio was a flourishing city of Gallia Narbonensis, the first Transalpine province of the Roman Empire, but very little from this period remains (a few fragments of the forum near Rue Molière).
During the inroads of the Goths, it was badly damaged in the fifth century and belonged in turn to the Goths, the kingdoms of Burgundy and of Arles, in the 12th century. It fell into the hands of the Saracens and was destroyed in 737 by the Franks under Charles Martel for having sided with the Arabs against him. Boso having been proclaimed Burgundian King of Provence, or of Arelat (after its capital Arles), by the Synod of Mantaille, at the death of Louis the Stammerer (879), Avignon ceased to belong to the Frankish kings.
In 1033, when Conrad II inherited the Kingdom of Arelat, Avignon passed to the Holy Roman Empire. With the German rulers at a distance, Avignon set up as a republic with a consular form of government, between 1135 and 1146. In addition to the Emperor, the Counts of Forcalquier, of Toulouse and of Provence exercised a purely nominal sway over the city; on two occasions, in 1125 and in 1251, the Counts of Toulouse and Provence divided their rights in regard to it, while the Count of Forcalquier resigned any right he possessed to the local Bishops and Consuls in 1135.
At the end of the twelfth century, Avignon declared itself an independent republic, but independence was crushed in 1226 during the crusade against the Albigenses (the dualist Cathar heresy centred in neighboring Albi). After the citizens refused to open the gates of Avignon to King Louis VIII of France and the papal Legate, a three month siege ensued starting on 10 June 1226, and ending in capitulation by Avignon on 13 September 1226. Following the defeat, they were forced to pull down the ramparts and fill up the moat of the city.
On 7 May 1251 Avignon was made a common possession of counts Charles of Anjou and Alphonse de Poitiers, brothers of French king Saint Louis IX. On 25 August 1271, at the death of Alphonse de Poitiers, Avignon and the surrounding countship Comtat-Venaissin (which was governed by rectors since 1274) were united with the French crown.
Avignon and the Comtat did not become French until 1791. In 1274, the Comtat became a possession of the popes, with Avignon itself, self-governing, under the overlordship of the Angevin count of Provence (who was also king of "Sicily" [i.e., Naples]). The popes were allowed by the count of Provence (a papal vassal) to settle in Avignon in the early 14th century. The popes bought Avignon from the Angevin ruler for 80,000 florins in 1348. From then on until the French Revolution, Avignon and the Comtat were papal possessions, first under the schismatic popes of the Great Schism, then under the popes of Rome ruling via legates and vice-legates. The Black Death appeared at Avignon in 1348; killing almost two-thirds of the city's population.
Avignon and its popes
In 1309 the city, still part of the Kingdom of Arles, was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence, and from 9 March 1309 until 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome. This caused a schism in the Catholic Church. At the time, the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily of the house of Anjou. The French King Philip the Fair, who had inherited from his father all the rights of Alphonse de Poitiers (the last Count of Toulouse), made them over to Charles II, King of Naples and Count of Provence (1290). Nonetheless, Phillip was a shrewd ruler. Inasmuch as the eastern banks of the Rhone marked the edge of his kingdom, when the river flooded up into the city of Avignon, Phillip taxed the city since during periods of flood, the city technically lay within his domain.
Regardless, on the strength of the donation of Avignon, Queen Joanna I of Sicily, as countess of Provence, sold the city to Clement VI for 80,000 florins on 9 June 1348 and, though it was later the seat of more than one antipope, Avignon belonged to the Papacy until 1791, when, during the disorder of the French Revolution, it was reincorporated with France.
Seven popes resided there:
The walls that were built by the popes in the years immediately following the acquisition of Avignon as papal territory are well preserved. As they were not particularly strong fortifications, the Popes relied instead on the immensely strong fortifications of their palace, the "Palais des Papes". This immense Gothic building, with walls 17–18 feet thick, was built 1335–1364 on a natural spur of rock, rendering it all but impregnable to attack. After its capture following the French Revolution, it was used as a barracks and prison for many years but it is now a museum.
