AVIGNON

From whatever direction Avignon is approached, the dignity of its
battlements, the profusion of its belfries, and the towering majesty of
its remarkable palace, call forth the unstinted admiration of the most
surfeited sightseer. But it is from the river that the finest view of
the City of the Popes can be obtained.

The silent gliding waters of the winding Rhone flow in their fleet
course past many a noble town and castle, but in the whole of their long
voyage past none to compare with the glorious town of Avignon.

The richness of the surrounding fields and vineyards dotted with foliage
of varied shape and hue, the extensive plains, with many a rugged
promontory, are a fit setting for the stern and rigid palace that guards
the Papal town. From the eastern horizon the noble Alps look across the
great fertile plain to their distant neighbours the Cevennes. These two
mountain chains enclose the extensive valley of the Rhone, a valley
that has been inhabited in turn by Gauls, Greeks, and Romans, all of
whom have left their marks indelible upon its face. This valley has been
richly prized by those who set foot upon its soil. The mild climate, the
rare atmosphere, and clear blue sky of Provence, have combined to
produce populations profoundly appreciative of the joys and pleasures of
existence, who have each in their own way given expression to their
feelings and emotions in their arts and letters. The Romans sought
expression in their buildings, the Goths in rich and fanciful designs,
and the mingled race of Provençals in their songs and lays.

[Illustration: PAPAL PALACE FROM THE RIVER]

Here is a land that teems with the works of man’s imagination, met with
continually in the massed fortresses and embattled monasteries, the
Roman playgrounds and places of amusement, the peaceful cloisters and
places of worship.

Avignon, the Avenio of the Romans, was a Celtic city (the Sovereign of
the Waters) before its conquest by the great empire-makers of the
pre-Christian era; but its character was changed out of all recognition
by the mediæval inhabitants of the town. It is known to-day as the City
of the Popes, and its fame is inseparably connected with the seventy
years during which seven of the Popes had their residence within its
protecting walls. The “Babylonish Captivity,” as it was called by
Petrarch, which lasted from 1305 to 1375, made history not only for
Avignon but for the rest of Christendom.

[Illustration: M^{T} VENTOUX FROM CARPENTRAS]

The events which led up to the serious step of breaking the continuity
of the Papal residence at the Holy See of Rome are worth recalling.
During the latter part of the first millennium of the Christian era the
power of the Papacy had assumed alarming sway over the many small States
into which Europe had become divided after the fall of the Western Roman
Empire.

The Papal Empire that had arisen had inspired the world anew with the
ancient terror of the name of Rome. The occupant of St. Peter’s Chair
was the maker and unmaker of kings. From the beginning of the eleventh
century this power had been growing, to the great satisfaction of
Churchmen and the keen chagrin of the laity. The scheming ambition of
the Popes knew no bounds, and it culminated in the claim of Boniface
VIII. for the absolute supremacy of the Papacy over all temporal
authorities. It was just at the close of the thirteenth century that the
inevitable conflict came.

Two of the most powerful kings in Europe, Philip the Fair of France and
Edward the First of England, began at the same time to lay an arbitrary
hand upon the revenues of the Church. The English King resisted the
commands of the Pope, who was compelled to give way. Philip was not so
fortunate in his quarrel with Rome, which in the first year of the next
century came to a head. A legate sent by Boniface to Philip behaved
himself so insolently that the French Monarch placed him under arrest.
The Pope, enraged at the indignity offered to his representative, issued
a series of Bulls to the King and Clergy of France, in one of which he
set up the claim that the King of France was subject to Rome in temporal
as in spiritual affairs. This was the first time that such a contention
had been explicitly put forward in an official document, and Philip at
once replied by a rude letter, by publicly burning the Papal Bulls, and
by calling together the three great Orders of his Kingdom, the Nobles,
Commons, and Clergy. This was the first Convocation in France of the
States General, an assembly which four centuries later was to play so
important a part in the Great Revolution.

[Illustration: A TINY HOMESTEAD.]

Boniface strained the Papal Authority to the breaking-point, reached at
last when one of Philip’s nobles, joined with some of the discontented
Colonna in Italy, arrested the Pope himself when on a visit to his
native town, Anagni, a few miles out of Rome. Although the townsfolk
eventually came to the outraged Pope’s assistance and liberated him, the
indignity was more than the choleric Boniface could stand, and he died,
some say of temper, others of a broken heart. The reaction against the
Papacy had set in, and Benedict XI., successor to Boniface, was neither
willing nor able to continue the struggle. Anxious to reinstate the
Papacy in the good opinion of France, he rescinded the excommunication
of Philip and abandoned all pretensions to temporal power.

His occupancy of the pontifical chair was, however, of short duration.
His death brought about a new crisis, for the French and Italian
cardinals, met in conclave, could not agree; and for months the election
of the successor to the chair was delayed. Eventually the powerful
influence of Philip was successful in securing the election of a
Frenchman, Bertrand de Goth or d’Agoust, Archbishop of Bordeaux, whom he
compelled to assume the title of Clement V. and remove the court to
France.

[Illustration: A. FARMHOUSE. NEAR. AVIGNON.]

Provence about fifty years before this period had passed to Charles I.
of Anjou, who inherited the kingdom through his wife, a daughter of the
fourth Raymond Berenger. When their son Charles II. came into his
patrimony of Anjou and Provence, with Naples, he united them, and during
his reign great prosperity came to the kingdom. But upon his death, in
1305, a dispute arose amongst his son and grandsons, their rival claims
being argued at great length in Avignon before Clement V. who was the
feudal superior of the Neapolitan kingdom. His decision favoured Robert
the son of Charles II., who therefore succeeded to the throne, but
afterwards left a troubled inheritance to his granddaughter the
unfortunate Joan.

