Monday, June 08, 2009

Pope vs Antipope: Mecha-pope's revenge!

The Palace of the Pope's in Avignon

Back to Provence…

The big attraction for me in Provence was the city of Avignon. Back in the day (1300s) Avignon was Pope City, as the Papal States being constantly at war and therefore too dangerous for the Bishop of Rome and his considerable treasure.

In those days, being Pope was more than funny hats and Papal Bulls – it was funny hats, Papal Bulls, and sending your army to crush your enemies. The Palace of the Popes is therefore not a refined dome stuffed to rafters with priceless artistic treasures. Instead, it is an enormous fort, designed to assert Papal suzerienty over the surrounding region, and holding off any attacks from ambitious neighbours.

Due to the inexplicable politics of the 14th century, in later years Avignon became the seat of possibly the coolest job title in history. The Antipope was a French-sponsored answer to Urban VI, who had been elected Pope in Rome.

You might think this was a chapel. It's the dining hall (funny angle due to security guard telling me I couldn't take photos

Pope and Antipope both believed utterly in their legitimacy and therefore excommunicated anyone who followed the other. As people followed whatever Pope their King told them to, and their Kings followed whoever was convenient, there was no particular theological reason for the schism. So for nearly four decades, all of Western Christiandom couldn’t be certain that it wasn’t condemned to hell by virtue of backing the wrong pontifical horse.

You might think this was a chapel, but it was actually a basement room where they kept the Papal auditors

The castle itself was a little bare – the French Revolution and several anti-clerical uprising stripped the formidable palace of its tapestries and gold. That didn’t stop the audioguide from supplying seemingly endless detail to aid us in imagining what it used to look like. Also helpful were items in the gift shop, which sold bathing items modeled on the Pontiff’s former bedchamber tiles.

Yep: Pope Soap.


David Beeson said...

'Jardin des deux rives' is one of those expressions that don't work when translated into English: 'garden of the two banks' isn't as attractive, is it, particularly in today's climate? Would that be Bear Stearns and Northern Rock, perhaps?

dmchenail said...

All I can say is, another good piece of ammo for Maher's Religulous :)