In the XNUMXth century, for essentially political reasons, nine popes (seven Popes and two schismatic Popes) resided in Avignon and made this city the capital of Christianity.
Clement V: (1305 - 1314)
The violent quarrel which opposed, at the beginning of the century, the king of France Philippe IV le Bel to Pope Boniface VIII led in 1305 to the election to the throne of Saint Peter of a French prelate, Bertrand de Got, archbishop of Bordeaux, who took the name of Clement V. Various reasons, including the Templar affair, brought him to Avignon in 1309, a vassal city of the Holy See and neighboring Comtat Venaissin, effective property of the Church since 1274. He only stayed in Avignon only intermittently and lodged in the Dominican convent.
John XXII: (1316 - 1334)
The clear preponderance of French cardinals, quickly established within the Sacred College, then ensured the election of a former bishop of Avignon, Jacques Duèse, who reigned from 1316 to 1334 under the name of John XXII. The violent agitation of Italy, the turbulence of the great families and of the Roman people induced the new Pope to settle in Avignon. He then had the episcopal palace, located in the vicinity of the cathedral, adapted to make it the first pontifical palace capable of housing the government of the church.
Benedict XII: (1334 - 1342)
Driven by a brilliant ecclesiastical career, Jaques Fournier acceded to the pontificate under the name of Benoit XII in a relatively peaceful climate. The beginnings of the Hundred Years' War, combined with the persuasive speeches of his cardinals, encouraged him to stay in Avignon. He continued the reorganization of the pontifical court initiated by John XXII and increased the income of the Church. Thanks to this financial manna, he had Pierre Poisson erect a pontifical palace richly decorated and more suited to the needs of the centralized government of the Church.
Clement VI: (1342 - 1352)
Pierre Roger, an exceptional man, recognized for his intellectual qualities, his eloquence, his sense of diplomacy and his theological culture was elected unanimously under the name of Clement VI. Great lord, statesman, art lover, his generosity set him apart from his predecessors, whom he says "did not know how to be pope". After a sumptuous coronation, in the presence of blood princes, this great patron made Avignon a cultural melting pot and a focus for European exchanges. He embellishes the palace of Benoit XII and enlarges it by adding the opus novum (new palace). In 1348, in order to be definitively master of the place, he bought the city from Queen Jeanne of Naples, Countess of Provence.
Innocent VI: (1352 - 1362)
Etienne Aubert, an eminent jurist, will greatly weaken the treasury through his activities as a diplomat and builder. He allocated large sums to unsuccessful wars in Italy and to the construction of new ramparts around Avignon to protect the city from the truckers of the Hundred Years' War. It reinforces the defense and the solidity of its palate and facilitates circulations in the building. Finally, we owe him the Charterhouse of Villeneuve built on the site of his former cardinal's palace. He is buried there in a splendid tomb.
Urban V: (1362 - 1370)
Guillaume Grimoard is distinguished by his modesty which encourages him to limit the excesses of the curia. He devotes his time to prayer and shows a certain distrust of his cardinals. It was against their advice that in April 1367 he returned to Rome. However, it remains threatened by political unrest. In 1370, the resumption of hostilities between France and England convinced him to return to Avignon where he died shortly after his return. In the gardens of the palace, there are the remains of the Roma, the ceremonial gallery that he had built.
Gregory XI: (1370 - 1378)
Pierre Roger de Beaufort is the nephew of Pope Clement VI. Cultivated and skilful diplomat, he restores all their importance to the cardinals by appointing many members of his family. He returned to Rome at the beginning of the year 1377. His reign there was complex and short-lived. On his death, a serious crisis of succession begins which gives rise to the great schism of the West.
The Great Schism of the West (1378-1417) and the Avignon popes of the schism
For 39 years, the Church was torn into two obediences, with a pope reigning in Rome and another in Avignon. Despite attempts at compromise and threats of deposition, seven popes succeeded each other in Italy and two in Avignon.
Clement VII (1378-1394)
To counter the election of the Italian Urban VI, a fringe of dissident cardinals withdrawn from Fondi elected a new pope, Robert of Geneva, who took the name of Clement VII. The latter returned to settle in Avignon where he reconnected with splendor and the arts and founded the Couvent des Célestins.
Benedict XIII (1394-1429)
Pedro de Luna elected under the name of Benoit XIII finds himself at the head of a torn Church. Deposed twice, he persists however in keeping the tiara. Locked up in the Palace of the Popes, he resisted two sieges. He succeeded in fleeing in March 1403 and took refuge, after years of wandering, with the King of Aragon, his last supporter.