The Papal palace (French: Palais des Papes) is a historical palace in Avignon, southern France. It is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. One time fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century.
The Palais construction began in AD 1252 and Avignon became the residence of the Popes in 1309. The Palais was built in two principal phases with two distinct segments, known as the Palais Vieux (Old Palace) and Palais Neuf (New Palace). By the time of its completion, it occupied an area of 11,000 m2 (118,403 sq ft). The building was enormously expensive, consuming much of the papacy’s income during its construction.
The Palais remained under papal control for over 350 years which was subsequently taken over by the Napoleonic French state for use as a military barracks and prison. It was only vacated in 1906, when it became a national museum. The Palais, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is today a palace of culture and primarily a tourist attraction, attracting around 650,000 visitors per annum, putting it regularly in the top ten most visited attractions in France.