History is conflicting with regard to the character of this Princess,
and she has her partisans to-day, in the same way as Mary, Queen of
Scots, whose tragic story is very similar.

Joan, or Joanna, reared at Naples in the midst of every luxury and
refinement that the age could offer, was in her early years betrothed to
her cousin Andrew (a son of Carobert, King of Hungary), who, although
brought up along with his wife at the Neapolitan court, inherited the
rough tastes and barbarous manners of his native country.

Their union was the foundation of tragedy and civil war, for Andrew soon
grew imperious, and the princely couple drifted apart; the husband to
assert an independent right to the crown which he only held by virtue of
his wife. He was urging Pope Clement VI. to consent to his coronation
when he was assassinated, some say at the direct instigation of Joan
herself.

The rumours connecting the widow with the crime soon spread, and Louis
of Hungary, brother of the murdered man, invaded Naples to seek revenge.
Joan, who had taken to herself another husband, fled with him to
Provence to take shelter under the Papal See and to raise money and an
army for the protection of her kingdom.

The Pope, after a solemn investigation into the circumstances of the
murder, acquitted Joan of the charge. Taking advantage of her pressing
need, he bargained with her to sell Avignon to him for eighty thousand
crowns. This transaction did little credit to Clement, for although he
and his successors retained the town thus acquired, the money was never
paid–possibly, as is

[Illustration: AN OLD COURTYARD ORANGE.]

thought, on the ground that Joan was amply compensated by receiving the
Papal absolution for the murder of her husband. Certainly Clement would
have no scruples, for his Court was as licentious as it was magnificent.
Amidst its regal splendour gay and beautiful women played an important
part, the Pope himself not impervious to their influence. The Countess
of Turenne, suspected of being one of his mistresses, and as rapacious
as she was handsome, unblushingly sold positions and preferments
procured by her ascendancy.

Joan’s subsequent matrimonial career, although full of variety (she had
in all four husbands), was unproductive of issue; and her presumptive
heir, Charles, Duke of Durazzo, offended at her last venture in
matrimony, took forcible possession of Naples, and, to preclude all
opposition to his newly acquired sovereignty, the deposed Joan was by
his orders removed from his path by assassination.

Avignon was ancient and illustrious before the Popes descended upon it
and added a fresh and brilliant page to its already voluminous history.
Far back in pre-Roman times, and even before the coming of the
adventurous Phoceans, it is probable that some prehistoric Celts had
built a city on these same rocky foundations beside the silvery Rhone.
The Phoceans from Marseilles saw its possibilities, for under them it
became one of the richest cities in the Narbonne, and when, at their
invitation, the Romans overran the valley and drove out the barbarians
who threatened it and every other fertile spot in Europe, they added
further to the fame of Avignon.

Very few vestiges of the ancient Roman town remain to-day. Successive
ages quarried amongst the massive Roman constructions for material to
rebuild their town according to their altering needs. In the Rue des
Grottes, a narrow little street, two blocks away from the west front of
the Papal Palace, the cellars of the seventeenth-and eighteenth-century
houses are formed by the arcades of what must have been a vast Roman
building; and minute investigators of the town have fancied they could
trace the foundations of a theatre near to the Place St. Pierre. But
coins and fragments of marble mosaics, Greek and Latin inscriptions,
have been found in plenty all through the city, and are now housed and
guarded in the Calvet Museum, one of the chief attractions of the town.

That Avignon should be lacking in more important Roman monuments such as
are the pride of the neighbouring towns of Arles, Nîmes, Orange, and
others is quite easily accounted for. When one reads of the numerous
invasions and sieges which the city suffered at the hands of vast
barbarian hordes, who swept over the land like a devastating tornado
during the fourth century of our era, and of the perpetual internecine
strife that during the dark ages took place between Visigoths, Franks,
Burgundians, and Saracens, one no longer feels astonished at the absence
of Roman remains of any magnitude.

The true history of the Avignon of to-day starts in the twelfth century,
when, under circumstances of which the details are now obscured by the
mists of time, it became a republic with its own laws and privileges,
endowments and revenues, only restricted by the overlordship of its
Bishop.

The intermarriages of the feudal families, their numerous offspring, and
the frequent divisions and subdivisions of territories and estates led
to endless changes in the map of the southern counties of France. The
quarrels and disputes of the Counts of Toulouse, Provence, and
Forcalquier as to their rival rights of suzerainty over the town led to
the setting up of a republic in Avignon.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms, which at first glance might be
mistaken for a continuation of the great mass of buildings which
constitute the Palace of the Popes, is one of the earliest monuments or
buildings in the town. Standing on an elevated site, the summit of the
great Rock of the Doms, it was constructed early in the twelfth
century, and remains to-day a choice specimen of Romanesque
architecture. Like all the buildings in Provence, it has been carefully
studied and severely criticised, various and conflicting opinions have
been expressed about it, and different dates assigned to it. From the
apex of the small octagonal structure that surmounts the great square
tower of the Cathedral, a gigantic gilded figure of the Virgin looks
down upon the town and surrounding country.

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL AND PAPAL PALACE. AVIGNON]

It is, as the French writers would say, “in the taste of the eighteenth
century,” hideous and out of place, a blatant, gaudy anachronism that
vividly illustrates the truth of the old adage, “Tastes differ.”
Fragments of an old Latin inscription, removed from its porch and now in
the Calvet Museum, have been cited by some as giving a history of this
building. This stone document claims that the church was “founded by St.
Martha, consecrated by St. Ruf, enlarged by the first Christian Emperor
Constantine, destroyed by the Saracens, saved by Charles Martel, and
restored by the munificence of Charlemagne, and that Jesus Christ came
to consecrate it with His own hand.”

