Avignon became the official residence under Pope Clement V in 1309. His successor, John XXII, made it the capital of Christianity and transformed his former episcopal palace into the primary Palace of the Popes. It was the official residence of seven popes from 1309 to 1377. Nowadays, 25 rooms are open to the public and although most of the furnishings have disappeared, one can still see how vast the place was.
Go to Place de l’Horloge to have a cool drink at a café and watch the world go by. This is a very beautiful square and is the centre of life in Avignon. On one side is the theatre and the Town Hall. The Town Hall itself was built in 1845 and incorporates a beautiful 14th century clock tower with life-sized figures on top.
The Musee du Petit Palais is an art gallery and museum. It houses an exceptional collection of Renaissance paintings of the Avignon school as well as art from Italy and is in a 14th century building at the north side of the square.
Another place well worth a visit is the Rocher des Doms. These are beautiful leafy gardens set on a hill, with views of the river and surrounding countryside.
For those interested in art, a visit to the Musee Angladon is not to be missed. This museum contains paintings and furniture and it is enjoyable to wander around if you have the time.
Or those interested in natural history, don’t miss a visit to the Musee Requien which is named after the French naturalist, Esprit Requien.
The Jewish community in Avignon goes back as far as the first century after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. However, there aren’t any written records of Jewish culture and history before the 12th century. The first Jewish quarter faced the Palais des Papes on Rue de la Vielle Juiverie. By the early 13th century, the Jewish quarter was on Rue Jacob and Place Jerusalem. Today, this is where the shul is located. It is a tiny area, about 100 square yards and it was home to more than 1000 people. It was forbidden by law for Jews to live outside the designated area, which was surrounded by walls. They had to have permission to leave this site for religious tours in France and three locked gates kept them from leaving.