Black penitents chapel in Avignon: gold and prisoners under sentence of death
The Black Penitents brotherhood was founded in 1586 by a man from Florence, Pompeo Catilina, colonel of the Italian garrison in Avignon.
Those penitents helped prisoners and men under sentence of death. 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 create his own brotherhood in the old Our-Lady-of-Fenouillet chapel (fenolhetum means "small meadow" in Latin) and dedicated it to saint John the Baptist Decapitation.
But the chapel was too small, it had to be extended: in 1620, he added another chapel and a sacristy. Then in 1739, a new priest turned up: Louis-François Manne.
He re-raised the façade (the current one), with those two angels carrying John the Baptist’s head. He also 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!