But this legend has been proved to be as unreliable as so many other
ecclesiastical traditions of mediæval times. The porch has also been the
subject of controversy. The pillars with their beautiful Corinthian
capitals are either the remains of some more ancient building, probably
a classic temple, or perhaps mediæval copies of the antique. Above the
door are the faded and damp-stained remains of a fresco of the
fourteenth century. The figures of God the Father and two supporting
angels can be made out, and bear strong traces of Byzantine mannerisms.
If they are, as has been suggested, the work of Simone Martini of Siena,
he displays in this work little of the genius of his great
contemporaries in art.

And here it must be said that Avignon is not so rich in early paintings
or frescoes of the first order as one would expect so mediæval a town to
be.

The church is lit entirely from the dome, and the light that streams
down from the eight windows above the choir is hardly sufficient to
penetrate into the five deep vaulted bays of the nave. The style of the
whole interior, for want of a better name, is called Romanesque, a style
of the transition period between the rigid simplicity of the Roman times
and the flowing ornamentation of the Middle Ages. Many of the most
cherished monuments of the Cathedral were desecrated, pillaged, and
destroyed during the Revolution, Spanish prisoners were lodged in it,
and generally it was about as badly used as any of the religious
buildings in Provence.

It, however, still retains the fine marble chair which is assumed to be
the ancient Papal throne, with the lion of St. Mark and the ox of St.
Luke carved in deep relief on either side of it.

In the small chapel to the right of the choir stands the lovely tomb of
Pope John XXII., an excellent piece of fourteenth-century pointed Gothic
work which suffered much mutilation during the Revolution, when it was
dislodged from its place and the statue of its occupant stolen together
with the statuettes that adorned the niches round its base. The tomb was
restored in the middle of the last century, and is now at rest in its
original position within the little chapel founded by John XXII.
himself. It is a work of great beauty, of slender spires and delicate
mouldings, of pillared niches with finely pierced canopies, of tapering
columns and richly crocketed and perforated gables: a monument all too
elegant for the mentally and physically deformed Pontiff to whose memory
it is erected.

John XXII. was a man of humblest origin, Jacques d’Euse by name, born in
1244 at Euse. Son of a shoemaker, he rose to the most elevated position
of his time; his talents, opportunities, and craftiness combining to
bring about his elevation to the Papal Chair. Superstitious and cruel,
he stooped to methods of revenge that match in diabolic ferocity the
most sanguinary reprisals of the buccaneers. One of his clergy, a
bishop, was by his command flayed alive and torn to pieces by wild
horses.

In his later years John got into sore trouble with the theological
authorities by promulgating the heretical doctrine “that the Saints at
death fell asleep and did not enjoy the beatific vision till after the
resurrection.” Whether this was a genuine conviction with him or no, he
was forced by the religious opinion of his contemporaries to make a
semblance of retracting it, but his monument seems to suggest that he
believed it was to be his only resting-place until the last great day.
His religious intolerance brought the Papacy into grave disrepute, but
his grasping avarice greatly benefited its treasury, for at his death it
was found that he had amassed for it eighteen millions of gold florins
in bullion and about seven millions in plate and jewels.

From the garden of the Rocher des Doms, which rises abruptly to a height
of three hundred feet above the river and looks across the island of
Barthelasse to the town of Villeneuve, there stretches far into the
distance a landscape which excites the imagination of the romantic poet,
delights the eye of the artist, and even moves the prosaic to express
themselves in superlatives.

The old bridge of St. Benezet, or, to be more exact, the three arches
that remain of it, is a distinguished relic of

[Illustration: PONT S^{T} BENEZET AVIGNON.]

the twelfth-century Avignon. It ends abruptly about two-thirds of the
distance across the left branch of the river, which at this point is
divided by the low-lying island of Barthelasse. Grey in colour,
desolate, for traffic has long ceased to clank and rattle over its
narrow causeway, this “fragment” gives a very good idea of what the
ancient bridge must have been when it extended completely over the two
channels of the river, and the island that divides them, right up to the
foot of the menacing square tower of Philip the Fair that guards the
opposite bank.

The silent flowing river with unruffled surface breaks into sound as it
rushes past these remaining piers. The gurgling swish of the hurrying
waters and the sparkling little ripples occasioned by the resistance of
the solid masonry, are the only breaks in the calm monotonous silence
with which the river makes its way down the great flat valley to the
sea. The ancient bridge is deserted, “all the world” no longer dances,
if ever it did attempt such a feat, upon the parapetless ten-foot way;
and the ancient rhyme–

“Sur le pont d’Avignon, tout le monde danse, danse,
Sur le pont d’Avignon, tout le monde danse en rond,”

would to-day be more applicable to the little white ripples that dance
and sparkle in the sunlight as they burst forth from under the venerable
archways. Fifteen other arches continued the bridge in days gone by, but
the townsfolk got tired at last of continually making good the damage
unceasingly inflicted by their enemies upon this highway, and since the
latter part of the eighteenth century it has remained the fragment that
one sees to-day.

[Illustration: PONT S^{T} BENEZET AVIGNON.]

The Bridge of Avignon when it completely spanned the Rhone was not
complete without its legend, a pretty little Provençal story that has
lasted until to-day. The simple folk of Avignon relate how a little
shepherd boy from Viverais, higher up the river, heard of the many
accidents which befell the inhabitants, who had no other means of
crossing the Rhone save by boats, accidents which resulted in great loss
of life. This little shepherd, highly favoured by the Saints, was, like
Joseph of old, a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions–dreams and
visions that roused and inspired him to go to the rescue of the hapless
folk whose lives were in peril every time they crossed the rapids of the
Rhone in their frail craft. Making his way on foot along the river bank
to Avignon, he presented himself to the Bishop of the town; told him of
his dreams and urged him to construct a bridge. Unfavourably received
both by the Bishop and the Provost, the former laughing at and the
latter chastising him, he demonstrated the inspired nature of his
mission by carrying to the river bank with his unaided hands a huge
boulder of rock to serve as the foundation-stone.

