Sunrise at Avignon

Sunrise at Avignon

Sunrise at Avignon – Photograph by George Hruby

Backstory:

While living in Paris and committed to historical research involving Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and their collision with the French Revolution, Hruby went to Avignon, France to conduct a photo-shoot. His primary focus was to gain access and shoot the bottom of one, in particular stairwell leading down to a dungeon in tower-two of the Papal Palace, located inside a walled city known as City of Popes.

In the 1300’s, the city was full of sculptors, painters, musicians, composers, singers, and merchants. While unknown to many modern Catholics, the Vatican was not always located in Italy where it is today. During the 14th Century, the seat of the Papacy was to be found in Avignon, France. A total of nine popes would reside there across the century (1309-1377). It was during this time that the Papal library here was considered the largest of its kind in all of Europe with over 2000 volumes.

However, this was not what Hruby was after with either research or photography.

What Hruby had originally traveled there to capture on film was what few visiting tourists to the Papal Palace even know about. It was a very dark secret that the Palace, to this day, does not publicize or talk about.

Ironically, what Hruby discovered was that despite the entire Papal palace being opened to the public as a museum, the only location prohibited to the public, was in fact, the same stairwell that he had traveled there to photograph. To this day, Avignon and the Papal Palace have kept this dark location sealed off from the public. It is a place of death.

For on the forefront of the French Revolution, one of its first explosions of birth into what would become such a bloody affair for France; it was on October 16-17, 1791, when a village mob rounded up 60 villagers including many women, men, and some priests. They were all brought to this stairwell that led down to the dungeon. They would never leave it.

Located in this particular tower of the Papal Palace, the sixty individuals had been brought there. All had been falsely accused of wanting to seize church property. With no court procedures at all, all 60 people were summarily executed. This one stairwell served as a massacre site.

Across two days, all sixty people from within the village were brutally bludgeoned and stabbed to death with bayonets and swords, their bodies then stripped and thrown into the dungeon below. It shocked all of Avignon and France at the time. For generations to come and even today, is still something not openly discussed there.

A rendering of the massacre on the lower stairwell of tower-two, Papal Palace, City of Popes, Vaucluse, France by Magny and Petit in 1844.

Despite his failed attempt to gain access to this stairwell, Hruby still managed a photo-shoot there, resulting today in examples of his remarkable photography that day such as “Sunrise at Avignon.”. His international photographic works often reflect his same passions as do his writings and poetry, often involving the subjects of history and death.

“Sunrise at Avignon” shows a great example of Gothic styled architecture as well as a timeless shot taken by Hruby that day of the Papal Palace, located in the City of Popes, Avignon, France

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