9 popes in Avignon
Clément V : (1305 - 1314)
The violent quarrel opposing King Philippe IV the Fair to Pope Boniface VIII at the beginning of the century led to the election of a French prelate to Saint Peter's throne in 1305 - Bertrand de Got, archbishop of Bordeaux who took the name of Clement V. For various reasons (among which the crisis of the Order of the Temple) in 1309 he decided to settle in Avignon, a vassal city of the Holy See, located next to the Comtat Venaissin which had been Church property since 1274. He lived there occasionally, staying in the Dominican convent.
Jean XXII : (1316 - 1334)
The effective supremacy of French cardinals was soon established in the Sacred College, and ensured the election of a former bishop of Avignon to the Papal throne, Jacques Duèse, who reigned from 1316 to 1334 under the name of John XXII. The political unrest in Italy, the unruliness of the great families and the common people in Rome, persuaded the new Pope to settle temporarily in Avignon. He made arrangements to adapt the Episcopal Palace, next to the Cathedral, to the needs of the Pontifical court, and endeavoured to make it larger, more powerful and more beautiful.
Benoît XII : (1334 - 1342)
Nevertheless, this Palace did not seem worthy of interest to Benedict XII (Jacques Fournier) who bought it, pulled it down and had another built on the same site by his own master builder Pierre Poisson. It was a large fortress, austere and overpowering, reflecting his taste for sobriety born of his time as a Cistercian monk.
Clément VI : (1342 - 1352)
His successor Clement VI (Pierre Roger de Beaufort), an aristocrat living a life of great luxury, found this Palace inadequate and unworthy of his Pontifical grandeur, so he had a second one erected nearby known as the "New Palace", built in a more flowery style by his architect Jean de Louvres. He entrusted the whole building to a group of painters under the leadership of Matteo Giovannetti of Viterbo. In 1348, he bought the city of Avignon from Queen Joan of Naples
Innocent VI : (1352 - 1362)
Innocent VI (Etienne Aubert), whose preoccupation was to bring peace to the Italian territories belonging to the Holy See, brought his predecessor's monumental work to a close.
Urbain V : (1362 - 1370)
Urbain V (Guillaume Grimoard) endeavoured to extend the gardens where he had some improvements made (the Roma), of which no trace remains today.
Grégoire XI : (1370 - 1378)
Gregory XI's (Pierre Roger de Beaufort) sole concern was to reestablish the Holy See in Rome - which he did in 1376
The Great Western Schism (1378-1417) and the Avignon schismatic popes
During a period of 39 years the Church was split in two with allegiance to two different popes – a pope reigning from Rome and another pope remaining in Avignon. Despite attempts to reach compromise and threats of removal, seven successive popes claimed allegiance in Italy and two popes continued to claim Avignon as the true papacy.
CLEMENT VII (1378-1394)
To counter the election of the Italian pope Urban VI, dissident cardinals elected a new pope, Robert de Genève, who took the name of Pope Clement VII and returned to settle in Avignon. Pope Clement VII continued the cultural and artistic activity prevalent during the Avignon papacy and founded the Convent of the Celestins.
BENEDICT XIII (1394-1429)
Pedro de Luna was elected and took the name of Benedict XIII, finding himself at the head of a Church that was deeply split. He was twice deposed yet refused to abandon his tiara. He barricaded himself in the Palace of the Popes and withstood two long sieges. He successfully fled the Palace in March 1403 and after years of wandering, took refuge with his last undying supporter, the King of Aragon.
Portraits of the Avignon Popes imagined by Henri Serrur in 1839-1840