This miraculous act, together with his passionate pleading, roused the
townspeople, and without further delay the bridge was commenced. Poor
Benezet, dying before his life-work was completed in 1177, was canonised
by the grateful inhabitants, who have since done full justice to the
little shepherd boy to whom the town owed one of its most useful glories
and lasting treasures. A tiny chapel dedicated to St. Benezet stands
upon the first pier of the ancient bridge, and mass is still said there
every 14th of April, the Saint’s Day.

A lot of water has flowed under the arches of the bridge since the days
when brave knights in shining armour, proud priests in sumptuous robes,
poets, painters, soldiers, courtiers, and the thousand and one mortals
of commoner clay passed over the realised dream of the shepherd lad. It
has served its turn, and now belongs entirely to the bygone age of
chivalry and romance.

One of its contemporaries still exists near the Avignon of to-day–the
ruined church of St. Ruf that stands on the Tarascon road just outside
the city walls. It is all that is left of a twelfth-century monastery,
built by some canons of the Cathedral, who, on separating from their
brother clergy, retired to this spot, whither an ancient oratory, said
to have been founded by St. Ruf, attracted them. The Sanctuary and
tower, or belfry, are all that remain of the once extensive series of
buildings, but the carved capitals of the columns and fine bold apse
bear evidence that it was a church equal in beauty of workmanship to the
Cathedral itself.

[Illustration: RAMPARTS. AVIGNON.]

The buildings already mentioned are the oldest in Avignon, for the
ramparts that exist to-day replace the older ones which were destroyed
after the great siege in 1226. This siege was one of the last incidents
in a war which for wellnigh twenty years wrought devastation throughout
the southern provinces of France.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century there existed a sect known as
the Valdenses, or Albigenses, which had become so strong that Princes
and Nobles were embracing its tenets to the vexation of the Papacy. What
exactly were the beliefs of these heretics it is difficult to determine,
as the accounts handed down to us come from prejudiced sources.

There were those who alleged that the Albigenses professed a distorted
Christianity, grafted on to a degraded pagan mysticism, whilst others,
and amongst these were some of the persecutors, averred that nothing
could be more Christianlike than their behaviour or more blameless than
their lives. Claud, Archbishop of Turin, testifies that they were
“perfect, irreproachable, without reproach among men, addicting
themselves with all their might to the service of God.”

Whatever were their beliefs they held them strongly, and were prepared
to suffer for them even to the death; but more probably it was their
determined opposition to and contempt for the Papal Hierarchy that
brought down upon them its most bitter hatred and unrelenting
oppression. The sect was particularly strong in Languedoc, and from the
town of Albi in that province they took their name. The conflict of the
faiths at last reached such a pitch that the imperious Pope Innocent
III. found it necessary to take steps to preserve his spiritual
authority.

A crusade was proclaimed, and all Christendom was urged to take up arms
under the Pontifical banner for the suppression of the heretics. Raymond
VI., Count of Toulouse, an independent sovereign, who, whilst in no way
sharing their beliefs, was averse to joining Rome in a war upon his own
subjects, refused the Papal appeal for assistance, and was promptly
excommunicated. The awful Ban of the Church was pronounced upon him by a
Legate named Peter of Castelnau, and one of Raymond’s followers, in an
excess of loyalty, put an end with his sword to any such utterances from
the same source in the future. The assassination of his representative
thoroughly enraged the Pope, who issued a Bull imputing that Raymond
was influenced by the devil, and urging all the counts, barons, and
knights of Southern France to pursue his person and occupy and retain
his domains.

[Illustration: A. COUNTRYMAN.]

Thus was the cupidity of adventurous knights appealed to, and whilst the
legions of the Church ostensibly fought for the upholding of the faith,
Raymond of Toulouse was forced into the position of defending his
inheritance. Prompted by fear or contrition, or perchance a mixture of
both, Raymond underwent a most humiliating penance in his anxiety to
propitiate the enraged Innocent. Strong indeed must have been the motive
which induced so powerful a prince to submit to being stripped naked
from head to foot, save for a linen cloth round his waist for decency’s
sake, and being thus led nine times round the pretended Martyr’s grave
in the Church at St. Gilles, his naked shoulders chastised the while
with rods. The penance was accepted and Raymond was absolved, but his
possessions had already been divided amongst the crusaders, of whom
Simon de Montfort was Chief. The Comtat Venaissin was made over to the
Papal See, a transfer in which the inhabitants of the independent town
of Avignon who sided with Raymond did not concur.

Through endless sieges the fortunes of the contending factions
continually fluctuated. Simon de Montfort, now Count of Toulouse,
succeeded in obtaining the re-excommunication of Raymond; but the latter
never forsook the practices of the Holy Church, and with true humility
continued to perform his devotions at the doors of edifices whose
thresholds he was forbidden to cross. At the siege of Toulouse in 1216,
death put an end to the crusading career of de Montfort, but the
struggle went on as bitterly as ever. Every victory of the Papal forces
continued to be celebrated by a massacre of the vanquished.

