In 1376, Gregory XI left Avignon and moved the papal court back to Rome ending the Avignon Papacy. Upon his death, a Roman mob demanded an Italian pope (preferably Roman).. Under pressure the conclave elected Urban VI (not a Roman but a subject of Queen Joan of Naples). A reformist, he immediately made clear that never again would the papal court move to Avignon. French cardinals immediately clashed with the new pope and they started to conspire against him. They issued a manifesto of grievances and declared his election invalid since they felt they had been pressured by the Roman mob to elect an Italian. The cardinals then proceeded in electing a new pope – Clement VII, the "Antipope", giving rise to a split within the Catholic Church known as the Western Schism when two men claimed to be the true pope. Clement VII re-established the papal court in Avignon in 1378 that lasted until the Council of Constance in 1417 reunited the factions and re-established one pope to be residing in Rome.The popes’ legacy in Avignon still stands today. The palace is the largest medieval gothic building in Europe. It is in fact made of two building- the Old Palace of Benedict XII and the new palace of Clement VI. In all six papal conclaves were held there in the 14th century- the last one in 1394 at the election of antipope Benedict XIII.
Since 1995 the Pope's Palace has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites and is a popular tourist attraction as well as a center for culture as many performances, notably during the renowned Avignon Festival, take place within its austere walls.
It is interesting to note that Avignon and the nearby Comtat Venaissin were under Papal control till 1791 when it was annexed by France.
Tag: Avignon, Pope's Palace, Popes in Avignon