By the beginning of the 14th Century, Italy was wracked by wars between rival religious and political factions, rival merchant states, and rival factions within these factions and merchant states. The "Holy" "Roman" "Emperor" Heinrich VII invaded, but failed to take Rome. And amidst this violent turmoil, Giotto reinvented art and launched the southern Renaissance, while Dante and Petrarch reinvented poetry. And also amidst this turmoil, and with his papacy threatened, Pope Clement V, under pressure from the French King Philippe IV le Bel, moved the papal court to Avignon, which was not actually in France, but was in the Venaissan enclave granted to the papacy by its Angevin clients. The next seven popes would be French, but not all Catholic nations would accept them. The Catholic Church again would be torn by schisms.
(Photo intensive, after the jump...)
The 14th Century saw Europe torn apart and reinvented, and France was at the heart of it. The Black Death would kill perhaps eight million people, in France alone. Jews and lepers would be burned, on order of King Philip V. The Hundred Years War with England would rage. The Capetian dynasty would end. The Dukes of Burgundy, who controlled not only that modern French region, but also what are now the modern Benelux nations, sided with England, attempting to form a sort of middle kingdom between the war-ravaged France and Germany. Under their patronage, Claus Sluter would launch the northern Renaissance.
In the 1330s, Pope Benedict XII began the massive renovation of the Avignon ecclesiastical palace, tranforming it into the grand Palais des Papes. In 1377, St. Catherine of Siena convinced Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome, which soon led to yet more schisms within the Church, including the election of an alternate pope in Avignon.
The Palais des Papes
A collection of medieval catapult balls.
The interiors have been thoroughly ransacked and pillaged, but host exhibitions, and display some art.
Views from the ramparts.
The Gothic palace chapel.
The Romanesque cathedral Notre-Dame des Doms is right next to the palace, and was mostly built in the 12th Century.
Avignon's medieval city walls.
The 12th Century Pont Saint-Bénézet crumbled, through the centuries, and was largely destroyed in a 1668 flood.