Pont St-Bénezet

1128 Reviews

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

August, 2017

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Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

Having grown up with “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” in French lessons, this was the one sight in Avignon that I had to see.

According to legend, a bridge was built here in the C12th century by a young shepherd called Bénezet who came from Ardèche, and had heard voices telling him to build a bridge in Avignon. The townsfolk initially ridiculed Bénezet until he lifted a huge stone to begin building his bridge. The bridge was completed in 1185, taking 8 years and was the only cross point on the Rhône between Lyon and the Mediterranean sea. It was probably a wooden bridge on stone supports.

The remains of the present bridge were probably built around 1345 by Pope Clement VI, who was responsible for building the new Papal Palace. The bridge was built on foundations of oak. The ends of big trunks of oak up to a metre across were sharpened and the pointed ends reinforced with iron straps, were driven into the river bed. These provided the base on which the stone bridge could then be built. The river here is fast flowing and was subject to flooding. The bridge was regularly damaged by flood water and had to be rebuilt. A catastrophic flood in 1669 swept away much of the structure. The townsfolk could no longer afford the continuing costs of repairing it, and it was left as it is today. All that remains are four arches and a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas.

The bridge had great strategic importance. It was on one of the most important pilgrimage routes between Italy and Spain. It was also essential to the Pontifical Court, as the cardinals moved across the river to Villeneuve to escape the pollution in Avignon. It was guarded by towers and gatehouses at either end.

St Nicholas was the patron saint of Rhone boatman and a chapel dedicated to him was built on the bridge. In the C12th. Below it and accessed by a set of stone steps is St Bénézet’s chapel which housed the tomb of St Bénezet and his relics. He was associated with many miracles and many pilgrims came here. His relics are now in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Doms.

The Gatehouse has a small exhibition about the bridge and how it was built. This was all in French and looked to be worthy but boring…

There is a small charge to access and walk over the bridge. Otherwise admire from teh bank.

I visited here on Day 7 of Burgundy, the River Rhone and Provence, a river cruise with Riviera Travel.

My full account with all the pictures can be found “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/rhone/index.html here.


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