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Michelle: Sur le Pont d’Avignon

February 19, 2011

Sorry for the wait. Here are pictures from last week Friday in Avignon.

Click to view slideshow.

Avignon is the city of popes. During the Schism of the 14th century, two men claimed to be the head of the Christian faith. One resided in Rome and presided over Denmark, England, the Holy Roman Empire, Scotland, Norway, Poland, and Sweden. The other ruled from Avignon…er, Rome? and was in charge of France, Spain, Southern Italy, and Scotland. In this period, there were two Romes because Rome is where the Pope is and if there are two Popes, there are two Romes. From its first inhabitant, Pope Clement V (though sometimes these men were called “Anti-Popes”), the Palais de Papes grew both in size and influence. Eventually the conflict within the church was resolved, but the city of Avignon remained. After the Popes left, the Palais de Papes was used as a prison during the French Revolution and now it’s a museum (obviously).

Le Pont d’Avignon is literally a bridge to nowhere. After the construction of the Palais de Papes, it is said that a local man known as Bénezet said that he had been chosen by God to build a bridge crossing the Rhone River. The townspeople thought he was a man “with fairies in his head,” crazy so they issued him a challenge: If God told you to build the bridge, with the His help move a stone to lay the foundation. The stone that was chosen remained from the construction of the Palais de Papes and was too big to be moved by several of the other townsmen. Miraculously, Bénezet picked up the stone and tossed it into the river and thus was the foundation of le Pont Saint-Bénezet, known today as the Pont d’Avignon. Apparently God can be a little fickle, because in 1668, God decided He did not want it there and destroyed it in a flood.

For many students of French like me, we know the bridge from this little tune. The chorus is “on y danse, on y danse, sur le Pont d’Avignon,” (There we dance, there we dance, on the Bridge of Avignon), so naturally I had to dance sur le Pont d’Avignon.

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