Wednesday, November 02, 2016

France&Fez Day 12, Notre Dame de la Garde and Avingnon

Our final day in Southern France was a beauty, and we were up and out early, winding or way to the highest point in Marseille, and the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde (Our Lady of the Keep).

This Catholic cathedral, completed in the 1860's on the ruins of an ancient fort , is definitely a maritime church-- from its nautical elements, including mobiles of ship models, to the paintings of maritime disasters that "our Lady" interceded in, to the engraved plaques lining the side chapels in thanks to Mary for preserving children, sailors, and others.

That interesting sea connection aside, it is beautiful architecture in the neobyzantine style, and has the best views in all Marseille!

From there, we headed to Avingnon.  We had some preliminary views of the medieval Centre Ville and its impressive walls as we entered and parked under the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). But coming up from the underground parking into that impressive square where once the Catholic Church, arguably the most powerful state in the Western world at the time, held court in the 1300's was breath-taking.  King Philip IV of France, being a savvy political player at the time, took advantage of a hung-ballot at a papal conclave and managed to have his own man, a French bishop who wasn't even a cardinal, elected to the post.  That was Clement V, and he declined to move to Rome, initiating what many call the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Catholic Church.  He set up house in Avingnon, a thriving, powerful trading city on the Rhone, with the Rhone's only bridge. The papacy stayed there for almost 70 years. Coming out of the underground parking into the formal square in the Centre Ville was awe-inspiring!

We wandered the lovely streets from the square to the wall and the bridge immortalized by the children's song, "Sur la Pont D'Avingnon."  I couldn't help but hum it as we traversed part of the wall and walked out onto the portion of the bridge remaining over this narrow split of the mighty Rhone.

From there, we meandered back past the center square and up to the high point above the Palais des Papes, Parc du Rocher des Doms.  We enjoyed a picnic and the views there before descending again to the square and touring the Palais.

During the afternoon, we wandered the impressive and massive structure of the Palais des Papes.  While the inside is mostly stripped down and the colors have faded, it is still amazing, and what is left hints at the glories and riches of the Catholic Church at that time.  What a regal place this was! We were not allowed to take photos inside for the most part, but the exterior is impressive by itself.

And to end our day, the Lord provided one more Mediterranean sunset, viewed from J.'s apartment. What a glorious end to a fabulous day.

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