Raymond VII., a more resolute and energetic man than his father,
ultimately regained the whole of Languedoc, and Amaury de Montfort
sought the protection of his ally Louis VIII. of France, to whom he
ceded the territorial rights acquired by his father. It was whilst on
his way to take possession of his new domain that Louis advanced with a
powerful army upon Avignon, demanding a passage through the town that he
might cross the Rhone by St. Benezet’s bridge. The inhabitants rightly
distrusted the wily pretext, and submitted to a siege rather than open
their gates. After a spirited defence of three months’ duration the town
surrendered, with the stipulation that only the Legate, Romain de St.
Ange, and the chief lords of the crusaders should come within its walls.

On the principle probably that faith need not be kept with heretics the
pledge was broken, and the invading army entered the town, put its
defenders to the sword, filled up its trenches, demolished its ramparts
and towers, and pulled down its strongholds. Moreover, the citizens of
Avignon were heavily fined for their adherence to a heresy which they
were solemnly sworn to abjure for the future; and, as if this were not
enough, they were further compelled to maintain an armed and equipped
body of thirty men in the Holy Land to assist in the recovery of the
sacred tomb from the Saracens.

When Clement V., coerced by Philip the Fair, removed the Papal See from
the Holy City and established his court in Avignon, he arrived in a town
as unlike the existing one as it is possible to imagine, and took up his
abode in the Monastery of the Dominican Friars. For Avignon was to him
merely a stop-gap, and he never relinquished the idea of reinstating the
Papal Chair in Rome.

His successor, John XXII., the shoemaker’s avaricious son, was not new
to Avignon, having been its bishop before his elevation. He at once
enlarged the small palace he had previously occupied; but this edifice
was completely swept away by the building operations of Benedict XII.,
who succeeded him. This Pope it was who erected the greater part of the
mass of buildings which to-day form the most conspicuous and enduring
feature of the town. To call it a palace was a misnomer; it was a
fortress, and one of the best examples of its period. It was a town
within a town, and its designers were not so much concerned with
creating a thing of beauty as in devising a refuge of irresistible
strength. And yet its great plain walls have a beauty all their own,
and the eye never tires of wandering over its various surfaces,
unexpected, irregular, and vast. Its plan follows the irregular shape of
the rock upon which it is founded, and was the work of succeeding Popes
and their architects.

[Illustration: PAPAL PALACE AVIGNON]

Of the seven exiled Popes, two, Benedict XII. and Clement VI., were most
ambitious builders, and we are only to-day beginning to discover the
true merit of the work carried out under their direction. For during the
whole of the nineteenth century the buildings were in the hands of the
military, who transformed and mutilated them in adapting them to their
requirements, and it is only recently that the walls with which they
blocked up doors, windows, and staircases have been removed, as also the
floors and partitions with which they divided the vast chapel and
audience chambers.

Most of the beautiful windows, specimens of early Gothic, which
originally gave character to the whole building and more particularly to
the courtyard into which they looked, disappeared when the place became
a barracks, and were replaced by ugly square openings, totally out of
keeping with the surrounding masonry.

The utilitarian engineer had but little regard for the architectural and
archæological amenities of this monument, and with ruthless hands
desecrated rich carvings and rare frescoes, timbered ceilings and
vaulted roofs; therefore a large expenditure of money, time, and skill
will be required to restore the Palace of the Popes to anything like its
former splendour.

The work of restoration is being carried out under the auspices of a
Government which is animated by a spirit very different from that of
many of its predecessors, and already the imposing audience hall and the
magnificent

[Illustration: ORANGE]

chapel above it have recovered much of their original appearance.

In the Tour Saint Jean are two chapels, one above the other, the upper
dedicated to Saint Martial, a bishop of Limoges, and the lower to the
Saint after whom the tower itself is named. These little chapels were
decorated in the time of Clement VI., about the year 1342.

In the ceiling of the chapel of Saint Martial the vaults are covered
with a series of pictures illustrating the life of the Saint. The colour
is in a brilliant state of preservation, the blues and warm browns being
contrasted so as to give a very rich yet soothing effect. The
irregularity of the designs, placed in an arbitrary fashion in the
spaces between the ribs, strikes one at first as being strangely
affected; but the figures are free and expressive in their action, some
of them being finished with a searching minuteness worthy of the Sienese
School at its best period. The ribs of the vault are decorated with most
beautiful Arabesque patterns, very suggestive of Byzantine mosaics.

In the lower chapel the ribwork is similar but not so elaborate in
detail, whilst the figures illustrating the life of St. John are on a
much larger scale. Unfortunately most of them are headless, a piece of
vandalism attributed to a Corsican regiment under the command of Colonel
Sebastiani, which was quartered in this part of the Palace. The
incentive was not mere wanton disfigurement of the paintings, for the
heads have all been neatly cut round, and most carefully removed, and
the assumption is, that the soldiers earned considerable pocket-money by
disposing of them to collectors. The Colonel has not been held blameless
in the matter, but probably overlooked the depredations of his men
because he enriched his own collection from the same source.

The frescoes in the Garde Robe, a chamber of considerable importance,
have recently been brought to light. The roof of the chamber is not
vaulted, but has heavy wooden beams resting upon stone corbels and
supporting the floor above. The walls of this interesting room are
completely covered with paintings of the fourteenth century by an
unknown artist. These have been restored, and one gets a very good idea
of the original state of the apartment. On a background of grass and
foliage figures in fourteenth-century costumes are depicted, engaged in
the pastimes of the period, hunting, fishing, falconry, and bathing. The
restoration of the

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF CHAPEL OF ST. BENEZET, AVIGNON.]

background has not been very happy, the chalky colour of the new work
being a little too conspicuous.

