The Festival d'Avignon was founded by Jean Vilar in 1947.
Jean Vilar was invited to present his first great successful play - Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot in the Palais des papes. At the same moment and at the same place, an exhibition of contemporary paintings and sculptures was organised by Christian Zervos, an art critic and collector, and by René Char, the poet.
Vilar initially refused the invitation as for him the Cour d'honneur du Palais des papes was too vast and "shapeless" and he also lost the performance rights of the play.
However, he proposed three creations : Shakespeare's Richard II, one of the Bard's plays that was little known at the time in France; Paul Claudel's Tobie and Sara, and Maurice Clavel's second play, The Midday Terrace. The very first Festival d'Avignon in September 1947 set the scene as a showcase for unknown work of the universal repertoire and modern scripts.
There are four distinct stages in the evolution of the Festival d'Avignon.