The Church Builds Fortresses
The Vatican moves. By the 1300's, after defeating the Languedoc Cathars in the Church's Albigensian Crusade (1209-1255 or so), the Roman Church found itself as planned with great riches, territory. It had to move by the 1300's out of the Vatican at Rome, to solidify its new holdings in France after the Albigensian Crusade. How else to oversee all the new turf, property -- all of the Languedoc by now -- and all the investment and riches from confiscating all the estates of the prosperous but non-dogmatic Languedoc Cathars (Albigensians). The touristy alternate background for the move is a simple one: In 1309, a French Pope was elected, Clement V, and he merely decided he wanted to move. See Financial Times Sept.28-29, 2013 (this an update) at Travel section p.9. How did he finance it, ye Financial Times? On the backs of the Albigensians, wealth confiscated. Take another look, FT, this time not with a commercial tour group. Is that reasonable?
The Cathars had been defeated, killed individually, and burned in mass pyres because they disagreed with forced dogma, in that crusade, 1209-1255 or so. See http://www.xenophongroup.com/montjoie/albigens.htm, the Albigensian Crusade.
Rome found itself too far away to impose rule and monitor use of funds and property; and many local governing groups and nobles in France had fiercely opposed the Crusade against France's own people, who had lived peacefully for centuries, and prospered. How to beat back the rage. Move the Vatican and force it.
For the Pope, a militant presence was needed in France itself, the seat of the heresy that dared to challenge the institutional interpretation of religious power matters. See the Albigensians at http://www.u.arizona.edu/~afutrell/w%20civ%2002/albigensians.html
See how the move of Rome to Avignon meant building a fortress, not a religious presence. Approach by luck when the light is right at sunset, and click! How wonderful Oz is. Seven popes resided here, see http://faculty.ucc.edu/egh-damerow/avignon_papacy.htm, each apparently more corrupt than the one before. After all, there was all of the South of France, the Languedoc, in practical terms, now in their coffers. Who can blame them?
See the dark side. Same building. There were many who blamed. And the Church responded by building castles, fortresses that it called churches, and religious institution supports.
Avignon, Palace of the Popes, the morning after
If you arrive in Avignon at sunset, let your son out of the car with his camera, holler -- come back here and I will pick you up! And hope you can link up. Dan is travel-smart. He can retrace his steps, knows what to do, and waits. Aah. Victory!
You will indeed get very nice pictures at sunset. If that is all you see, have you seen enough?