[Illustration: THE PALACE OF THE POPES]

The question of the restoration of ancient pictures, sculptures, and
buildings is rather a vexed one, but the advocates of the “let alone”
policy seem to overlook the fact that ultimately little would remain, as
only such massive monuments as the Pyramids can resist the ceaseless
ravages of time and the elements. The difficulty is to determine the
right moment to set about repairs which should be neither too long
delayed nor undertaken prematurely; but the process must be a perpetual
one if posterity is to retain the structures and works of earlier times.
The most zealous opponent of restoration could hardly take exception to
the work that has been carried out in the two most important parts of
the building–the great Audience Hall and the beautiful Chapel above it.
The extraordinary plan of placing these two lofty buildings one above
the other was a daring feat of building construction.

The internal structure of both hall and chapel is unexpectedly
beautiful, for the outside of this frowning fortress gives no indication
whatever of the delicate refinement of the roof vaulting, the clustered
pillars, the carved capitals and corbels that it contains. The Audience
Hall, or lower chamber, is divided into two naves by five clustered
pillars, from which the elegant ribs of the vaulted roof outspread
themselves.

This Hall, which was for half a century the chief tribunal of
Christendom, is about 150 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 34 feet high,
and is lit by eleven tall ogival windows, in graceful harmony with the
airy vaulting of the roof. At the top of the great staircase that
ascends from the entrance of the Audience Chamber there was recently
“unearthed,” or unwalled, the main doorway to the chapel above. This had
been built over so completely by the military that its presence was for
years unsuspected. It has suffered much damage, but what remains gives
indication of the rich beauty it once possessed. The Chapel has no
pillars, being one great nave, its vault springing from engaged
clustered columns, that run up the walls between the windows. The
capitals of these columns are the only carving in this vast airy hall.

The original builders, in the flights of their imagination after
spaciousness, gave so little heed to the constructional problems
involved in its achievement, that less inspired but more practical
successors found it imperative to prop the outside wall with a great
flying buttress which arches over a street running past the south side
of the building, and seems to form a portion of the main building.

On the vaults of the upper bay of the Audience Hall there are
fragmentary remains of the frescoes that were executed by some artist or
artists of the Sienese school. The records of a hundred years ago show
that the subjects which could be seen on the walls at that time were a
“Last Judgment,” “The Prophets,” and a “Crucifixion.”

The military gentlemen of the last century are again the culprits: they
could not see the merit or use of preserving such works, preferring to
see the dormitories of their men whitewashed, clean, and bare, as
befitted their occupation.

These few traces of early Italian artists, who were employed by the
wealthy court of the Papacy, are all that now remain of what was one of
the chief glories in the fourteenth century.

As one wanders through the courts, chambers, passages, prisons, and
chapels of the fortress palace, the historical associations they possess
fill the mind more than their present state. Page after page of history
is opened up at every turn, and the Past rises before us, with its
romance and war, cruelty and beauty, voluptuousness and spirituality,
joys and sorrows, ambitions and disappointments, all mixed together like
colours in a kaleidoscope.

The inscription that was found on the porch of the

[Illustration: THE SILVER BELL TOWER

PAPAL PALACE]

ancient Cathedral might well be paraphrased into one that could be
placed upon the Palace.

“Clement V. thought of it; John XXII. founded
it; Benedict XII. built it; Clement VI. enlarged
and enriched it; Innocent VI. added to its glory;
Urban V. chastened it; Gregory XI. abandoned
it; the Anti-pope, Pierre de Luna, defended and
jeopardised it; the Legates vandalised it; the
Brigands of Avignon desecrated it; the Military
transformed it out of all knowledge; and now a
thoughtful Republic is endeavouring to restore it
to its former state.”

Such an inscription would briefly set out the main facts of its long
history for the last six hundred years.

The worldly splendour of the Papal Court at Avignon, under the
Pontificates of Benedict XII. and Clement VI., was notorious throughout
Christendom, and when one reads of the indolent voluptuousness and
dissipations of the debauched clergy who surrounded the Papal throne,
one is quite prepared to learn that the grave scandals shocked even the
lax moralities of the period. It was in vain that the last three
occupants of St. Peter’s Chair in Avignon sought to suppress the
excessive pomp and luxury of their courts. Clement VI. had left behind
him a reputation for being “a fine gentleman, a prince munificent to
profusion, a patron of the arts, but no Saint,” and it is not difficult
to imagine that the example of one in such exalted station was well
calculated to encourage the wealthy churchmen to emulate his
dissipations.

Reformers and disciplinarians were bound to be unpopular with such a
society, and one cannot help feeling that when (urged by the
supplications of the Italians and the fanatical entreaties and vehement
persuasions of St. Catharine, who went in person to plead with the Holy
Father) the earnest Gregory XI. left Avignon, he did so with a feeling
of relief. At his departure, the licence of the clergy increased to such
an extent that Charles V., shocked at the scandals of the Church, could
endure them no longer, and sent soldiers under the command of Marshal
Boucicaut to drive the Anti-pope, Pierre de Luna (Benedict XIII.), from
the place. Pierre de Luna established himself in the Fortress Palace,
and defended it with determination. He destroyed one of the arches of
the Pont St. Benezet to cut off the approaches from the river; and from
the battlements and towers of his castle directed the engines of war
with his own hands on the town and townsfolk, who suffered so severely
that over a hundred houses and four thousand of the inhabitants were
destroyed during the siege.

[Illustration: FRONT ENTRANCE TO THE PAPAL PALACE]

After months of fighting the King’s troops stormed the fortress, and
Pierre de Luna saved himself by means of secret passages and staircases
leading to a vault from whence he got to the river side, and escaping
across the Rhone, sought refuge under the protection of the King of
Spain in his native country. Here, with two vicars, or priests, he kept
up the pretence of being still the Pope, and each day from the top of a
tower he blessed his distant friends and cursed his enemies. At his
death his two followers, both of whom he had made cardinals, met in
conclave, and one elected the other “Pope.” The farce of this schism was
ended by both of the exiled cardinals being bribed into reconciliation
to Rome; one being made Archbishop of Toledo, and the other Archbishop
of Seville.

