Avignon, for a brief period of time, was the seat of the papacy in the 14th century. More importantly, it is the topic of an important nursery rhyme for us francophones. A half dozen popes reigned from here before Avignon was overthrown as the centre of Roman Catholicism and returned to Rome.
Further down the square from the Palace is the chapel of the conclave where bishops met to chose the next pope. The square is tightly packed but you can clearly see the chimney at the conclave where smoke signaled the election (or lack thereof) of a new pope.
“Sur le pont, d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse” After visiting the bridge, not yet complete, that partially goes over the Rhone, we stop for ice cream in the papal court. I suspect that the reason people dance on the bridge is that it serves little other purpose since several generations tried to finish construction but never managed. Some construction projects get mired down in bureaucratic red tape, even back then. It’s a pretty bridge though.
It was not the purpose of our visit though. We went to Avignon, more than an hour from Manosque, to attend the theatre festival the city is famous for. Marilyne had booked us for 3 plays….child-friendly plays. The city goes wild with theatre during the festival and the walls are covered with posters and people in costumes wander about trying to entice visitors to take in one of hundreds of plays being staged at just about any place that can support a stage and an audience.
The first play was a version of Disney’s Aladin, shown in a tiny theatre off the main drag. The next one was a two-man play detailed, for children, the events that led to the first world war…this illustrated to us how important that period of history is to the French. The third play we saw was a one man play by Nicolas Devort in which high-school students live a real-life version of Cyrano de Bergerac … it was extremely well written and performed by the author. So well that when the children came home they want to put on the play themselves. Luckily we had purchased the book containing the script of the play.
They are still rehearsing it and hope to put on the play for us tomorrow.