Black penitents chapel in Avignon: gold and prisoners under sentence of death

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The interior - ©Marianne Casamance / CC-BY-SA The interior - ©Marianne Casamance / CC-BY-SA
Black penitents chapel in Avignon Chapel

Since the 17th century, we had about 20 religious congregations, in Avignon! But we especially had 7 main brotherhoods: Red, Blue, Purple, Green, White, Grey and Black Penitents. The Black ones were founded in 1586 by a man from Florence named Pompeo Catilina, colonel of the Italian garrison in Avignon.

Those penitents had to help the prisoners and the men under sentence of death, then to bury them. Every year, on John the Baptist's Day, they were allowed to reprieve a condemned man on the day of his execution!

Catilina decided to found his own brotherhood in the old chapel Our-Lady-of-Fenouillet (fenolhetum means "small meadow" in Latin) and dedicated it to saint John the Baptist’s Decapitation.

But the chapel was too small, it had to be extend: in 1620, he added a chapel and a sacristy. Then in 1739, a new priest turned up: Louis-François Manne.

The chapel had to be restore! So he started to re-raise the façade, the current one, flanked by two angels carrying John the Baptist’s head. But above all, he decided to completely refit out the inner decoration.

A decoration worthy of the most beautiful royal palace, full of golden panelling, precious marbles... Architects Thomas Lainée and Jean-Baptiste Franque were put in charge of the building site, painters Nicolas Mignard, Pierre Parrocel and Raynaud Levieux of the decoration. And the result is... gorgeous!

And also!