Which museum to visit in Avignon ?
The Musée du Petit Palais, the former palace of the Archbishops, is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
It is located next to the majestic Gothic Palace of the Popes and houses a renowned collection of Italian paintings (from the Louvre – Campana collection).
Discover this building, accompanied by a certified guide.
Here is some preliminary information to help you understand the history of this monument of the city of Avignon’s heritage.
History of the building
This “Petit Palais”, of almost 3000 m2 organized around two interior courtyards, is an important testimony of the pontifical installation in Avignon in the 14th century, then of the transformation of the city from the 15th to the 18th century, which became a vice legation of the reigning pope in Rome.
On September 14, 1791, a law was promulgated to reunite the states of Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin with France, states that had until then remained the property of the Church. In 1791, the archiepiscopal palace was declared a national asset and seized.
After having been used as a place of detention like many other buildings, it became a repository for the works seized from the emigrants and from the religious buildings of Avignon. Nearly a thousand paintings were stored there before being put up for sale or transferred to the new museum set up in the former convent of Saint-Martial.
Multiple occupations until 1826
During the first quarter of the 19th century, the building was divided into lots rented to a cabaret owner, craftsmen and merchants. It was also transformed into barracks for foreign troops for a decade.
It was in a deplorable state when it was bought by the archbishop of Avignon, Monseigneur de Mons, to establish the minor seminary. It remained in this function until the law of separation of Church and State in 1905.
From 1905 to 1960, the Petit Palais became an upper primary school for boys and then a modern technical college.
Restoration of the building with a view to its transformation into a museum
The restoration of the Petit Palais, a listed building belonging to the City of Avignon, was undertaken in 1961 and entrusted to the Chief Architect of Historic Monuments, Jean Sonnier. The objective was to restore the building in order to install a new museum. Once the alterations imposed by the previous functions had been removed, Sonnier cleared as much of the late medieval building as possible, leaving the traces of the various construction phases visible.
Now as a museum, the Petit Palais houses an exceptional collection of Italian (Campana collection, deposit of the Louvre) and Provencal paintings from the late 13th and early 16th centuries.
Guided tour every last Sunday of the month at 10:30 am – except on 26 December 2021.
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