The popes in Avignon - The castle is build 1317-1333

For reasons not to be discussed here the popes settled in Avignon in 1305. The first pope in Avignon was Clément V (1305-1314) and then followed 8 other popes: Jean XXII (1316-1334; also called John or Johannes), Benedict XII (1334-1342), Clement VI (1342-1352), Innocent VI (1352-1362), Urban V (1362-1370), Gregory XI (1370-1378). Gregory XI restored the Papacy in Rome in 1376. During the time of 2 popes "the Great Schism" Clement VII (1378-1394) and Benedict XIII (1394-1423) had their divided papacy in Avignon until 1403 where Avignon was abandoned definitively as the Papal seat.
Before 1305 Avignon and Comtat de Venaissin including Chateauneuf du Pape (Chateauneuf Calcernier) were part of "the Holy See" (the papal possessions), which probably was the main reason for the choice of Avignon as papal city. It was the two first popes who had the most significant importance for Chateauneuf. Clement V visited the fortified town in several periods of his papacy and his succeser Jean XXII started to build the castle soon after his election and having finished the building in 1333 he died only a year later in 1334.
The following popes did not often go to Chateauneuf. The next pope - and last - who has seemed to enjoy staying in Chateauneuf was Clement VII. From 1383 he apparently found safety here and the castle became his favourite residence. The pontical court was removed to Chateauneuf during the plague in Avignon, and in 1385-1387 some maintenance work was done at the castle.

No plan exist showing the exact purpose of the different rooms of the castle. The ruins of today, escavations, and casual historical writings makes it's possible to estimate quite a lot about the buildings.
The plan to the left and the drawing below is from "CHÂTEAUNEUF DU PAPE Mémoire d'un village".

1. Supposed place of a first entrance.
2. The main gate.
3. Secundary entrance from north.
4. The donjon. The wall to the south still exist.
5. Esplanade.
6. The great hall - pageantry. Parts of the wall still exist.
7. Well

After the popes in Avignon no one ever since had the will or resources to keep up the castle. The bishops or archbishops of Avignon were not particularly interested in the castle and it was never of great strategic importance and therefore it fell in to disrepair. People lived at the place, but it was mostly small groups of soldiers commanded by a captain or a lieutenant.
In 1563 the castle was captured by the hugenots and they put the great hall on fire. The walls and the towers kept standing but the buildings were never restored in full scale. One archbishop discovered the building in its sad state in the last part of XVII century and made some parts of it livable - for a short time. Little by little the buildings became completly forsaken.
After the French revolution,in 1798, the castle and its field (9,2 hectares) were sold for the highest bid to J. B. Establet, and shortly after he resold it in equal shares to 33 of his fellow citizens. Then much of the castle disappeared because the stones were used for house building in the town. In 1858 the ground floor of the donjon was rented for storing of materiel under the condition "of letting visit the appartment by all foreigners who will wish to see it".
In 1892 the ruin was given to the French state and classified as a historic building. Thus to keep the ruin in the state of that time.
One more historic accident hit the castle. During World War II the Germans used the donjon as a depot for ammunition. When they had to retire from the area in 1944 they removed the ammunition by letting it explode. Thereby the northern wall of the donjon was blown away. It's not fair to say that the Germans made the popes castle into a ruin. It had been a ruin for centuries but of cource they are to blame for some damage.


Drawing from XVI century

Before 1944



In 1960 the municipality decided to make a room of reception in the old storeroom under the great hall of the castle. It has the original size and is used for exhibitions and by special occasions. The broderhood Echansonnerie des Papes arrange twice a year a ceremonial party with enthronement of new members. The new members get a key to the pope's wine cellar as a memory of  glorious times.

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