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Location address: France, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Avignon
Number of texts: 6
The Avingon bridge’s construction was inspired by Saint Bénézet, a local shepherd boy who (according to tradition) was commanded by angels to build a bridge across the river. Although he was ridiculed at first, he dramatically “proved” his divine inspiration by miraculously lifting a huge block of stone. He won support for his project from wealthy sponsors who formed themselves into a Bridge Brotherhood to fund its construction. After his death, he was interred on the bridge itself, in a small chapel standing on one of the bridge’s surviving piers on the Avignon side.
Le Pont d’Avignon is a famous medieval bridge in the town of Avignon. Officially, it’s known as Pont Saint-Bénezet. The bridge originally spanned the Rhône River between Avignon and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon on the left bank. It was built between 1171 and 1185, with an original length of some 900 m, but it suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be reconstructed several times. Over the centuries, it became increasingly perilous as arches collapsed and were replaced by rickety wooden sections.
The Pont d’Avignon was also the site of devotion by the Rhône boatmen, whose patron saint was Saint Nicholas. They initially worshipped in the Chapel of Saint Nicholas on the bridge itself (where Saint Bénézet’s body was also interred) but the increasing dilapidation of the bridge led to the clergy refusing to preside over services for fear of a total collapse. A new chapel was erected on dry land in the 18th century at the foot of the bridge, on the Avignon side.
The Pont Saint-Bénezet (French pronunciation: [pɔ̃ sɛ̃ benezɛ]), also known as the Pont d’Avignon (IPA: [pɔ̃ daviɲɔ̃]), is a famous medieval bridge in the town of Avignon, in southern France.
The Pont d’Avignon is also famous for the song “Sur le pont d’Avignon”. People probably would have danced beneath the bridge (sous le pont) where it crossed a river island (the Ile de Barthelasse) on its way to Villeneuve. The island was (and still is) a popular recreation spot, where pleasure gardens once stood and folk dancing was a popular pastime for many years. The bridge itself is far too narrow to have accommodated dancers. The song was originally composed by the 16th century composer Pierre Certon, though with a very different melody to its present version and under the more accurate title of “Sus le Pont d’Avignon”. The modern version only dates from the mid-19th century, when Adolphe Adam included it in an 1853 operetta entitled l’Auberge Pleine. It was popularised by an 1876 operetta which renamed the song, as currently, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon.”
Linked themes: Music