Church of St-Pierre – One of the Most Beautiful Avignon Churches:
With the Avignon papacy in the 14th century and seven Sovereign pontiffs having resided in Avignon, it is not surprising that this town has many cathedrals, churches and chapels. Although not a major church, one of the Avignon churches that stand out is the Église St Pierre or Church of St Pierre.
The Church of St Pierre is located right in the centre of Avignon, in a cobbled square that bears the same name – the Place Saint-Pierre, a stone’s throw from the Palace of the Popes.
St Pierre is famous for its elaborate and flamboyant Gothic facade and amongst its many noteworthy features are its solid walnut doors. The doors were paid for by a rich merchant and their elaborate carvings include images of St Gerome and St Julien on the left door and the Virgin and the Angel of Annunciation are depicted on the right. On the central column that separates the two doors is a beautiful and fine sculpture of the Virgin and child.
Eglise St-Pierre’s History
The existence of Église St Pierre can be traced back to the 7th century as the burial site of the first bishops of Avignon. Sacked by the Saracens, the earliest written text on the church shows that a new church was built on the site in the 10th century. In 1385, the church was rebuilt, through the generosity of Cardinal Pierre de Près.
However Église St Pierre did not achieve its current form until a few centuries later after various expansions and improvements were made. The solid walnut doors for instance were not added till 1551 and in 1854, Father Pougnet, a priest and architect, did further restoration works on the church.
Inside Eglise St-Pierre, the lights are kept quite dim probably to protect the many important works of art in the church. As you can see in the photo, between each set of gilded columns are artwork depicting various religious scenes.
The highly gilded, multi-panelled High Renaissance altar is a work of art. The gold-gilded alter was first built in 1617 and in 1634 it was completed with the addition of the grand portico which includes the painting of “La Remise des clefs à Saint Pierre”. Other paintings depicting biblical scenes, include Saint Pierre and other saints.
Along both sides of the interior are four chapels each, dedicated to saints. A famous painting “l’Adoration des Bergers” or Adoration of the Shepherds by Simon de Chalons can be seen at the Chapelle Notre-Dame de Lourdes - the third chapel on the right from the entrance.
Église St Pierre is a beautiful church and definitely worth a visit on your Avignon holidays. My only regret was not having enough time to admire all of its features.