AVIGNON, ā´´vî´´nyēn´: The capital of the department of Vaucluse, southern
France, situated on the Rhone, about 400 m. s.s.e. of Paris, and 50 m. n.n.w. of
Marseilles. It became the papal residence in 1309, at which time it was under the
rule of the kings of Sicily (the house of Anjou); in 1348 Pope Clement VI bought
it from Queen Joanna I of Sicily for 80,000 gold gulden, and it remained a papal
possession till 1791, when, during the disorders of the French Revolution, it was
incorporated with France. Seven popes resided there,—Clement V, John XXII, Benedict
XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, and Gregory XI; and during this period (1309-77;
the so-called Babylonian Captivity of the popes) it was a gay and corrupt city.
The antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII continued to reside there, the former
during his entire pontificate (1378-94), the latter until 1408, when he fled to
Aragon. Avignon was the seat of a bishop as early as the year 70, and became an
archbishopric in 1476. Several synods of minor importance were held there, and its
university, founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 and famed as a seat of legal studies,
flourished until the French Revolution. The walls built by the popes in the years
immediately succeeding the acquisition of Avignon as papal territory are well preserved.
The papal palace, a lofty Gothic building, with walls 17-18 feet thick, built 1335-64,
long used as a barrack, is now to be turned into a museum.