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Escorted Rail Tours to Avignon

France's Papal city

Although successive tribes settled in and took control of Avignon, the town was generally seen as insignificant until the early 14th century. At this time, the city became home to the first of seven successive popes, based here to avoid factional fighting in Rome. In a bid to rival Rome's Papacy, Avignon's architects designed many of the city's magnificent surviving features, including the grand city fortifications and the marvellous Palace of the Popes - one of the most important Medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Throughout the entire era, Avignon developed into a thriving centre of culture; the celebrated Avignon School of painting derived from Italian artists sent for by the popes, and Avignon's University was established in the 1330s.

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Sur le pont d'Avignon

After the Papacy was restored to Rome, Avignon lost some of its power, but remained an important seat for the Catholic Church. Incredibly, the city was held by the Papacy until 1791 - more than 370 years after the last pope resided there. Avignon then became part of France, and soon became one of its most popular tourist attractions. Along with the beautiful palace and fantastically preserved houses, Avignon is also known for the Pont St Bénezet, its famous broken bridge. All but four of its 22 arches were decisively washed away in a particularly devastating flood in 1668 - today, the surviving arches have become an iconic symbol of the city.