It was during this siege that the fire broke out by which the Salle
Brulle got its name; but there is another story which attributes the
origin of this name to the brutality of one of the Papal Legates, when,
inviting a number of the leading citizens of the town to a great feast
in the chamber, he left them in the middle of the banquet and blew up
the happy party with gunpowder.

The reason for this “Gunpowder treason” was, that a near relative of the
Legate had been assassinated by some

[Illustration: A TYPE of AVIGNON.]

citizens for taking liberties with a young maiden of good family
belonging to the town. Whichever version is correct, the name has stuck
tenaciously to this chamber. There is another tragedy associated with
this Palace which is famous for evermore. The massacre, which took place
in the Glacière, or Ice Tower, one awful night in the middle of November
1791, at the outbreak of the Revolution, set a fiendish example to the
lawless brutality which, in 1793, expressed itself in a similar way in
the Abbaye Prison in Paris. Jourdain Coupetête, a fierce revolutionary,
had earned his nickname two years previously by decapitating the corpses
of the two Body-guards in the Marble Court of the Palace at Versailles,
at the “insurrection of women.” In June 1791 he was leading a body of
nearly 15,000 men, who called themselves the Brigands of Avignon.
Jourdain had dubbed himself “General,” and with his associates was the
terror of the Royalists.

L’Escuyer, one of the Patriot leaders, accompanied by the crowd, entered
the Church of the Cordeliers to hear Mass, or to mock at it. The
aristocratic Papists (the Church and Royalist faction) resented this,
and their hot southern blood being roused, the two parties came to
blows. In the mêlée L’Escuyer was killed, and this roused the Patriots
to demand an inquest. Impatient of delay, the Brigands under Jourdain
took possession of the Papal Palace, and there imprisoned some hundred
and thirty persons–men, women, and children–in the dungeons of the
Glacière Tower.

Then establishing themselves into a court-martial, with Jourdain as the
judge, these Brigands very quickly disposed of all the prisoners with
the naked sword–a most ghastly slaughter that makes the blood run cold.

When the troops under General Choisi came to the rescue, Jourdain could
not hold the castle, but was forced to take flight, escaping through the
secret passages as Pierre de Luna had done four hundred years
previously.

If Avignon were to be deprived of her grand Papal Palace, she would
still have enough churches and monasteries left to give evidence either
of the great popularity her church enjoyed, or of the power wielded in
the Middle Ages by the religious orders.

[Illustration: ST DIDIMUS AVIGNON.]

Churches and monasteries are scattered lavishly through the town, and
from the rich stores of relics still possessed by them, some slight idea
may be gleaned of the wealth they possessed before the terrible
Revolution. Everywhere the stranger goes the story is the same. Vergers
and guides tell of the past glories of this town: this stood here and
that there; here was a monument, there a shrine; but–they vanished in
the Revolution.

Terrible were these revolutionists of the South; they gathered their
harvests of rich plunder from the Church’s hand with as little concern
as a farmer gathers his corn, or as a beggar his rags. Nothing was
sacred from their vandal hands, and the tables were turned upon the
Church, which in the centuries long gone had taken its heavy toll from
all the country round.

What a grotesque picture the Revolution presents! Grim satire on the
vanity of riches, the pomp of ceremony and fleetingness of power, and
the emptiness of rank. Riches took wings, or rather were carried off on
donkeys’ backs to be melted down into coin and turned into bread for
hungry mouths. Ceremonies, even the most sacred, were mocked at, and
burlesque processions of ecclesiastical pageants excited the ribald
laughter of the crowd. The powerful were humbled to the dust, and rank
lost its head under the cruel slicing invention of Dr. Guillotin.

The Royalist faction in Avignon had always been associated with the
Order of the “White Penitents,” and in the same way the “Black
Penitents” had inherited the independence and rebellious spirit that
animated the followers of Count Raymond of Toulouse. These rival
factions, whose original opposition had been mainly religious, had now
become political, and on the fall of Napoleon at Waterloo their
differences became more accentuated and violent. The Royalists were in
the ascendancy, and they revenged themselves upon their political and
religious enemies with all the fanatical fervour of their Southern
nature.

The aristocratic and religious party had much to remember. The Glacière
massacres of 1791 were perpetrated upon their class, and as in 1795 the
Royalist libertines in Paris had indulged in ghastly reprisals against
the red-capped revolutionaries, the White Penitents followed in Avignon
the fashion set them by the capital. The enforced submission to the
restored Bourbon Dynasty in July 1815 aroused the bitterest resentment
of the Black Penitents and their followers, just as the restoration of
Napoleon had done their opponents earlier in March of the same year.

At Carpentras, about fifteen miles from Avignon, a small garrison of the
republicans, who had kept the tricolour floating until July 15, were
shot down by the Royalist Volunteers, although they had surrendered.
Fanatical crowds of Royalists directed their hatred and anger against
the Protestant section of the community.

[Illustration: STREET STEPS IN CARPENTRAS]

Vindictive murder and pillage spread all over the country towns and
villages. “The White Terror” of 1815 is a thing to remember, or rather
to forget. The diabolical outrages of Jourdain were equalled, if not
surpassed, by the White Penitent Pointu, the Avignon murderer, a leader
of a band as ferocious and bloodthirsty as himself. The military and
civil authorities were powerless to check the excesses of the fanatical
horde that rode roughshod over law and order, morality, decency, and
ordinary human feeling.

