New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
New Advent
Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > A > Avignon


Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...

Avignon, written in the form of Avennio in the ancient texts and inscriptions, takes its name from the House, or Clan, Avennius [d'Arbois de Jubainville, "Recherches sur l'origine de la propriété foncière et des noms des lieux habités en France" (Paris, 1890), 518]. Founded by the Cavari, who were of Celtic origin, it became the centre of an important Phocaean colony from Marseilles. Under the Roman occupation, it was one of the most flourishing cities of Gallia Narbonensis; later, and during the inroads of the barbarians, it belonged in turn to the Goths, the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths, and to the Frankish kings of Austrasia. In 736 it fell into the hands of the Saracens, who were driven out by Charles Martel. Boso having been proclaimed King of Provence, or of 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 fell heir to the Kingdom of Arles, Avignon passed to the empire. The German rulers, however, being at a distance, Avignon took advantage of their absence to set up as a republic with a consular form of government, between 1135 and 1146. In addition to the emperor, the Counts of Forcalquier, Toulouse and Provence exercised a purely nominal sway over the city; on two occasions, in 1125, and in 1251, the two latter divided their rights in regard to it, while the Count of Forcalquier resigned any that he possessed to the bishops and consuls in 1135. During the crusade against the Albigenses the citizens refused to open the gates of Avignon to Louis VIII and the legate, but capitulated after a three months' siege (10 June - 13 September, 1226) and were forced to pull down the ramparts and fill up the moat of their city. Philip the Fair, who had inherited from his father all the rights of Alphonse de Poitiers, last Count of Toulouse, made them over to Charles II, King of Naples and Count of Provence (1290); it was on the strength of this donation that Queen Joan sold the city to Clement VI for 80,000 florins (9 June, 1348).

Avignon, which at the beginning of the fourteenth century was a town of no great importance, underwent a wonderful development during the residence there of nine popes, Clement V to Benedict XIII, inclusively. 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, rose the Palace of the Popes, in the form of an imposing fortress made up of towers, linked one to another, 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, by its severe architecture, to the Gothic art of the South of France; other noble examples are to be seen in the churches of St. Didier, St. Peter, and St. Agricola, in the Clock Tower, and in the fortifications built between 1349 and 1368 for a distance of some three miles, and flanked by thirty-nine towers, all of which were erected or restored by popes, cardinals, and great dignitaries of the court. On the other hand, the execution of the frescoes which are on the interiors of the papal palace and of the churches of Avignon was entrusted almost exclusively to artists from Sienna.

The popes were followed to Avignon by agents (factores) of the great Italian banking-houses, who settled in the city. They acted as money-changers, as intermediaries between the Apostolic Chamber and its debtors, living in the most prosperous quarters of the city, which was known as the Exchange. A crowd of traders of all kinds brought to market the products necessary to the maintenance of a numerous court and of the visitors who flocked to it; grain and wine from Provence, from the south of France, the Roussillon, and the country around Lyons. Fish was brought from places as distant as Brittany; cloths, rich stuffs, and tapestries came from Bruges and Tournai. We need only glance at the account-books of the Apostolic Chamber, still kept in the Vatican archives, in order to judge of the trade of which Avignon became the centre. The university founded by Boniface VIII in 1303, had a good many students under the French popes, drawn thither by the generosity of the sovereign pontiffs, who rewarded them with books or with benefices.

After the restoration of the Holy See in Rome, the spiritual and temporal government of Avignon was entrusted to a legate, the cardinal-nephew, who was replaced, in his absence by a vice-legate. When, however, Innocent XII abolished nepotism, he did away with the office of legate, and handed over the government of the Pontifical States to the Congregation of Avignon (1692), which resided at Rome, with the Cardinal Secretary of State as prefect, and exercised 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 Loretto; in 1774 the vice-legate was made president, thus depriving it of almost all authority. It was done away with under Pius VI.

The Public Council, composed of 48 councillors chosen by the people, four members of the clergy, and four doctors of the university, met under the presidency of the viquier, or chief magistrate, nominated, for a year, by the legate or vice-legate. Their duty was to watch over the material and financial interests of the city; their resolutions, however, 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.

