Avignon is a city in France (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), on the river Rhone, about 50 miles north of Marseilles. In Celtic times, it was named Aven[n]nio, from the Indo-European root ab 'water'. Under the Romans, it prospered as Gallia Narbonensis, the first Transalpine province of the Roman Empire. The modern name is pronounced with the '-gn-' realized in the French way, like the '-ny-' in 'canyon', and with little stress: 'A-vee-nyon' or 'a-veee-NYON' (IPA: /ˈæv iːñ ɔ̃ /.
Avignon, which had set up an independent republic in the twelfth century until it surrendered to Louis VIII of France in 1226 as part of his Albigensian Crusade, was at the centre of European diplomacy and religion between 1309 and 1378, when the popes set up their court there, in the Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace) under the influence of the French crown. This period is known as the Avignon Papacy. Although they had territorial interests in the area before, the Popes did not acquire Avignon itself until Clement VI bought it from the Angevin ruler in 1348. They held it until 1793, when it was integrated into the French Republic. In 1797, Pius VI recognized this, ceding all rights.
- Avignon has a famous ruined bridge, immortalized in the song Sur le pont d'Avignon, which is often taught in French lessons in British schools. It is simple, repetitive and has a pleasant lilting dance-able tune.