Avignon ävēnyôN´ [key], city (1990 pop. 86,440), capital of Vaucluse dept., SE France, on the Rhône River. It is a farm market with a wine trade and a great variety of manufactures. Located in (but never a part of) the Comtat Venaissin, it was the papal see during the Babylonian captivity, from 1309 to 1378 (see papacy ), and the residence of several antipopes from 1378 to 1408 (see Schism, Great ). Pope Clement VI bought (1348) full title to Avignon from the countess of Provence. After the Great Schism, Avignon was nominally ruled by papal legates, but the citizens actually governed themselves. The city became an archiepiscopal see in 1475. In 1791, after a plebiscite, it was incorporated into France. One of the loveliest of French cities, Avignon is surrounded by ramparts (12th and 14th cent.) and has many old churches. The beautiful Gothic papal palace was built (14th cent.) atop a hill to serve as residence, fortress, and church. A fragment of a 12th-century bridge across the Rhône remains. Avignon was celebrated by Petrarch, who resided at the court of Clement VI. The city has a well-known theater festival.
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