From the fifteenth century onward it became the policy of the Kings of France to unite Avignon to their kingdom. In 1476, Louis XI, annoyed that Giuliano della Rovere should have been made legate, rather than Charles of Bourbon, caused the city to be occupied, and did not withdraw his troops until after his favourite had been made a cardinal. In 1536 Francis I invaded the papal territory, in order to drive out Charles V, who held Provence. In return for the reception accorded him by the people of Avignon, Francis granted them the same privileges as those enjoyed by the French, that, especially, of being eligible to offices of state. Henry III made a fruitless attempt to exchange the Marquisate of Saluces for Avignon, but Gregory XIII would not agree to it (1583). In 1663, Louis XIV, in consequence of an attack, led by the Corsican Guard, on the attendants of the Duc de Créqui, his ambassador in Rome, seized Avignon, which was declared an integral part of the Kingdom of France by the Parliament of Provence. Nor was the sequestration raised until after Cardinal Chigi had made an apology (1664). Another attempt at occupation made in 1688, without success, was followed by a long period of peace, lasting till 1768.

Louis XV, dissatisfied at Clement XIII's action in regard to the Duke of Parma, caused the Papal States to be occupied from 1768 to 1774, and substituted French institutions for those in force. These met with the approval of the people of Avignon, and a French party grew up which, after the sanguinary massacres of La Glacière, carried all before it, and induced the Constituent Assembly to decree the union of Avignon and the Comtat (district) Venaissin with France (14 September, 1791). Article 5 of the Treaty of Tolentino (19 Feb., 1797) definitely sanctioned the annexation; it stated 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." Consalvi made an ineffectual protest at the Treaty of Vienna, in 1815; Avignon was not restored to the Holy See.

Archdiocese of Avignon

The Archdiocese of Avignon exercises jurisdiction over the territory embraced by the department of Vaucluse. Before the Revolution it had as suffragan sees, Carpentras, Vaison, and Cavaillon. By the Concordat of 1801 these three dioceses were united to Avignon, together with the Diocese of Apt, a suffragan of Aix. At the same time, however, Avignon was reduced to the rank of a bishopric and was made a suffragan see of Aix. The Archdiocese of Avignon was re-established in 1822, and received as suffragan sees the Diocese of Viviers (restored in 1822); Valence (formerly under Lyon); Nîmes (restored in 1822); and Montpellier (formerly under Toulouse). There is no evidence that Sts. Rufus, disciple of St. Paul (according to certain traditions the son of Simon the Cyrenean) and St. Justus, likewise held in high honour throughout the territory of Avignon, were venerated in antiquity as bishops of that see. The first bishop known to history is Nectarius, who took part in several councils about the middle of the fifth century. St. Agricol (Agricolus), bishop between 650 and 700, is the patron saint of Avignon. In 1475 Sixtus IV raised the Diocese of Avignon to the rank of an archbishopric, in favour of his nephew Giuliano della Rovere, who later became Pope Julius II. The memory of St. Eucherius still clings to three vast caves near the village of Beaumont, whither, it is said, the people of Lyons had to go in sea arch of him when they sought him to make him their archbishop. As Bishop of Cavaillon, Cardinal Philippe de Cabassoles, Seigneur of Vaucluse, was the great protector of Petrarch. (For Avignon and its religious architecture see AVIGNON, I. CITY.) At the close of 1905 the Archdiocese of Avignon had 236,949 inhabitants, 29 cures, or parishes of the first class; 144 parishes of the second class, and 47 vicariates.


DUHAMEL, Les origines du palais des papes (Tours, 1882); CHARPENNE, Histoire des réunions temporaires d'Avignon et du comtat Venaissin à la France (Paris, 1886); Histoire de la Révolution dans Avignon et le Comtat Venaissin et de leur réuniondéfinitive à la France (Paris, 1892); EHRLE, Historia Bibliothecae; Romanorum Pontificum (Rome 1890); FANTONI CASTRUCCI, Istoria della Città d'Avignone e del contado Venesino (Venice, 1678); MOLLAT, Jean XXII, fut il un avare?, in Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique (July 1904, and Jan., 1905); MOLLAT AND SAMARAN, La fiscalité pontificale en France au XIVe (Paris, 1905; MÜNTZ, Les Sources de l'histoire des arts dans la ville d'Avignon pendant le XIVe Siècle, in Bulletin Archéologique de la Commission des travaux historiques (1887). Gallia Christiana, Nova (1715), I, 793-870, 1329; Instrumenta, 137-147; DUCHESNE, Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule,I, 258-262; GRANGET, Histoire du diocèse d'Avignon (Avignon, 1862).

About this page

APA citation. Goyau, G., & Mollat, G. (1907). Avignon. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Goyau, Georges, and Guillaume Mollat. "Avignon." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Rev. Richard Giroux.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2023 by New Advent LLC. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.