The Olivier Messiaen music conservatory
This building, rue du General Leclerc (formely rue Saint Garde) is firstly the “livrée” (episcopal mansion) of the cardinals Madon de Chateaublanc in the XIVth century and Pierre Blau in the XVth. Sold to the silk merchants Puget de Chasteuil, it’s later bought by the religious congregation "Annonciades Célestes” from Dôle, in the Jura region.
The nuns, called “célestes” from their blue garb in honor of the Virgin Mary, set here their convent around 1640. Bankrupt in 1752, they are obliged to leave.
The edifice remains loyal to its religious purpose and hosts the seminary of “Sainte Garde des Champs”, founded by Joseph François Salvador, a former musketeer who became an abbot. Jean Baptiste Lambertin, a pupil of the Franque dynasty of architects and specialized in cupolas, is tasked with remodeling the whole building in 1775: it would be the last religious construction in Avignon intra-muros. Under Bonaparte, it becomes the Commercial Court and the Vaucluse Regional Court.
These are the successive versions of this beautiful house before it became in 2008 home of the Regional Conservatory of music, dance and theatre, and its 2100 students. Beforehand, the academy of Music, founded in 1828, was set in several places: first the Templar
Commandery on Place Pie. From a window of the actual Conservatory, one can see its tower, the only survivor of the huge architectural complex torn up by order of the Mayor Pourquery de Boisserin in 1898.
Empress Eugénie de Montijo, who came with Napoléon the Third to the concert, was so charmed by the Conservatory symphonic orchestra, “the Orpheon”, that she asked for his annexation to the Conservatory of Music of Paris.
In 1840, the music academy was moved to the « Hôtel des Monnaies », in front of the Popes’ Palace, then to rue du General Leclerc when the courts were themselves moved to the “Cité judiciaire”. During the works, between 2004 and 2007, one could still see the “legal rings” fixed on the wall of the tribunal.
In the former corinthian chapel of the convent, a classified historic building which is now a 151 seat auditorium, one can see two big empty niches and a coat of arms. Etienne Parrocel’s paintings, owned by the Musée Calvet, are currently being renovated. The “flat vault” designed par the architect Lambertin is a masterpiece; you may also discover the “Ave Maria” initials engraved on this ceiling, which seem to be three dimensional, and some stars in stéréotomy (assemblage of dry cut stones).
We are grateful to « le Grand Avignon » structure, to the top management of the Conservatory Olivier Messiaen and to Mr. Gontard, responsible for cultural events.