If somebody mentions Avignon, probably the first image that comes to mind is the famous painting by Picasso that is considered to be the founding stone of modern art, but Avignon is much more evocative than the work of the great cubist master. Far from the influence of the painter from Malaga, Avignon evokes the France that we all have in mind: the France of purple and red tones that the smell of lavender and the limestone give it, the taste of cured cheeses washed down with a good wine, and the murmur of a river cutting endless fields and flanking cities full of history. This is why a train travel to Avignon is a journey that will be enjoyed with the five senses, as it is the heart ofa region that leaves no one indifferent.
Avignon: a history of monarchs and popes
To understand the historical importance and the romantic beauty that surrounds the city of Avignon, we just have to mention that it has been the Pope’s headquarters and a Royal residence: two institutions that stand out for their exquisite taste in establishing their centers of power and, and it’s easy to understand why they chose Avignon: it is nestled in a beautiful hill next to the Rhone and surrounded by Provencal fields.Avignon is like a crossroad where it is compulsory to stop and, as the great medieval powers did, to think about staying to live in it.
It seems that the kings of the House of Anjou, rulers of the kingdom of Sicily, loved the city that was the source of the maximum power of the Catholic religion during the years that preceded the Schism of the West, the brewing grounds that challenged the power of the Vatican and the Catholic government was fragmented into three venues: San Pedro, Peñíscola and Avignon. All this allowed the French city to inherit gems such as the Papal palace, a building capable of overshadowing the cathedral itself because of the magnificent silhouette that embellishes the city.
The Avignon that inspired Picasso
Although it is believed that this French city began the Cubist phase of Picasso, this idea is erroneous since the origin of the carefree young people who lead the picture is not the Provencal city, but the street of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona of the same name, where at the time were the most famous brothels of the Catalan capital.
Does this mean that Avignon, the city, did not mean anything to the master of the brush? Absolutely not. Picasso was a well-known admirer of the south of France, and either by chance, or by poetic justice towards the city that named one of his most remarkable pictures, spent long periods (around the decade of the 70) in Provence, choosing the city as the site of one of its greatest exhibitions and the most remembered.
What to see and what to do in Avignon
Far from the great influence of the popes and Picasso, Avignon still has much to deploy to the visitor who wants to unveils its charms: from itsmedieval reminiscences, expressed in its bridge that stands over the Rhone, but it doesn’t reach the other shore (only four arches of its original 22 remain), to the splendor that the religious phase gave it, the Petit Palais and the Romanesque cathedral. All of this is UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition, Avignon celebrates an important theater festival each summer and is a land of excellent wines, being a crossroad between Spain, France and Italy, in whose surroundings we find famous locations such as Montpelier, Nimes, Arles or Aix-en-Provence.