The First Avignon Pope

At the beginning of the 14th century, the cardinals elected a French pope, Clement V, who chose to stay in France instead of going to Italy. From Clement’s arrival in 1309 to Gregory XI’s departure in 1376, seven popes lived in Avignon, a period called the Babylonian captivity. The city of 5,000 people grew by a thousand people a year until it was hit by the Black Death in 1348. Today Avignon is a UNESCO world heritage site, where tourists, not 14th century clerics, throng the ancient, narrow streets and visit the grand papal palace.