One of my favorite parts of writing the Elisha series has been learning about all these fantastic places and people of the 14th century. One of the best has got to be the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. During this period (from 1309-1376 to be precise) the papacy moved from Rome, which was kind of a madhouse of baronial infighting, to Avignon, on land ultimately ceded by Queen Joanna of Naples, another fantastic character.
The opulent palace built by for the popes, and expanded continuously over the period, became the heart of a new explosion of growth as the College of Cardinals, too, had to move to be close to their leader–along with all of their retainers. Then they needed lodgings and services for all of the pilgrims and supplicants who came to visit, and before you know it, a small town in the south of France became a major city and future tourist attraction.
It all started with a French pope, Clement V, who refused to move out of France, and began decades of French influence over the papacy, a situation of great concern to the rest of the world, especially people like Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV, who decided to have his own pope instead. One of the reasons that folks like the poet Petrarch pushed for a Jubilee Year in 1350 was to try to get the papacy to return permanently to Rome. Alas, it failed.
During the period of my books, Pope Clement IV reigned over the church. He was said to be a prince of the church, who enjoyed rich feasting, hunting, and fine clothes, and his chambers in the palace certainly reflect that. However, he also pushed back against some of the tyranny of his time, with things like two papal bulls defending the Jews against accusations that they had started or perpetuated the Black Death.