The arrival of the Popes is going to take off the city

June 5, 2012 4:52 AM

The arrival of the Popes is going to take off the city

This is good long one more dance on the bridge of Avignon and yet the famous children's song remains the best emblem of this monument classified world heritage of humanity by Unesco. Curiously, this is not to his palace of the popes, first gothic Palace in the world, or its famous theatre festival, that the city must its notoriety but this small song remained in the memories in France and far beyond our borders. "I am every time surprised by the character, and universal of this air that chantonnent people not speaking a word of French in the world", says Jean-Christophe Ozil, Director of the mixed economy RMG (municipal management delivery) company, which handles, among other things, the bridge of Avignon.

Hence the idea of using this famous refrain to strengthen the promotion of the monument which attracts 325 000 visitors a year. The project, matured with the House of the France, is to hold a competition for the next summer in the schools of the world on new versions of this rhyme and mount an exhibition of this musical phenomenon. Jean-Christophe Ozil plunged passionately into this mystery: "found a similar partition at Prague in the 18th century and it is known that the song found success through a 19th century operetta." Initially, thought that the words were not "on" but "under" the bridge, because taverns installed on both sides where one could dance, which would give the words of the song on one side a bit saucy... .

Technical prowess

Historically, the so-called here pont Saint-Bnezet, the name of the Pope who would have laid the first stone in the 12th century, is closely linked to the development of the avignonnaise city. It is because it is the only link on the Rhone between papal lands and the Kingdom of France the first Pope, Clement V, which is celebrating this year the 700th year of the election, moved to Avignon. "This gateway of stone almost a kilometre is considered a genuine technical feat for the time", says Rene Lefranc, RMG conservation attached. The arrival of the Popes is going to take off the city. In 20 years, Avignon going from 5,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. But, over the years, the bridge is washed away by floods du Rhne, and should wait until the 1960s that it be restored. It will however never find any integrity since it stops today in the Rhone, without reaching the Barthelasse Island, where are the remains of some arches and the Tower of Philippe Le Bel.

Today, the bridge of Avignon has new favours and comes to be chosen by the American giant of the distribution of wines, Gallo, to illustrate the label of a bottle of ctes-du-rhne marketed around the world. Aware of its enormous potential for attraction, RMG, through its Avignon tourism brand, decided to better leverage this nugget of local heritage. A new gateway for easier access was inaugurated at the end of June. This layout, a cost of 300,000 euros, funded by the city, making its nobility at the Court of the Chtelet, starting point of the bridge. Another project is underway. On the occasion of the 60th Edition of the Avignon Festival, which will be held in 2006, Australian artists have developed plans for an interim extension bamboo that would connect the two banks. Estimated at between 400,000 and 500,000 euros, the project, which the Festival would be the driver with the support of private sponsorship, must first pass to the stage of the technical feasibility before financial.