Rocher des Doms – An Avignon Jardin with Magnificent Views of the Rhône Plain :
To escape the summer heat and the crowds in and around the Palais des Papes square, take a stroll up to the Rocher des Doms, a lovely and shady garden located at the summit of the Doms Rock.
Rocher des Doms offers great views of the Rhône River and the entire Rhône plain. The rock faces Villeneuve-lez-Avignon across the Rhône and you can the famous Pont St-Bénézet and the magnificent Fort St-André. From the viewing platform you can enjoy panoramic views of the area and the picture panels indicate what you’re looking at and distances to places.
Rocher des Doms is botanical park with 29,000m² of green space. It has a large pond with swans, ducks, geese and carp, which have been delighting young visitors for generations. In the middle of the pond is the statue of Venus with Swallows. Originally it was in Place Carnot, but its nudity caused it to be moved here in 1894. The statues that you see scattered around the park are of famous Avignon citizens such as Jean Althen and Félix Gras. The cafe by the pond is a nice spot to enjoy a refreshing drink as well as the cooling effects from the pond.
From Neolithic Settlement to the Palace of the Popes
Once a limestone island towering a hundred foot above the Rhône plain, Rocher des Doms was the cradle of civilization in Avignon. Its position offered excellent natural protection to the first inhabitants here at the end of the Prehistoric period.
First, a large Neolithic settlement existed, and then an oppidum (the main settlement of an administrative area). The fortified oppidum was transformed into a military defensive position protecting the Roman town. Over the ages, the citadel was replaced by a chateau, symbol of the Count’s power. In the 12th century, the free commune in its turn built a palace on the rocky outcrop. Finally, in the 14th century, the Palais des Papes was built to symbolize the supreme power of the Church.
Getting to the Garden
The Rocher des Doms can be reached by the steps leading from the cathedral Notre Dame des Doms or by the St-Anne steps. However, if you don’t feel like walking, the small tourist train that leaves the Palais des Papes square will deposit you at the garden gates.