Marseilles, Nîmes, Uzès, Avignon, Arles, and Carpentras were all
involved in the White Terror, and one can hardly credit the details of
the cruel crimes committed. Among the victims to the insensate Royalists
was Marshal Brune, passing through on his way from Marseilles to Paris
to defend his conduct to the Government. On reaching Avignon he sought
out quarters in the Hôtel de la Poste. The news of his arrival had
spread along with sinister stories as to his doings during the
Revolution of 1789, and a great mob assembled around the hotel, broke in
and shot the Marshal in cold blood. His body was on its way to burial
when the crowd forced the bearers to change their course and proceed to
the river-side, where a wooden bridge spanned the river. From this they
threw the body of the Marshal into the silent Rhone. The ribald crowd
fired shots into the body as it floated down the

[Illustration: TYPES AT AVIGNON.]

stream, a proceeding which they termed “military honours.” On the arch
of the bridge they wrote “The Tomb of Marshal Brune.” The river,
however, refused the honour, and after twice being washed ashore, the
corpse was taken and buried by two men, who recognised it. The Marshal’s
widow, eventually, had the body disinterred and embalmed. At her
instigation a public trial was held, at which the memory of the dead
man was cleared of the charge of suicide and the body buried at Rioni.

This is one story; a sidelight on the happenings in Beautiful Provence
at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

* * * * *

The Papal Palace in Avignon stands steadfast amidst all the changes that
have come to the city, for its outward features have successfully
resisted the incessant hammerings of time. The work of internal
renovation goes steadily on, whilst the white dust raised by the masons,
who sing at their work, settles in every conceivable resting-place, much
to the discomfort of the inhabitants, especially when the “mistral”
sweeps down and drives this dust, like snow, before it. The old motto of
the city

“Windy Avignon, liable to plague when it has not the wind and
plagued with the wind when it has it,”

still applies, if the plague is interpreted to mean dust.

The inhabitants have been easily moulded by the influence of modernity,
and their principal street boasts of electric light and trams. Fashion
finds ardent devotees in the provincial town, who worship at her shrine
with as much, if not greater, zeal than her votaries in Paris, London,
or New York. The café and the restaurant are held in high esteem, and,
as in all French towns, occupy an important place in the civil life. The
hour ’twixt sundown and the most important of the day, when all Avignon
sits around the well-spread dinner tables, is devoted to the cafés; and
these clubs of the people, deserted and idle at some hours, are full of
joyful life.

On winter evenings the temporary stoves that stand prominently in the
middle of these salons are surrounded by cold-footed mortals, who rest
their extremities upon the encircling fenders. Friends meet, and seated
around marble tables consume café, beer, bright-coloured syrups, and
absinthe according to their fancy. Absinthe is still a popular drink
throughout Provence, in spite of reasoned appeals from the medical
fraternity for its discontinuance. Respectable womenfolk frequent the
cafés with their male relatives and friends, and sip sweet sickly syrups
with the rest. Excess is rare, almost unheard of. Cards are played, the
stakes usually being the cost of the entertainment. During the hour or
so before dinner the café is supreme.

The old folk in Avignon are all happy-looking; the men especially are a
jolly set of fellows, and although the snow of years falls on their
heads and never melts, their hearts are young and warm, secure from
Time’s blighting frosts. They have studied the art of living, under
their blue skies, and have mastered the difficult business.

[Illustration: AVIGNON.]

The girls and women are particularly well favoured, dark, as becomes
their Southern origin, well featured, favouring the Grecian rather than
the Roman type. They have less of the imperious self-conscious dignity
of their sisters in Spain and other Latin countries, and seem frank and
more human and in touch with the life around them. The Church finds in
them its chief adherents, faithful still in a country where once
everybody believed and few inquired, and now, where few believe and all
ask questions. New vistas of thought were opened up in Provence during
the Revolution epoch, and ever since the view has widened. In the
churches nearly all the little brass plates on the prie-dieu chairs have
the prefix Mme. or Mlle. engraved upon them. One seldom comes across
Monsieur.

In summer, when the heat of the brilliant day gives place to the lovely
glow of the Provençal evening, all Avignon sits outside around the
tables that trespass in careless fashion upon the pavements. The gossip
of the day goes round amidst unrestrained laughter and merriment. The
café on the pavement is as truly a Gallic institution as the “Bullring”
is Spanish. Spain carried her “institution” to her remotest colonies,
and France has done the same with the café.

The scene on a summer evening in the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville in
Avignon is but a repetition on a smaller scale of what may be seen on
any evening from one year’s end to the other in the Cannebière at
Marseilles, or farther distant still, across the Mediterranean in the
Place du Gouvernement in the French city of Algiers.

[Illustration: BOATS ON THE RHONE.]

The Romans introduced their great national institutions for amusement,
the amphitheatre and the circus, into nearly all their colonies, no
matter how distant, and the modern Gaul has emulated the older and far
greater coloniser in this respect. Even on the borders of the Great
Desert the outside café is firmly planted amongst a people who boast a
longer civilisation than their conquerors–a feat which the Romans found
impossible, for the amphitheatre of Rome made no headway amongst the
conquered Greeks.

[Illustration: AVIGNON]

But the Place, with all its gay life upon a summer evening, is not a
lasting memory of Avignon. The picture that remains upon the mind is the
view from the suspension bridge, just where it reaches the isle of
Barthelasse. From this point of vantage Avignon, bathed in the evening
glow, assumes a thoroughly mediæval aspect. The dark masses of the Rocks
of the Dom, the Cathedral, the Papal Palace, the church spires and
belfries are all softened and mellowed in the mystic light of the
afterglow in the west, until fancy suggests that the intervening years
have, in some subtle way, been bridged over, and the beholder is back in
those days when the proud prelates ruled like kings, nay despots, in
this fortress town beside the Rhone.