Avignon, which at the beginning of the 14th century was a town of no great importance, underwent extensive development during the time the seven Avignon popes and two anti-popes, Clement V to Benedict XIII made their residences there. To the north and south of the rock of the Doms, partly on the site of the Bishop's Palace, which had been enlarged by John XXII, was built the Palace of the Popes, in the form of an imposing fortress consisting of towers, linked to each other, and named as follows: De la Campane, de Trouillas, de la Glacière, de Saint-Jean, des Saints-Anges (Benedict XII), de la Gâche, de la Garde-Robe (Clement VI), de Saint-Laurent (Innocent VI). The Palace of the Popes belongs, in virtue of its severe architecture, to the Gothic art of the South of France. Other noble examples can be seen in the churches of St. Didier, St. Peter and St. Agricola, as well as the Clock Tower, and in the fortifications built between 1349 and 1368 for a distance of some three miles (5 km), and flanked by thirty-nine towers, all of which were erected or restored by the Roman Catholic Church. The frescoes that are painted on the interiors of the Palace of the Popes and the churches of Avignon were created primarily by artists from Siena.
During the Great Schism (1378–1415) the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII returned to reside at Avignon. Clement VII lived in Avignon during his entire anti-pontificate, while Benedict XIII only lived there until 1403 when he was forced to flee to Aragon.
After the departure of the popes
After the restoration of the Papacy in Rome, the spiritual and temporal government of Avignon was entrusted to a gubernatorial Legate, notably the Cardinal-nephew, who was replaced, in his absence, by a vice-legate (contrary to the legate usually a commoner, and not a cardinal). But Pope Innocent XII abolished nepotism and the office of Legate in Avignon on 7 February 1693, handing over its temporal government in 1692 to the Congregation of Avignon (i.e. a department of the papal Curia, residing at Rome), with the Cardinal Secretary of State as presiding prefect, and exercising its jurisdiction through the vice-legate. This congregation, to which appeals were made from the decisions of the vice-legate, was united to the Congregation of Loreto within the Roman Curia; in 1774 the vice-legate was made president, thus depriving it of almost all authority. It was done away with under Pius VI on 12 June 1790.
The Public Council, composed of forty-eight councillors chosen by the people, four members of the clergy and four doctors of the university, met under the presidency of the chief magistrate of the city, the viquier (Occitan) or vicar or representative of the papal Legate or Vice-legate, who annually nominated a man for the post. The councillors' duty was to watch over the material and financial interests of the city; but their resolutions were to be submitted to the vice-legate for approval before being put in force. Three consuls, chosen annually by the Council, had charge of the administration of the streets.
Avignon's survival as a papal enclave was, however, somewhat precarious, as the French crown maintained a large standing garrison at Villeneuve-lès-Avignon just across the river.
From the fifteenth century onward it became the policy of the Kings of France to rule Avignon as part of their kingdom. In 1476, Louis XI, upset that Charles of Bourbon was made legate, sent troops to occupy the city, until his demands that Giuliano della Rovere be made legate, once Giuliano della Rovere was made a cardinal he withdrew his troops from the city.
In 1536 king Francis I of France invaded the papal territory, in order to overthrow Emperor Charles V, who was emperor of the territory. When he entered the city the people received him very well, and in return for the reception the people were all granted to them the same privileges that French subjects enjoyed, such as being able to hold state offices.
In 1663 in retaliation for the attack led by the Corsican Guard on the attendants of the Duc de Créqui, the ambassador of Louis XIV in Rome, he attacked and seized Avignon, which at the time was considered an important and integral part of the French Kingdom by the provincial Parliament of Provence.
In 1688 yet another attempt was made to occupy Avignon, however the attempt failed, and from 1688 to 1768 Avignon was at peace with no occupations or wars during that time.
King Louis XV occupied the Comtat Venaissin from 1768 to 1774 and substituted French institutions for those in force with the approval of the people of Avignon; a French party grew up which, after the sanguinary massacres of La Glacière between the adherents of the Papacy and the Republicans (16–17 October 1791), carried all before it, and induced the Constituent Assembly to decree the union of Avignon and the Comtat (comital district) Venaissin with France on 14 September 1791. On 25 June 1793 Avignon and Comtat-Venaissin were integrated along with the former principality of Orange to form the present republican département Vaucluse.
Article 5 of the Treaty of Tolentino (19 February 1797) definitively sanctioned the annexation, stating that "The Pope renounces, purely and simply, all the rights to which he might lay claim over the city and territory of Avignon, and the Comtat Venaissin and its dependencies, and transfers and makes over the said rights to the French Republic." In 1801 the territory had 191,000 inhabitants.
On 30 May 1814, the French annexation was recognized by the Pope. Ercole Consalvi made an ineffectual protest at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 but Avignon was never restored to the Holy See. In 1815 Bonapartist Marshal Guillaume Marie Anne Brune was assassinated in the town by adherents of the royalist party during the White Terror.