January 16-Day 12, Avignon, France
MCP 01 - 20 - 2010

The day started early as Nadine, our guide, took us through the park that overlooked the Rhone River and the bridge built by St. Ben. The bridge had housed the tomb of the saint until it started crumbling and the Cardinals had his relics transferred to three parish churches in the city. Nadine narrated the history of Avignon, the cathedral, and the Pope's Palace. Seven popes resided in Avignon when Rome was viewed as too dangerous. The city also served as the location from the break-away church and her popes during an uprising the Roman Catholic Church. The cathedral is ancient with a newly bronzed Virgin Mary statue atop the steeple. Mary, known as Our Lady, can be found throughout the city and on many facades and building corners to protect the city from sieges, floods, et cetera. The Pope's Palace is amazing and was built in two large phases. The first phase was built by an austere pope and it is more brutal and unadorned, the second phase was built by a more flamboyant pope and is filled with ornamentation. We toured the state room, the formal dining hall (which also served as the location for Conclave during the election of new popes), the octagonal kitchen/chimney, chapels, and the highly adorned papal bedroom and adjoining office. Our guide then escorted us through the historic town centre, which is still surrounded by large imposing stone walls/towers. The streets and plaza retain their original names which represented the profession house on the street. IE: Red Street is the former slaughter house street. After our tour and lunch, three of us stumbled across a live band that was in full regalia playing traditional music outside of the palace. It was a brass brand with kettle drums, all with royal-esque banners and horse hair decorations on their hats. It was either a municipal band of sorts or a historic papal band of some form. They were excellent! At 5:30, three other students and I attended mass at St. Peter's Church, a small, but beautiful church. We didn't understand much as the liturgy was in French, but followed on as best we could. The biggest difference between their service and those in the USA was the increased use of incense. By the time the communion section of the service had begun, it was as if the altar was floating in a cloud! Ha! After the service we headed to a great crepe place around the corner, and after we had been seated a few more WorldTour students dropped in…within 15 minutes there were at least 18 BSU students crammed into the first floor of the small restaurant, all of whom came in small groups of four or less. It was humorous and the owner loved us.

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