The Palais des Papes is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Six papal conclaves were held in the Palais, leading to the elections of Benedict XII in 1334, Clement VI in 1342, Innocent VI in 1352, Urban V in 1362, Gregory XI in 1370 and Antipope Benedict XIII in 1394.
The palace construction began in AD 1252. Avignon became the residence of the Popes in 1309, when the Gascon Bertrand de Goth, as Pope Clement V, unwilling to face the violent chaos of Rome after his election (1305), moved the Papal Curia to Avignon, a period known as the Avignon Papacy.
The Palais is actually two joined buildings: the old palace of Benedict XII, which sits on the impregnable rock of Doms, and the new palace of Clement VI, the most extravagant of the Avignon popes. Together they form the largest Gothic building of the Middle Ages, it is also one of the best examples of the International Gothic architectural style. The construction design was the work of two of France’s best architects, Pierre Peysson and Jean du Louvres and the lavish ornamentation was the work of two of the best students of the School of Siena, Simone Martini and Matteo Giovanetti.
In addition, the papal library housed in the palace (the largest in Europe at the time with over 2,000 volumes), attracted a group of clerics passionate in the study, amongst the future founders of Humanism, Petrarch. At the same time, composers, singers and musicians were drawn to the Great Chapel. It was there that Clement VI appreciated the Mass of Notre-Dame de Guillaume de Machault, there that Philippe de Vitry at the pope’s invitation presented his Ars Nova and there that Johannes Ciconia came to study.
Due to its immense size, the Palais was also the place where the general organisation of the Church began to change. It facilitated the centralisation of services and the adaption of operations in order to suit the needs of the papacy, creating a truly central administration for the Church. The manpower of the Curia (Church administration), while 200 at the end of the 13th century, surpassed 300 at the beginning of the 14th century and reached 500 people in 1316. To this were added over 1,000 lay officials working within the palace.
Despite this, the Palais became obsolete when the papacy found it necessary to return to Rome. The hope of reuniting Latin and Orthodox Christians, along with the achievement of peace in the Papal States in Italy, made the case of returning stronger. Added to that was the strong conviction of both Urban V and Gregory XI that the seat of the papacy could only be the tomb of St Peter. Despite strong opposition from the Court of France and the College of Cardinals, both popes found the means to return to Rome, the first, on 30 April 1362, the second on 13 September 1370. This time, the return was absolute.
In the following centuries, the palace lost all of its former glory, despite it serving as the seat of two anti-popes and many cardinals. It retained, however, a “work of destruction” aspect that French poets and writers have referred to over the centuries, with its powerful sense of beauty, simplicity, grandeur and immortality.
Since 1995, the Palais des Papes has been classified, along with the historic center of Avignon, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.References:
Monte d"Accoddi is a Neolithic archaeological site in northern Sardinia, located in the territory of Sassari. The site consists of a massive raised stone platform thought to have been an altar. It was constructed by the Ozieri culture or earlier, with the oldest parts dated to around 4,000–3,650 BC.
The site was discovered in 1954 in a field owned by the Segni family. No chambers or entrances to the mound have been found, leading to the presumption it was an altar, a temple or a step pyramid. It may have also served an observational function, as its square plan is coordinated with the cardinal points of the compass.
The initial Ozieri structure was abandoned or destroyed around 3000 BC, with traces of fire found in the archeological evidence. Around 2800 BC the remains of the original structure were completely covered with a layered mixture of earth and stone, and large blocks of limestone were then applied to establish a second platform, truncated by a step pyramid (36 m × 29 m, about 10 m in height), accessible by means of a second ramp, 42 m long, built over the older one. This second temple resembles contemporary Mesopotamian ziggurats, and is attributed to the Abealzu-Filigosa culture.
Archeological excavations from the chalcolithic Abealzu-Filigosa layers indicate the Monte d"Accoddi was used for animal sacrifice, with the remains of sheep, cattle, and swine recovered in near equal proportions. It is among the earliest known sacrificial sites in Western Europe.
The site appears to have been abandoned again around 1800 BC, at the onset of the Nuragic age.
The monument was partially reconstructed during the 1980s. It is open to the public and accessible by the old route of SS131 highway, near the hamlet of Ottava. It is 14,9 km from Sassari and 45 km from Alghero. There is no public transportation to the site. The opening times vary throughout the year.