five flats converted in the 19th century, within the walls of Avignon
In the Saint-Roch district, adjoining a street bordered by two-century-old plane trees, in the immediate proximity of Gare-Avignon-Centre, just 15 minutes from the TGV train station and 30 minutes from Avignon international airport, specialised in business aviation.
Just a stone’s throw from Avignon covered market and ten or so cultural centres, including the Popes’ Palace where Avignon’s annual arts festival, the world’s biggest theatrical event, is held.
Avignon’s geographic location puts the town less than 25 km from the Alpilles mountains, 40 km from the Luberon mountains, 60 km from Mont-Ventoux and 55 minutes from the sea via the N572.
Capital of the “Côtes du Rhône” wines and literally surrounded by vineyards, Avignon is near to Lirac, Tavel, Gigondas, Beaumes-de-Venise and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and their many illustrious AOC appellations.
One amongst the 300 chapels and oratories still to be found in Avignon, this chapel was built at the beginning of the 14th century in recognition of a miracle. Its construction, in a pure local gothic style, was entirely financed from the Pope’s own funds. Its architectural value is enhanced by the renowned stone cutters that worked on it. Standing in line with one of the town’s 16 medieval entrance gates, it has been listed as a French Historic monument since 1948.
Flanked by several monastic buildings, built after its foundation, it has known miscellaneous fates. In the 18th century, following the destruction of the bell-tower, its facade was redesigned in the Baroque style, appearing much as it does nowadays, with a barrel vault, featuring a window on a low tribune, and a neo-classical pediment. A superb wooden door, with carved decorative shells, protected its access. This door is still in place and intact.
Under the French Revolution, it was used for housing the military, prior to being sold as national property and becoming a greenhouse, followed by an orangery.
In the middle of the 19th century, the first bay and the south side were converted into flats intended for the new owners, makers of plumbing fittings. Large windows were created on either side of the facade facing the street.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a hand-pump factory replaced that of the plumbing fittings. The nave was then used as a foundry for the manufacture of bronze pumps. The side chapels were used for storage purposes.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the current owners purchased the building that they then saved from certain ruin. They consolidated the chapel, transforming it into a cultural centre and restored the flats. Independent of one another, this type of accommodation is highly-sought after, not only during the festival, but also throughout the rest of the year.
The “miraculous” chapel
Spanning five bays in a rectangular layout ending in a bay housing a choir and a polygonal apse, the nave currently features three bays with quadripartite, cross-ribbed vaults, with rounded moulding coming back down on to bases, supported on flat keystones featuring coats-of-arms, the content of which is partially effaced.
The jack-arches have traces of a rare black and white stone facing. The bay housing the choir is linked to the apse by a vault featuring six cross-ribbed quarters.
To the south, the nave is flanked by six small side chapels and to the north by three vast chapels, one of which still has the impressive Baroque surround that framed the altar, its decor composed of scrolls, angels and cherubs.
Almost all the medieval windows are sealed.
The five flats converted in the 19th century
The transformation works carried out at the beginning of the 19th century were predominantly rehabilitated at the beginning of the 21st century, when the medieval profile and contour features that had been concealed up until this time were reintegrated into each flat.
Wherever possible, the ceilings in the flats still have their vaults with their cross-ribbed quarters. Multi-coloured features have been brought to the fore here and there.
The historic character of the premises is omnipresent and every flat still reflects the memory of the chapel adjoining it and from which it came, whilst having been remarkably well adapted to modern-day standards of comfort (notably with individual air-conditioning systems in each flat). The bonus is that the new owners have managed to avoid the type of reconstitution to be found in a gothic attraction park!
Reached via the old chapel door: two flats under the first bay, behind the chapel’s load-bearing wall.
1. On the left-hand side of the entrance hall, a west-facing studio flat, with a fitted kitchen and a shower room.
2. On the right-hand side of the entrance hall, a south-facing, 2-roomed flat, comprising a living-dining room, with an open-plan, fitted kitchen area; a vast, vaulted bedroom constructed in the first side chapel, illuminated via a south-facing window; a bathroom, with a bath and a shower. This flat has two entrances, one off of the street and one from the courtyard on the south side.
The first floor comprises two flats, reached via the same stairway. They are laid out within the space taken up by the chapel’s original entrance hall.
1. A west-facing, 2-storey flat in the old bell-tower with a main room composed of a kitchen, dining and living room on the first level and, on the second level, reached via an interior, spiral, metal stairway, a bedroom and a bathroom, with a bath, a shower and a toilet.
2. The biggest flat, facing south and west is laid out with its six rooms in the lower section of the bell-tower and under the south buttress:
- A kitchen opening into a first room used as a living-dining room, doubly illuminated via windows on the west and south sides.
- A second living room-study following on from the first.
- A long hall area in use as a library. Adjoining the chapel’s arched buttresses, it leads to three bedrooms, accessed via sliding, oak wood doors.
- Two bathrooms and two separate toilets complete the bedrooms.
The second floor houses this property’s second largest flat. A stairway goes up from the entrance hall to a dining-living room with an open-plan kitchen housed in the window set in the barrel vault. The second section of this flat comprises two bedrooms on either side of the corridor, separated by a bathroom, with a toilet.
New owners could decide to keep everything as it is, even the unrestored features, all bearing privileged witness to the inevitable passing of time. The chapel would then continue as a renowned site for hosting events including part of the Fringe Festival and as a holiday haven that appeals to lovers of the “Papal City” all year round.
They could also decide to restore the entire property: to reopen the original entrance sealed up in the 19th century; to open the sealed medieval windows; to restore the rich Baroque decor of the side chapels, making them a private home or a residence for artists, a cultural centre housing a foundation or an event activity, etc.
With a site inheriting such a past as well as having such an active present, no project is impossible, no ambition out of bounds.
|Land registry surface area||742 m2|
|Main building surface area||308.85 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||8|
|Outbuilding surface area||288.52 m2|
Francis Rousseau +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.