Pont d’Avignon or Pont St-Bénézet is Made Famous by a French Children’s Song:
Near the Palace of the Popes stands the remains of Pont St-Bénézet, better known as Pont d’Avignon. This 12th century Avignon bridge is famous the world over through a much-loved French children’s song ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’. However, the bridge construction itself merits a visit and where it stands on the Rhone river, the views are magnificent.
About Pont d’Avignon
Built on the Rhone river between 1177 and 1185, the Pont d’Avignon spanned the Rhône River between Avignon and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon on the left bank, providing an easier route for pilgrims and merchants who were on their way to Spain or to Italy.
In spite of being damaged several times by wars and the flooding Rhone, it was repeatedly repaired until the 17th century when a catastrophic flood swept away much of its structure and it ceased being restored. Now only four of the original twenty-two arches remain standing.
The Legend of Pont St-Bénézet
The official name of this Avignon bridge is Pont St-Bénézet and most French people know of the legend that inspired the building of the bridge. According to legend, a young shepherd named Bénézet claimed that was commanded by angels to build a bridge across the river. Initially, everyone ridiculed his claimed divine inspiration. To prove his mission to the sceptical bishop, he miraculously hoisted an enormous stone block and cast it down at the designated site.After this, he won support and funding from wealthy sponsors to build the bridge. Standing on one of the bridge’s surviving piers on the Avignon side is a chapel where Saint-Bénézet was interred after his death.
On Pont Avignon is another tiny chapel, Chapelle St Nicolas, which is dedicated to the patron saint of mariners.
Pont d’Avignon is World Heritage listed site which hopefully ensures its survival for many more years to come. You pay an entry fee to get on the bridge of Avignon and it includes an audio-guide that tells about the history of the bridge as well as the Avignon bridge song. But beware, once you start singing it, it drives you, or your travel companion, to distraction as you can’t stop singing it.