On our first trip to France, several years ago, Morgen and I spent about a week in Provence. There was no way we could see all the places that interested us in such a short period of time, so we had to settle for a few highlights. We were able to squeeze in just about half a day in the town of Avignon, and though it has immense historical significance, our main reason for visiting was a nursery song. Having grown up in the U.S., I was familiar with French children’s tunes such as “Frère Jacques” and “Alouette,” but I’d never heard “Sur le Pont d’Avignon,” which Morgen learned as a child in Canada. The song is all about people dancing on the Bridge of Avignon. It doesn’t mention the rather important fact that the bridge in question—which is probably the town’s most famous attraction—stops abruptly less than halfway across the Rhône river.
Rome if You Want To
Avignon rose to fame when, in 1309, Pope Clement V decided to move the official papal residence from Rome to Avignon—which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the Roman Empire (and just across the Rhône from France). Seven popes called Avignon home until 1377, when the papacy officially returned to Rome. (From 1378 to 1417, leadership of the Catholic church was in dispute; two so-called antipopes, Clement VII and Benedict XIII, resided in Avignon during that period.) Later, after the French Revolution, Avignon would finally become part of France. [Article Continues…]