Saturday, April 21, 2012

Easter Sunday - Avignon

Avignon was first recorded in Roman texts from the 1st century BC. Central Avignon still encloses in its medieval walls a very well preserved medieval town with endless impressively decorated buildings, ancient churches, chapels and convents. The first picture is the old city gate.  The second show repairs now underway to preserve the wall.

Avignon hosts the Palace of the Popes, almost a warlord's stronghold.  The building's heavy fortification reflects the violent nature of 14th century religious life.  Strife in Rome sent Clement V to Avignon in 1309 and the papacy remained there until 1377 with seven "official" popes reigning until 1377.  Since the furnishings and works of art were destroyed or looted following the French Revolution of 1789, the palace is empty of the luxurious trappings of 14th century court life.

To understand our US constitutional "separation of church and state" it really is helpful to study European history.  Of course "of" does not mean "from" which is where we seem to be heading.  What is that old saying?  Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

Because it was Easter, Ted and I chose to go to Mass in the cathedral next to the Pope's Palace and we missed the inside tour of the Palace.  It has only a few things inside and we were told we didn't miss much.  I just couldn't skip church on Easter once the opportunity presented itself.

Outside, along the Rhone River, are four of the original 22 arches of the Avignon Bridge, abandoned in 1660 after the constant struggle to keep it in good repair from the ravages of flooding.  It was 350 years old at that time, placing its construction around 1300. I'm not sure why I don't have a picture!

The balance of the city consists of many buildings and the ever present sidewalk cafes.

There are many carousels around France for the children. This one had a second level (note the lit up stairs), something none of us had seen before but we did encounter it again in our travels.

We happened upon this organ grinder and Ted could not resist the modern awnings displaying my name.

We left Avignon, heading to Viviers.  We traveled through 15 locks during our river cruise; however, we went through 66, crossing the European Continental Divide in 2006, so Ted took pictures at just this one of 33 feet.  We shared the lock with another boat which allowed Ted to capture the sense of where you are before the water comes into the lock, raising up both ships.

I've made more progress than I thought I would - 5 days down, 11 to go.  I hope I am imparting the sense of wonderment we enjoyed throughout our diagonal journey from the southeast corner of the French Riviera to the beaches of Normandy in the northwest.  Stay tuned.

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