Monuments and museums

Palais des Papes

Pont Saint-Bénezet

Musée Calvet

Musée du Petit Palais

Musée Requien

Musée lapidaire

Musée du Vieil Avignon

Palais du Roure

Musée du Mont-de-piété

Musée Louis-Vouland

Musée Angladon Dubrujeaud

Maison Jean Vilar

Collection Lambert
Le pont Saint-Benézet

With archeological and textual studies, including legends, experts have reconstructed the historical presence of a bridge at this site. It was famous from its earliest days. The four arches and the chapel that exist today are vestiges of the long history of vicissitudes of a bridge with twenty-two arches, measuring more than 900 meters. It seems that a bridge was constructed here during the Roman period.

In 1177, the bases of the ancient plies were used for new pilings to support a wooden span. The construction of the new bridge was accomplished quickly. In January 1186, laws concerning fees for the merchandise crossing the bridge were established. For a growing city the profitability of possessing the only bridge across the Rhône between Lyon and the sea, is obvious.

Nevertheless, it was a pious impetus that motivated the Confrérie de l’Oeuvre and its founder Bénezet to initiate construction. In addition to the bridge a church, a cemetery, and a hospice were established. Bénezet was adept, despite his humble origins, at securing abundant donations as well as in organizing the new community of charitable laymen. This group continued to exist after his death in 1184, to the ned of the fourteenth century; religious services were assured by Eglise Saint-Agricol in 1321; the hopice, whose buildings were destroyed in 1398, had been replaced by other one nearby, still controlled by the Oeuvre du Pont that continued to function until 1796. The last stage of construction was the chapel with Bénezet’s tomb above one of its piles.

During the siege of Avignon by the troops of Louis VIII (1226), the bridge was demolished to an extent and under circumstances that are not completely known. A stone bridge with a higher roadway soon replaced the previous one, and the Chapelle Saint-Bénezet, for the Confrérie des Nautoniers. This chapel was enlarged in the sixteenth century. The bridge itself, exposed to violent course of the Rhône, was constantly damaged, then repaired or rebuilt at great expense – at least until 1668.

Since then its arches have successively disappeared. In 1674 Saint-Bénezet’s remains were trans ferred to the Celestine monastery. The relics that remained after the Revolution were transferred to Saint-Didier church in 1854. The history of thje bridge has been more or less established, and the legend of Saint-Bénezet cannot be separated from it. The legend came into being thanks to the Oeuvre du Pont’s collection methods, which included maintaining Bénezets remains on view.

In 1177, Bénezet, a young sheperd from the Ardèche region was to have haerd voice of Christ instructing him to build the bridge. Angels guided him to the right bank of the Rhône. A ferryman conducted him across, to whom Bénezet gave the last three cions he had. Bénezet then announced his mission to the Bishop of Avignon, who took him for a fool and sent him to be sentenced before a judge. The judge decided to test Bénezet by indicating a boulder and telling Bénezet that if he could lift it he would believe him capable of building the bridge. Bénezet hoisted the builder, carried it over to the Rhône, and placed it at the point were the bridge was to begun. Immediately donations were offered and the decision to buid was made.

Although he was never granted official canonization, Bénezet has been qualified as a saint since the thirteenth century and veneration of him spread. He is most often portrayed with a large stone on his shoulder. The origin of the famous song, Sur le pont d’Avignon, is not known. It was popularised by Adolphe Adam who included it within his operetta Le Sourd ou l’Auberge pleine (1853).