Avignon, located in south central France, on the Rhone River, is a beautifully preserved medieval town surrounded by the original fortified city walls. The name Avignon comes from "Avenio" which means "town of violent winds" or "town of the river". The central historical part of the city, including the Palace of the Popes, the Saint-Benezet bridge, and the fortification walls that surround the city, is now a protected UNESCO heritage site.
The sumptuous, impressive Popes’ Palace was the symbol of the power and might of Christianity and of the temporal and spiritual power wielded by the Popes. From 1309 to 1377, seven French popes succeeded one another in Avignon, much to Rome’s displeasure. It was this period that marked the beginning of the city’s prosperity and many mansions date from this period, gracefully edging the city’s squares.
Not far from the Popes’ Palace lies the famous Pont d'Avignon. The world-famous bridge in Avignon is officially called the "Pont St. Benezet". It is the subject of a very famous song that is known by children around the world entitled "Sur le Pont d'Avignon". The bridge, built in the 12th century, is an impressive structure, even though less than a fifth of it still stands. Only 4 of the 22 original sections of this bridge remain, as it was frequently damaged by the Rhone flooding and by war. Repairs were often made until the 17th century at which time efforts to maintain the bridge were finally abandoned.
The heart of Avignon, though, is Place de l'Horloge (the Clock-tower Square). Located in the old part of the city and lined with outdoor restaurants and coffee shops, it attracts a lot of tourists and visitors.
From the 12th century to this day, it seems, Avignon has always been a lively city. Several of its Popes-in-residence dedicated unseemly time to earthly pursuits. And, in later years, the city bathed in the extraordinarily brilliant Provençal light, continued to attract writers, artists and painters as well as those in search of cultural diversion. With the French Revolution, it lost its special status as a papal enclave. But since 1947, when its annual theater festival began, Avignon has once again become a center of art, culture and tourism.
The climax of Avignon's season comes indeed with the Avignon Theater Festival, when for three weeks the city dominates France's cultural life. Beginning in the second week of July, the emphasis of this festival is theatre in its different guises, turning the city into one big stage. Participants of the RICT Symposium could extend their stay in Avignon to discover this biggest and highly popular theatre festival in the world!
The city of Avignon is also popular for its ease of access, and it is the ideal home base for exploring south of France. Visitors can zip to Nice, Marseille or Paris in a mere three or four hour. It is near many wonderful destinations, including Arles, Nîmes, Aix-en-Provence and Orange. If you plan to visit both the Languedoc and Provence, Avignon makes an ideal home base.
The RICT organisers warmly invite you to attend the RICT Symposium in July 2015, and to take your time to discover Avignon - be it before, during or after the conference. Cause let there be no doubt: Avignon is the perfect destination where business can be easily combined with pleasure!