The Amazing Pont Saint-Bénézet d’Avignon on the Rhone River in France

The bridge over the River Rhône at Avignon (ph...

The bridge over the River Rhône at Avignon (photograph taken from the island of Barthelasse) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The St. Benezet Bridge  is also known as the Pont d’Avignon. This famous 12th century bridge is located in Avignon France. The bridge originally spanned 2,950 feet across the Rhône River. The bridge is historically significant because in was an important strategic river crossing, linking France with Papal Territory. It was positioned on the tightest part of the bend in the Rhône to lessen its exposure to the river’s notorious strong currents.

The bridge collapsed frequently and was reconstructed multiple times. Today, only 4 of the original 22 arches remain. A catastrophic flood in the 17th century carried off most of the arches.The bridge was 915 metres long, sensational dimensions for the time it was built.

What remains is beautiful though, and you can visit the gatehouse that defended the crossing, the stranded western terminal, the Tour Philippe-le-Bel and the Chapel of St. Nicholas above the second arch.

According to legend, the history of the St. Benezet Bridge centers around a local shepherd boy named Bénezet or “Little Benedict” , who was sent by God to build a bridge across the Rhône. It is said that during an eclipse, in the year 1177, he heard a voice that said to him: “Bénézet, take your rod and go down to Avignon, the capital’s waterfront: talk to people and tell them that we must build a bridge.” Mocked when telling his vision, the bishop challenged him to toss an enormous rock into the river. It is said he was assisted by angels surrounding him with golden light.  He proved his divine inspiration to the town and wealthy benefactors by lifting a large stone block.

The Provençal shepherd-turned-bridge-builder died in 1184. “Bénézet’s body was interred in a small chapel on the bridge itself. This chapel, standing on one of the bridge’s piers, was dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Rhône boatmen.”

In 1669, when part of the bridge collapsed from the force of the current his coffin was opened before the Grand Vicar. “The body was found to be intact, even the bowels were sound and the color of his eyes fresh. The body was first translated to the Cathedral of Avignon and finally interred in the Church of St. Didier in the city.”

Image result for shepherd boy named Bénezet avignon

St. Bénézet of Avignon (Feast Day: April 14)

The bridge was opened in 1184 and a siege destroyed it in 1226. The new bridge was on one of the biggest pilgrimage routes in the Middle Ages between Italy to Covadonga on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Also, many cardinals lived in Villeneuve across the bridge from the Palace of the Popes in Avignon (the Holy Roman Empire).

Image result for inside the two-story Saint Nicolas Chapel, avignon bridge

 

Pilgrims and popes stopped to pray and leave an offering in the two-story Saint Nicolas Chapel, built in the 15th and 16th centuries. The bridge finally collapsed in the 17th century and was not further repaired. The bridge also served as a place of worship for Rhône boatmen until it became so unsteady it was deemed dangerous.

"Sur le Pont d'Avignon on y danse" is the famous song, but now we see only many tourist just standing there - panoramio.jpg

Pont Saint-Bénézet

On the Bridge of Avignon – Children’s Song

The fame of Bénézet’s bridge in Avignon was spread far beyond the borders of France by the children’s song, Sur le Pont d’Avignon, which is sung all over the world.

Image result for avignon bridge song

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing, they are dancing,

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing all around.

The handsome gentlemen go this way

And then again go that way.

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing, they are dancing,

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing all around.

The pretty dames go this way

And then again go that way.

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing, they are dancing,

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing all around.

The gardeners go this way

And then again go that way.

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing, they are dancing,

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing all around.

The dressmakers go this way

And then again go that way.

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing, they are dancing,

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing all around.

The grape growers go this way

And then again go that way.

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing, they are dancing,

On the bridge of Avignon

They are dancing all around.

The laundresses go this way

And then again go that way.

ancient arches architecture avignon

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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