Monday, September 15, 2008

Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the popes in Avignon

On our second day in Provence, we went to Avignon to see the Palace of the popes. This is where the popes and papal legates lived for over 400 years, starting with Pope Clement V. He moved to papacy to Avignon in 1309 to escape political unrest in Rome.

They didn't allow us to take photos inside, so instead I've posted some of my favourites from outside the palace and in the courtyard.

One of my favourite rooms is called La Grand Tinel, an enormous hall once adorned with frescoes and where banquets were held on feast days. The pope would sit and eat on a raised platform at one end of the room. There was even a heirarchy in the cutlery; the best flatware was reserved for the pope.

At the other end of the room, a partition hid a preparation area with a massive fireplace. This was where food brought from the kitchen was plated and kept warm.

Inventories at the time record that thousands of sheep, eggs, chickens, geese, pigs and cows were consumed in one sitting. These popes really knew how to throw a dinner party!

They also knew their wine, and this is where the Popes and I have something - perhaps our only thing - in common. We both love Chateauneuf-du-Pape :)

Chateauneuf du Pape, literally translated as "the new house of the pope," is a village just north of Avignon. The chateau here was once a summer retreat for the popes, who were among the first wine producers in the village. The wine they cultivated here regularly made it to the tables in their palace in Avignon. How I wish my house wine could be Chateauneuf-du-Pape!


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